Paula in the lion’s den


Paula’s Post #40 – Paula The Lionhearted? Is that really how dear Silk characterized me in “An elevated level of critiques,” her delightful 5writers‘ post from yesterday? 

Because, I’m thinking maybe we were at different events.

I’m thinking maybe, in retrospect, Paula In the Lion’s Den seems a far more apropos description of yesterday’s festivities. Dead on the mark in terms of what it felt like to be metaphorically ‘thrown to the lions’ as the first sacrificial offering selected from the five, newly hatched manuscripts ready for collegial scrutiny.

You can imagine my nervous banter. My inane comments. My gallows humor.

At some point, someone jokingly started to refer to the seat at the end of our long table where we convened for this event as ‘the hot seat’. Henceforth, the name stuck.

Ha! Ha! Very funny. How frightfully clever! 

Let’s see if my colleagues are all laughing quite so hard after their turn as the 5writer du jour.

But if you’ve been following us from the beginning of this challenge, I suspect you want to know. I suspect you want to ask: ‘Come on,  Paula, how did it really go?’

I want to answer that question for you. I really do. I believe that if you’ve followed us this far, you sincerely deserve an answer to that question. I’m just not quite sure how to answer that question.

I guess for me, it’s a bit like the six blind men tasked with describing an elephant. It all depends upon what part of the elephant we’re talking about: beginning, middle or end?

My quick recap:


Yippee, I’ve got one of those! A pretty exciting one, apparently. (But let’s not get ahead of ourselves). I’m not going to get too cocky about my beginning. Not yet. Especially since my 5writer colleagues revel in picking apart plots and paragraphs, characters and sentences and I know I have a ton of comments and margin notes to review still. That beginning is still going to need a lot of work.

But guess what?


Hallelujah!  I don’t have a sagging middle, (well, at least not the literary kind) my blistering pace so relentless, the action so fast and furious, the middle never had time to sag.

What about the end, Paula?


End? Hmm … maybe not so good. Some of the plot details resolved, some left … dangling. A lot of work to do still to flesh out characters, tack down their motivation. Too many fingers-in-dykes required to plug all the holes in the plot. How could I have missed the most obvious of details?

I did outline. Using StoryMill, I created over 70 scenes-that-became-chapters. Ninety per cent of the novel.

Just not all of it.

Not the ending. Ouch! You see, I still hadn’t quite figured that part out. Not all the details. Not by the time I decided to start writing.

So now, I’m going to need to become ‘The Fixer’.

Anyway, by the end of the day, I felt like a kid in school, standing at the blackboard, writing lines.

paulaRepeat after me:

I will outline.

I will outline my entire manuscript before starting my next novel…

I will outline my entire manuscript before starting my next novel…

I will outline my entire manuscript before starting my next novel…

I will outline my entire manuscript before starting my next novel…

Oh, and maybe I’ll work just a teensy-weensy bit harder on developing the character of my protagonist  too. And maybe a few other people.

Seriously, all kidding aside, I can honestly say that having my manuscript critiqued in this very special manner felt, to indulge in a small colloquialism, awesome, man!

My entire story and character arcs revealed and reviewed, from beginning to end. A fabulous experience. Better than I ever could have hoped for.

But not because of any great praise heaped on my writing. (Some).

Not because of the outpouring of encouragement and support I received from my 5writer colleagues. (Much).

No, for me, it wasn’t just the words of praise or encouragement or even constructive criticism received (although all of those are fabulous).

For me, the privilege of sitting at a table surrounded by such wonderful friends, mentors, peers and colleagues, felt to me like the proverbial credit card commercials: Priceless.

My 5writer colleagues come to this group from a wide variety of backgrounds. Each one brings to our group something special: a skill set, a unique take on ‘the writing life’, a flair for plot, or dialogue or character development.  We all write in different genres. We all have different styles, different strengths. Some of us are more adept at ferreting out necessary missing plot elements. Some of us are better at seeing broad brush strokes and big pictures plot lines. Some of us are better at pacing, others at character development.

But bottom line, four outstanding individuals concentrated on my story, for weeks, leading up to yesterday. On me as a writer and on the words I put on paper. Not just for a day, but for the better part of a month. A month out of their busy lives. Days required to analyse setting, plot, character and structure. Hours spent musing about what might be broken … even more time engaged in speculating on how to fix it.

And then, on a sunny, glorious day up at Whistler, they willingly agreed to lock themselves in a room with me for over six hours.

And why?

To try to help me be a better writer. To try to help me fix problems. To try to support me in reaching whatever goals I may wish to set for myself as a writer.


Elephant and Blind Men b


5 thoughts on “Paula in the lion’s den

  1. Love it. You are a real writer. Hope the rest are as bouyed as you after this (yeah, I know, you’ve wept into your pillow for hours already!) But way to go, Paula!

  2. This is the way critiques should go! Respectful, but honest. Supportive, but honest. Encouraging, but honest. 😉 Take time to let those comments settle in, think about ways to address them, and only then dive back into the manuscript.

    And, of course, by going first, you can breath easier through the rest of the week!

    • Thanks so much for all the encouragement. Fortunately, life gets in the way. We are moving this summer so those comments will have lots of time to percolate while I’m sidetracked by other things. But I’m looking forward to the fall!

  3. Pingback: Writing on the Road | 5 Writers 5 Novels 5 Months

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s