Writing, Critique Partnerships and Other Stories

From a community of writers, critique partners and beta readers.

Aug 3, 2020

Author Interview Series: J M Lasley

The CritiqueMatch contest coordinator “sat down” for a virtual chat with J M Lasley, the winner of the 1st FictionFive Contest.


CM: Congratulations on being the winner of the 1st CritiqueMatch FictionFive Contest! Tell us, what emotions are going through your head right now?

JML: Honestly, the first thing that went through my head when I got the announcement was, is this real? I had to reread the first paragraph a few times before it sunk in what it was saying. I honestly could not believe that I had won. It is such a great feeling! With all the chaos of this year, it was exactly the kind of good news I needed. I’m surprised, pleased, grateful, humbled, and excited for the future.

CM: Your excitement is contagious! We can all use good news this year. To start with, give us a high-level view of your writing journey. At what stage are you now?

JML: Though writing has always been a part of my life—even when I wasn’t writing, I was telling myself stories—I began writing seriously as an adult in 2015. That was the first year I participated in NaNoWriMo. I have won four times, but only two of those turned into full novels. Now, I am working on building a community of writers and readers who love stories the way I do in the hopes I can share my stories with them someday. Last year I focused on writing short fiction and submitting it to literary journals. This year I have focused on a deep revision of my novel Scorn and Shadow before querying it to agents. After getting several rejections—so many rejections—and some pretty harsh feedback from a manuscript critique and beta read, I decided I needed to work on it a little deeper, get some more feedback before I started sending it out again. CritiqueMatch has been perfect in helping me get reader responses and see what is working and what isn’t.


CM: Four-time winner of NaNoWriMo—your dedication says it all! We saw from your bio that you have been studying writing and storytelling seriously on your own since about 2015. Can you tell us about that self-study journey?

JML: You would think after studying literature for both undergrad and grad school I would have had a better concept of story and writing, but when I began diving into it, I quickly realized how little I knew. My self-study journey has focused on following writers and authors online to see what systems they have in place, reading as many craft books as I can get my hands on, writing, writing, writing, and getting feedback, then revising and writing some more. Indie authors all over the internet have taught me the foundations of story structure, character arc and development, and more. I owe a debt to Shaunta Grimes for her lessons on plot, K.M. Weiland for her lessons on story structure and character arcs, Kristen Keiffer for her relentless honesty and positivity in talking about the writing life, and Sarra Cannon for her project management approach.

 

CM: These are great resources—thank you for sharing them with our community. Tell us more about Scorn and Shadow, the winning entry in the contest! What is it about? How far along are you with that manuscript?

JML: Scorn and Shadow is the story of Emerald, the daughter of a noble family who has been living as a jewel thief after running away from home. When she gets caught by the Knight Captain, who happens to be her childhood crush, she is dragged back to the world she tried to run from. As a consequence of her crimes, she is serving the people she once fled. Now she must decide where she belongs before the choice is taken from her.

I have been working on this novel on and off since that first NaNoWriMo in 2015. I haven’t been able to give up on it. The goal is to try to get agent representation to shop it to a traditional publisher. If I cannot, then I plan to get a full developmental edit and pursue self-publishing. 

 

CM: Your critique partners rave about you on CritiqueMatch! Tell us about the role critique partners have played in your writing life.

JML: I have had such wonderful critique partners on CritiqueMatch! There is nothing I love more than reading stories. When I went to college, I wanted to be an editor. So being able to provide suggestions and feedback to authors is really a dream come true for me. When giving feedback, my biggest goal is to let the writers know what they are doing well before I let them know what I think isn’t working or needs improvement. Feedback sandwiches are a lot easier to swallow and better for us than just pointing out flaws. I think all writers need reassurance that they aren’t wasting their time and that they are doing well, so I make sure to let them know what I love to inspire them through the drudgery of revisions.

Getting feedback has been essential in helping me figure out what doesn’t work. No matter how much sense something makes in my head, if readers consistently don’t get what I am trying to accomplish, it needs a second look. Also, the experience of someone who isn’t related to me enjoying my characters and story is a blessing! CritiqueMatch provides such a positive environment for feedback, and it has been a huge blessing to me.

 

CM: If you could go back and give your younger self writing advice, what would be the first thing you would say?

JML: The biggest piece of advice I would give to myself would be, Don’t give up! I stopped writing when I was around 14 or 15 because I received some criticism from an adult in my life. It happened to coincide with one of those moments where you grow enough to see that your previous writing isn’t that good. I did not have the confidence in myself to think, if I keep trying, I will get better at this. So, I gave up writing completely. If I could go back, I would tell myself that the joy of writing is worth the growing pains.


CM: What are the next steps for you?

JML: The next step for me is to review all the feedback from the judges and get to work! After considering feedback and improving my draft, I’m going to try querying again. Meanwhile, there are more stories to tell, so I will continue writing, revising, and getting feedback on those as well.


CM: Best of luck in your writing journey, JM. It was a pleasure chatting with you, and congratulations again on your achievement!



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About the Author: J M Lasley

JM Lasley loves to find wonder wherever she can. Some of her favorite ‘wonder’ moments include swimming with grumpy-faced sea turtles, watching the ballet of manta-rays feeding at night, and witnessing humpback whales leap out of water. She has lived in Colorado, Arkansas, Florida, Hawaii, and now lives in Georgia with her husband and their fur-child Maverick.

Lasley’s love of stories and reading started young, when she read her first book “Green Eggs and Ham” around age five. It ignited a passion for reading which has kept her company ever since. She began writing later, perhaps at age 10, when she would create fanfiction of her favorite Disney movies and after school cartoons. Following those two loves, she pursued English Literature at both the undergraduate and graduate level.

Now, Lasley loves to craft stories in fantastic worlds, full of magical possibilities. Her first short story “Wish Perfect” was published by Fantasia Divinity Magazine in their anthology “Wishes of Illusion” this year.