NaNoWriMo Nov Day 13: Alyssa Sheinmel
Today it's the turn of Faceless author Alyssa Sheinmel to share her five top writing tips for aspiring authors – take it away, Alyssa!
What would be your five top tips to budding writers?
1. Read. Read writers who wrote the type of writing that you’re trying to do yourself.
2. Read. Read writers whose work you look up to, whose stories might be very different from the stories you’re trying to tell, but who tell their stories so well that just reading them feels like a writing lesson.
3. Read. Do research on the story you’d like to tell – read articles, essays, interviews, the works.
4. Read. Pick up something a friend or teacher recommended that you’d never have thought to pick up otherwise – an author you’ve never heard of, a genre you never thought you’d be interested in.
5. And if all else fails ... Read. I honestly believe that every single thing I’ve ever read has taught me something about how to tell a story: books that I’ve loved and books that weren’t necessarily my cup of tea. Novels and non-fiction. Essays and articles. Even – and I really mean this – textbooks. Ideas can come from the most unexpected of places. A textbook taught me to insert humor into a dry topic. Magazine articles have prompted (sometimes completely unrelated) story ideas. Novel after novel has shown me beautiful and unexpected sentences. Essays have improved my vocabulary. For me, the essential thing isn’t always what I’m reading; sometimes it’s just enough that I’m reading. It’s still (and I suspect always will be) the piece of advice I most often give to myself about writing: just sit down and read.
For those hoping to take part in NaNoWriMo or enter the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition, what would be your best tip for writing something every day?
For me, I find it’s incredibly helpful to set a manageable goal for the day. That way, if I exceed my goal, I feel great, but even if I only just barely meet it, I still have the satisfaction of completing my day’s work. This can be a word-count-goal, or a chapter-goal, or just a getting-through-a-scene-goal – whatever feels right to you.
Enter the Times/Chicken House Children's Fiction Competition to be in with a chance of winning a £10,000 publishing contract!
TWO MINUTES WITH ... Faceless author Alyssa Sheinmel
Next month sees the release of Faceless, an extraordinary and captivating tale of identity, love and redefining who you are. We caught up with author Alyssa Sheinmel to find out a little more about the origins of her story ...
For those who haven't yet read it, could you describe Faceless in ten seconds?
Faceless is the story of Maisie Winters, a 'normal' girl whose face is partially destroyed in a terrible accident. She’s lucky enough to be a candidate for a face transplant, and luckier still when a donor becomes available. But Maisie doesn’t feel lucky. As far as she’s concerned, a face transplant is the type of thing that happens in horror movies, not in the real world. Still, she chooses to go through with the procedure, telling herself that spending the rest of my life with someone else’s face is better than spending it with no face at all. But with someone else's features staring back at her in the mirror, Maisie looks – and feels – like a stranger. Before, she knew who she was – a regular girl who ran track and got good grades, who loved her boyfriend and her best friend. Now, she can't even recognize herself.
Maisie, our protagonist, is a seventeen-year-old girl who has a face transplant. Where did the inspiration for this story come from? Was it based on a real-life story?
A while before my first book was published, I began drafting some notes for another book idea, the story of a girl who’d been in an accident that changed her face forever, who would struggle to discover how much of who she was was tied to what she looked like. Soon, I had pages of notes tucked away in the 'Ideas' folder on my desktop – but I was never quite ready to start writing, never quite sure how to tell this story.
So when my American editor approached me about writing the story of a girl for whom a face transplant was her best hope at a normal life, I was immediately intrigued. I know it sounds corny, but I honestly felt like it was meant to be somehow, like this was the story I’d been waiting to write when I typed out all those notes in my 'Ideas' folder.
What do you hope readers will take away from Faceless?
At the end of the day, Faceless is the story of one girl’s struggle to figure out who she is. Most of us – thankfully – will never find ourselves in situations as extreme as Maisie’s, but plenty of us still struggle to discover how much of who we are is tied to what we look like. While Maisie’s experience may be singular, being a girl who doesn’t look the way she thinks she should unfortunately isn’t.
Follow Alyssa Sheinmel on Twitter: @alyssasheinmel
When Maisie is burnt in a terrible accident, her face is partially destroyed. She's lucky enough to get a face transplant, but how do you live your life when you can't even recognize yourself any more? She was a runner, a girlfriend, a good student ... a normal girl. Now, after a single freak accident, all that has changed.
As Maisie discovers how much her looks did and didn't shape her relationship to the world, she has to redefine her own identity, and figure out what 'lucky' really means.
Wonder for a YA audience: lyrically written and gripping.
Alyssa Sheinmel is the author of Second Star, The Beautiful Between, The Lucky Kind, and The Stone Girl, as well as the co-author of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl series. Alyssa grew up in Northern California and New York, and attended Barnard College. She now lives and writes in New York City.