Natasha McNeely's Author Blog

Never stop dreaming, 'cause the day you stop dreaming, is the day you stop living.


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New Place; Alive and Still Kicking

In the very least, this past week has been hectic.

Between working overtime at my part-time job, having my last busy week in college and getting ready to move to a new apartment; life wanted to make sure every shred of my time went to those three things. Needless to say, I have done little to no writing this past week, but change is coming!

College is nearing its close, I expect work will be less severe and as of today, we moved in.

This means I won’t need to spend as much time on those matters and will free up time for my writing. A very good thing, I do believe. I intend to do a lot of writing throughout the summer holidays. I have a word count to catch up on and I want one novel finished, at the very latest, by the end of 2011. My last chance to get a fair amount of writing done might be summer, as after the holidays I will enter my college exam year. As if it couldn’t get any worse, I will also be abroad for four weeks. While the prospect is intriguing and I am very much looking forward to working in France for a month, as part of my education; it will cut into my time. Depending on how things go while I’m abroad, though, I will attempt to get writing done every day, even if it’s only a paragraph.

But for now, I’m going to spend the rest of the day relaxing and hopefully getting some writing done. It’s been a long day, so I’m looking forward to kicking back and letting the rest of the day pass by; uneventfully, preferably.

My next blog will focus more on my writing, promise.

How do you deal with writing while life is throwing obstacles at you? Have you ever worked or studied in a foreign country and if so, how did you deal with it?

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Dodging the Law

Or, in the case, teachers.

I’m typing this in the middle of English class, bored out of my mind. We’re on the computers, so I figured; what better to do than start writing a blog?

Go away, teacher. Stay towards the front of the class.

We’re practising business conversations – hotel reservations and the like.

Speaking of writing; I have written lately, but my time dispersed all over the place between college, writing, my job and moving. We’re moving at the end of the month and we’ve already been packing and moving things to the new house. My poor books – they’re probably so lonely without me. I know I feel alone without them.

I am working on settling back into a regular schedule when it comes to updating my blog. The next two or three weeks will be a little rough as teachers are piling on last-minute tests before the summer holidays, but then I’ll sort things.

Once a week, Natasha. Once a week.

I’ve said that a lot before, but I promise it’ll become reality.

The teacher isn’t even paying attention to me.

That’s all I have to say right this moment; this is just a quick update to let you know what’s been going on. Saturday will be great! My parents and I will be heading to Cologne to see the Exhibition of Tutankhamun’s tomb. It’ll be a nice day out, something I really need after all the school work.

Expect an awe-filled blog not long after Saturday. I can’t promise I’ll hide my ecstasy and have millions of things I need to get off my chest.

Cheers.

How do you handle mixing college or work with writing and regular patterns, or goals? What would you recommend others to do?


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Weekly Goals and Accomplishments

As stated in my earlier post, with the arrival of my vacation I strapped myself down and readied for novel-writing. The goal? 7,500 words per week, three weeks long; a grand total of 22,500 words by the end of my holiday. Week One came to an end yesterday and I can announce with sheer delight that I did not meet my goal. I decimated it.

9,603 words in seven days; one day even still after class and one day without any writing.

Yesterday alone, I wrote 4,096 words. That makes for one heck of a long chapter that I am ecstatic to have behind me. Out of everything I have planned for this novel, the scene in chapter ten, now dubbed Surreal, haunted me and terrified me at the sheer thought of it. Honestly, I feared I would slip into willing procrastination after chapter nine – anything to avoid thinking, much less writing what plagued me.

So, yesterday I put my foot down, opened the file and had a stare down with the new page, decorated with “Chapter Ten” at the top. I added the title after the brief staring contest, pushed aside my fears and hit my fingers to the keys. The time it took me to write out the entire 4,096 word chapter, fish out and edit minor mistakes, and then put it away took me the equivalent of a nine to five job; if not longer. I lost track. The relief of having the horrible scene behind me and being able to move on relaxed me to no end and I did not open the document again that night (except to copy and paste the chapter into its own document and send it to a very awesome friend/trusty proofreader).

Why did that chapter plague me so? I killed one of my babies.

Until now, I have never ended the life of any of my characters – I never got far enough to do so. I have deaths planned, but this is the first one I reached. It’s hard, killing off those you’ve become accustomed to. I fear the worst for later chapters, later novels, and other series.

Even so, the sacrifice was relevant to the plot and I look forward to progressing deeper into the novel.

I won’t stop until it’s done.

Current Novel Word Count: 28,690

Have you ever killed one of your characters? Is it one of those moments you dread or do you move past it like it’s any normal section of the novel?


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Breaking Out The Big Guns

Education is both a gift and a sin.

For these past two weeks, college has piled on so much work that I have been unable to find time to write – both this blog and my fiction writing. To prevent this from keeping up, my Easter Holidays have decided to arrive at a convenient time. In two days, Friday the 15th of April, my vacation will start and I will be free from class until May 2nd. This means the days will be long, time will be there, and specific Word documents will get dusted off.

My deadline for the first draft of my novel is approaching.

With all this free time on my hands (because, honestly; the holidays are pretty much here already), it’s time to up my game.

7,500. One week. Three weeks of vacation.

Minimum.

What this means is that I intend to write at least 7,500 words a week throughout this blessed freedom. It breaks down to 1,500 words in five days – nine to five, excluding weekends. Writing is a job; a profession to focus on like any other career, or else it will smack me in the face and send me rolling downhill until I hit the brick wall at the bottom called Writer’s Block.

I don’t want that to happen.

With the amount of 7,500 words a week and nearly three weeks of holiday, that totals to 22,500 words. I’m at 19,070 words now – I would essentially write at least double what I’ve done thus far, if not more. That progress sounds like the gentle tone of Angel’s singing Hallelujah in my ears. Or maybe more like Eureka.

Either way, progress is good. I won’t fight it, but I’ll sure as heck fight for it.

The work I have during my vacation is minimal – a couple of hours here and there, so there’s no reason for me not to write. I will hit 22,500 and I’ll try my best to soar through that and end up further than I expected. 50,000 total, anyone? I’m only 30,930 words away from that. A little over 10,000 words a week for these three weeks and I’ll reach it.

If I manage that, I’ll be ecstatic and you’ll definitely know it. For now, it’s time to get started on the 7,500 words between now and next Wednesday. I’m living this very second, so why not get it started, right?

What is the most you’ve ever written in a week, or a day? How did you do it?


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Down With The Sickness: Defeat It

As of this moment, I will do my best to update regularly.

I will blame my lack of updating on the fact that for the second time in six weeks, I ended up with an infection that affected my ears, throat and sinuses. It wasn’t pretty. The last time I had it, it started on a Sunday morning, I stubbornly went to class on Monday, then finally went to the doctor’s office Tuesday morning. I got sent home with medicine and a note obligating me to stay home for the rest of the week.

This time, I was perfectly alright. Tuesday evening, my throat started to act up. I went to bed, hardly slept due to it worsening and went to the doctor’s office first thing Wednesday morning. I wasn’t taking chances. This time, I got sent home with the same medicine, along with antibiotics and nose drops, and a note matching the previous one. In total, I had to take six pills a day; it was not pleasant, but I survived.

That weekend, a week ago, I felt well enough to write and I ended up spewing out words like there was no tomorrow. During the course of the weekend, I wrote over 3,500 words. To top matters off, I wrote 2,960 words this Wednesday. Three chapters completed within five days. If anything, getting ill helped me find my muse. Not only am I ecstatic that my inspiration is treating me well, but it has inspired me to create a new goal.

I will finish the first draft by the end of June, the start of my summer holidays.

While I don’t know yet how long this novel will be (probably in the 60,000 – 80,000 range), I do know that I’m at 19,057 words now and still have a lot to go. But that won’t deter me from hitting that goal. If all goes as planned and I finish the first draft by the end of this school year, I’ll let the draft collect dust throughout summer as I start the second book. When college starts back up again, I’ll get the draft off the shelf and start the editing process. How it goes from there, I’ll see when that time comes.

Instead of just informing about my writing habits, I’d like to give some advice that I find helpful. Have someone proofread your novel, whether they read each chapter as you finish it or wait until you’ve completed the draft. Assistance from a friend or family member is essential and not only does it help you to improve your writing, but hearing what someone else thinks about what you’ve written will keep you motivated.

Before, my urge to write wavered. Now, I have an amazing friend who not only reads each chapter when it’s written, but who is always willing to discuss in great detail what she thinks of the different aspects of the story. Her help makes a huge difference and there is nothing I can do to express my gratitude properly.

Thank you.

What do you find useful when you write and edit? Do you have one, or multiple, people proofread your draft, or do you do things a different way?


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Creating the World

Believe it or not, sometimes even writers don’t keep their promises. A daily word count goal can fail under the stress of other things and just like that, you can hit a wall. If writing a specific word count a day isn’t your thing, then maybe you should try writing every day, but focusing on a weekly, or even monthly goal. It all comes to how much time you’re willing to commit to the craft and what you’re capable of.

Creating a world means you spend your time expanding on it – the surroundings, the realm and the characters who live inside it. Without believable characters who fit the world you’re crafting, the story won’t reach its full potential. Ponder the ideas you have, execute them and work hard to mold together every aspect of your creation. Writing the story itself is only half the battle; understanding your characters and the world they live in comes first and is another large section of it. Once all of that is over with, you’ll be able to focus on editing. But that’s another story entirely.

As of this moment, my daily word count goal of 1,000 words a day is failing. Why? Because sometimes I want to do other things. Throughout my long weekend, what I wrote is as followed:

Friday: 1,238
Saturday: 0
Sunday: 0
Monday: 1,500
Tuesday: 368

That makes for a grand total of 3,106 words in five days – 1,894 words short of the 5,000 I should have gotten if I’d stuck to my goal. Still, it’s more than I’ve written in weeks and that is what it’s all about. Writing. I may not make my goal every day, but I try my best and that helps me get words onto paper. It helps me progress in my story and the best part is that, even when I’m not writing, I am thinking about my novel; its characters, the environment, the plot, and everything around it. The thought process is more important and essential than many think. Without it, there would be no novel. I will not deny that there are some who can start writing the instant a hint of an idea pops into their subconscious, but even if they start that way, their mind will dwell and elaborate the story.

We writers are always working. Whether we’re lounging on a couch with our trusty notebook and pencil in hand, curled up with our laptop or sitting at our desk with our computer, or staring out the window: Our minds are always working, even if we sometimes don’t know it ourselves. In our subconscious, stuff is always being processed and created. With our knowledge, or without.

The above-noted word counts allowed me to both write the second half of chapter four, then proceed to write well into chapter five. Tuesday, I went back and did some editing to the disaster that was chapter four, by adding bits, changing things around and all-in-all, spicing it up a bit.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have.

While editing is key to great stories, it’s best done after the fact. I’ve already toned down my editing skills, but I can’t deny my inner editor everything. I have no problem with finishing a chapter, letting it sit for a few days while I move on, and then looking it over. Will I edit again once I finish the novel? Of course. Will I edit sometime throughout the course of the novel? Highly possible. The fact of the matter is to not limit yourself. You could say you won’t edit at all and be miserable with everything you’ve written and lose the will to go on, or you can find a way to make it work for you. The key is to keep writing.

Keep writing – it’s all that matters. If you do, you’re one step closer to accomplishing your goal.

What are your experiences when it comes to mixing writing new material with editing? What would you recommend others to do?


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Write or Die: Goals

My earlier blog was the last thing I wrote. I haven’t written anything for a good two weeks, if not more; this is something I want to change. Fighting to keep up with college, work and general life makes it difficult to find time to write properly. However, I came to the conclusion I need to make time, instead of wait for it to come to me. If I keep waiting, I’ll die before it finds me.

I intend to use National Novel Writing Month as a base for my writing. There’s no beating around the bush: I failed this November, but that doesn’t mean I can’t do it. Maybe I need to start with a smaller goal and work my way up. As long as I get some words down on paper, it’s an improvement. To help along the way, I’ll be setting a daily word count for myself.

1,000 words.

While I’m sure I’d be able to write more, I don’t want to overdo it and the last thing I need is for my writing to feel like a chore. I’ve learned from experience that when a battle to get words down begins, my muse and my will implode. I need to prevent that from happening. A very doable daily word count and not pushing myself too hard – it’s the ideal situation to get myself into gear.

With a four-day weekend ahead of me, freed from college and work, it’s the perfect time to get it started. Who knows? Maybe I’ll be on a roll and write more than I intend to. If that’s the case, it’s an added bonus; one I will gladly embrace.

With the prologue and three chapters of my novel finished, I don’t want to give up. I’ve spent too much time developing this story, this series, to do that. September 30th, 2008 is when I started writing this idea. A lot has changed since then and after many writer’s blocks, rethinking the overall idea and planning, I’ve finally gotten it to a point where I’m happy with it. Now, the time has come for me to get more written – to expand the 8,247 words I wrote for the first chapters.

This word count will help me reach my goal.

This word count will help me finish the first book and allow me to move on to the second.

This word count will help me live.

Do you have any experience with writing goals? How do you prefer to write: With goals, or just as is?