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Dec 29, 2020

Author Interview Series: October 2020 Contest Winner Lola Sable

The CritiqueMatch contest coordinator, Mary, “sat down” for a virtual chat with Lola Sable, the winner of the October 2020 FictionFive Writing Contest.

CM: Congratulations on being the winner of the 2nd CritiqueMatch FictionFive Writing Contest! What were your expectations when you entered the contest?
Lola: Thank you for the congratulations! To be honest, I did not expect much to happen when I entered this contest. In the back of my mind, I had high hopes, of course, but I genuinely never imagined I would even make it past the first round. I thought it would be a good way to go outside my comfort zone and challenge my insecurities about sharing my work.

CM: The contest judges were certainly glad you decided to step out of your comfort zone! Give us a high-level view of your writing journey. At what stage are you now?
Lola: I am certainly not professional in any aspect, but my ‘writing journey’ has essentially existed my entire life. Growing up, my favorite hobby was always to write my own stories, and it’s just something that never went away. I would say I am in the middle stage of my journey because in the future, I would love to take at least one creative writing class at college and publish books. I have at least three stories that I think could be outlined and published if I worked really hard: my first ever attempt at writing a book called Wild Life, my current project, My Beloved Monster, and something I am planning for the future under the name of Sandcastles. However, winning this contest has given me more belief in myself, and I feel like I am now at a stage in my writing journey where I feel semi-confident pursuing a career path in this field.

CM: Tell us more about My Beloved Monster, the winning entry in the writing contest! What is it about? How far along are you with that manuscript?
Lola: My Beloved Monster is a literary coming-of-age novel set in Las Vegas during the late 1950s. More precisely, it’s about a teenage girl named Rese and her desire to become a famous singer. Pressured by a cruel and relentless mother, Rese finds herself unable to escape the prospects of marrying a boy she does not love. When her hero, the jaded and mysterious Alfie Russo, offers her a once-in-a-lifetime job taking care of his dying mother, Rese thinks she may finally have a ticket out of her personal hell. However, when the two halves of her childhood dream—finding success as a singer and being with Alfie—seem unable to coexist, Rese is unsure which part of her heart to follow.

I am not as far along with My Beloved Monster as I would like to be. It was originally an epic poem called Paradise that I wrote in early 2019 for a scholarship contest. Spoiler alert, I didn’t win. As of now, I have four chapters written, and the fifth one is on its way. I had around 100 pages in August, but with the help of my critique partners, I was able to realize I needed to slow my roll and rethink my plot and characters heavily. I rewrote one of the male leads entirely, so I am just slowly working my way back to what I had. Being a full-time college student does not leave as much time for writing as I would like, but I’m hoping to get a bulk of My Beloved Monster written during the spring version of NaNoWriMo or over this coming summer.

CM: Your critique partners rave about you on CritiqueMatch! Tell us about the role critique partners have played in your writing life.
Lola: I feel incredibly fortunate to have so many helpful and talented critique partners. I am incredibly shy and stingy with my writing; I almost never share it, so creating a profile on CritiqueMatch was totally out of my comfort zone. However, the advice I’ve gotten has been priceless. I’ve been able to get so many tips on publishing, genre, style, character, and so forth. I’m kind of a newbie in terms of writing seriously, so there’s a lot that’s new to me. I’m very lucky to have reliable partners to fall back on. Thanks to my critique partners, I have completely reformulated my writing style for the better and learned so much about what really makes a great story. I feel like I’m at my best now, obviously, I will hopefully improve still in the future, but I am a far better writer now than I was a year ago. I am truly grateful for all of my partners, I would like to thank Jenni, Carly, Katie, Mikaela, Shann, Pam, Nicole, Kam, Tiffany, and everyone else who has helped me, including my dear friend Alis. She has read every version of this story: the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m so grateful to her for not only sludging through those early versions but for encouraging me to enter this contest despite my insecurities and fears. Without her, I would have likely given up on myself years ago.

CM: What advice do you have for other writers who are looking for long term critique partners?
Lola: My advice to other writers who are looking for long-term critique partners is to think about each story like it’s yours. Care about every author’s journey as much as you care about your own. Nobody wants to work long-term with someone who expects a five-page write up and only comments “cool” on the other person’s work. Forming a friendship with your partners is helpful too, and seeing if there are any commonalities between your stories or lives. I would advise checking in with them even if you’re unable to critique, so they don’t feel ghosted or offended. In all honesty, I feel like I got really lucky with CritiqueMatch.

Previous ‘partners’ on other websites thought my work was beyond atrocious and did not appreciate any of my insight on theirs. Don’t be afraid to read work that’s different from what you write! I’ve read so much fantasy and traditional romance even though I don’t really write either, and I’ve completely enjoyed these adventures. Instead of being close-minded, just give everything a chance. You might find your best partner writing a story you would’ve never given a chance just based on genre. Every single person can bring something to the table, and I think it’s valuable to appreciate people for their individual strengths.

CM: Are there any books on craft you recommend to others?
Lola: I would recommend the book Save the Cat Writes a Novel. I’ve used it for story structure and character stuff in the past, which has really helped. My partner Katie has also recommended this book to me, so I feel like it has a good reputation. I also just recommend reading books in general. I haven’t read many books on craft but just constantly reading and picking up techniques and perspectives from different authors is always a huge help.

CM: If you could go back and give your younger self writing advice, what would be the first thing you would say?
Lola: I would definitely tell my younger self to not give up. I entered my first writing contest at 15 and was crushed when I lost. It made me feel like my work was just complete trash that no one would ever appreciate. I lost many, many contests since then, but each time, the loss was less painful. I have always loved to write but I’ve never had any confidence about it; I would tell my younger self to just keep pushing and never be discouraged. Losing is not personal, and all art, including writing, is subjective. I don’t love every book in the world, and I would never expect every person in the world to think I’m the second coming of Nabokov. I would also advise myself to write whatever I want and not take negativity into account. Young writers are just as capable of writing about tough subjects as older writers, and I don’t think there’s an age requirement to tell a story.

CM: What are the next steps for your writing or publishing journey?
Lola: Hopefully, the next step for my writing journey would be to finish My Beloved Monster. Ideally, it would be finished and edited, ready to be sent out to agents and such within the next 1-2 years. The pandemic has caused a lot of issues for me that slow down my process, but I’m confident that I’ll get there one day. I have dreamed of publishing a book my whole life, and while I am not there yet, I would love to traditionally publish this story. I am also willing to self-publish, although admittedly, that’s a field I need to learn more about.

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


About the Author: Lola Sable
Lola Sable is an (online) college freshman who enjoys literature, films, fashion, and art. Everything old-school and vintage puts a smile on her face. Currently, she is studying English with the hopes to double major in creative writing later on. When she’s not doing homework, she enjoys reading works by Jacqueline Wilson, Colleen McCullough, E.L. Doctorow, and all her writing friends.

This is Sable's first win. She has never been published but hopes to change that someday. Her love of stories has been with her since early childhood, and some of her fondest memories are recalling the tales her grandmother would tell her of her life in the 1950s¬—inspiring Sable's current writing project, My Beloved Monster.

Sable also enjoys writing poetry and has been fond of it since early childhood. She is currently working on a collection of pre-and-post-pandemic poetry under the working title of Jane and the Last-Year Snails. Authenticity and style are fundamentally important to Sable and her writing. True-to-life and dark pieces are both her favorites to read and write. 

You might find her strolling along the beach or sitting in a corner listening to music, wondering where her passion for writing may take her in the future. Keep up with Lola and her life here: