Natasha McNeely's Author Blog

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


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Goals: Where will you be in four years?

Before I start, note that this post was inspired by Joanna Penn‘s recent blog post where she sets her goals for four-year intervals, to coincide with the Olympics.

I agree with what she wrote: Planning ahead by only one year is too short and yet planning for five years seems so long and daunting. Because of this, she settled on every four years, listing the Beijing, London, and Rio Olympics as her past, present, and future in the writing industry.

Why don’t I do the same?

sunrise

Even the smallest dream can grow into something magnificent. (Photo credit: ihasb33r)

  • 2008
    Back in 2008, I had just drifted farther away from writing fan fiction and instead started to write original fiction. This started with Prophecy of The Forbidden. I got twelve chapters in, before I succumbed to the fact that, admittedly, it was horrible.
    At that point, I wasn’t as serious about writing as I thought I was and if something didn’t go right or wasn’t as magnificent as I thought it would be when I started writing, I quit.
  • 2012
    By 2012, I have had a short story published traditionally and have self-published a small anthology of flash fiction. My passion for writing has grown and my focus no longer wavers if the story doesn’t immediately turn out how I want it to. The concept of Prophecy of The Forbidden has been revised and has now become a four-part series, The Forbidden Series, in which the main events of the original Prophecy of The Forbidden will take place in the third book. The first book is complete and the series has currently been set aside to be continued in the future.
    At this time, The Hunted Trilogy is well underway with a self-set deadline of September 30th for the first book. Additionally, plans are already in place for what to focus on after I complete this trilogy.
    Between 2008 and 2012, I also started this blog and have joined various social media, most importantly Twitter and Goodreads, with Facebook a close third.
  • 2016
    By 2016, The Hunted Trilogy will be completed, as well as multiple other books; I will have fallen into a comfortable writing schedule of three books per year, giving me four months to write each novel. I will have self-published a second, larger anthology (more on that later this year) and will have been on my first blog tour. Additionally, I will have a full-time job to go along with my writing.
    I’ll have signed with a literary agent and, ideally, the first book of The Hunted Trilogy will have been published with the second soon to follow. My social media following will have grown to at least three times what it is now and will continue to grow.
    Most of all, I will be happy with my writing and where it has gotten me by that point and will gladly welcome anything more than I expect.

So, what are your four-year plans? Where were you four years ago, where are you now, and where will you be in four years? Let me know in the comments! I’d love to hear your plans for the future and the progress you’ve made.

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Changes: How do you know when to make them?

Changes are things everyone has strong feelings about – generally negative. People fear change, they detest it and they would like nothing more than to never have to deal with change in their life. As nice as it may be to think change will never be necessary, it’s highly impractical and more often than not, impossible.

I’m not talking about major, life-changing changes. Sure, you can make a huge decision that’ll impact your life. It could improve your life in the long run. In that aspect, change is a risk and it’s up to us to decide if it’s worth it. No one can make the decision for us. It’s up to us, after carefully weighing the pros and cons, to decide what we’ll do.

At the same time, smaller, lesser significant changes also exist.

More exercising? Maybe you’ll go from 30 to 45 minutes per day?

Professional wrestler Shannon Moore at the TNA...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia) Show that change who’s boss!

Fewer snacks/more fruit? Perhaps you’ll swap that cookie at lunch for an orange, or an apple?

More writing? 1,500 words instead of 1,000?

These changes are small and seem insignificant, and yet these are the changes that impact our lives the most. Small changes are the ones that stick around. If you move to another city or country, sure, it’s a big decision that will have an impact on your life, but at the same time, that huge impact is only temporary. Eventually you’ll settle into your new home and what will be left then?

The small changes that you work on every day.

In the end, what’s important is that you learn to make changes when they’re needed. Learn to put yourself first. An example is book one of The Hunted Trilogy. I’ve extended my self-set deadline from August 31st to September 30th. Why? It’s simple. In July, I wrote a lot less than I intended to. Now, I won’t claim that none of that was just sheer laziness – some of it was. However, I was also sick for a week which did not help the situation.

Regardless of the reason, that brings me to August. During August, I would have had to write as estimated 55,000 words to finish Werewolf’s Lair. Doable? Sure. However, I have other things that also need my attention. Exercise, family, friends, job hunting, and, not to forget, lots of reading and just general relaxing. The short version is that I didn’t want to overwork myself, so I gave myself an extra month.

This will split the workload and make me a lot happier throughout these two months, and not as drained when I finish.

Long story short, make your decision and base it on being productive, but also what’s best for you. In the end, you’re the one who dictates your life and only you know exactly what you can handle.

Base your decisions on that information.

What’s your opinion when it comes to changes? Do you have any experience with small or big changes you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments!


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3 Reasons: Why is communication important for writers?

Inspired by my latest post Don’t Miss Your life and by Kristen Lamb‘s passionate encouragement of communication between writers.

Don’t get me wrong. Communication is important for everyone, regardless of your profession, lifestyle, and whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert. That’s right. Even we introverts need to give in and accept that communicating with others is an important part of our life.

What kind of communication, you may ask?

See? Even in the outside world there are things for we introverts to do.
Tutankhamun exhibition. May 21st, 2011.

Speaking, online and offline, visual contact, online and offline, forming friendships, online and offline. Overall, we just need to have actual contact with other human beings! Yes, we introverts might be perfectly happy living alone with our cats. Maybe a dog, should we dare to leave the house for more than getting groceries and going to bookstores or the library.

Now that we’ve established that writers need communication just as much as any other person does, let’s take a look at the reason why communication is so important for us.

  • Inspiration

Yep. As anyone who has contact with a writer will probably know, we writers will gladly use our friends and family as source material for our current and upcoming projects. You actually broke up that way? How horrible!

Don’t be surprised to find uncanny similarities between your life and the life of a character in that draft your friend just asked you to beta-read. We don’t do it to hurt you, honest. Writers are like sponges. We soak up everything we see and hear and morph it until it fits in our stories. We might not remember how we came up with that amazing idea, but it worked out in the long run!

  • Health

Believe it or not, but communicating with other people is healthy – even for writers. We sit in our house all day, typing away on a keyboard or scribbling frantically into a notebook. Maybe even loose scraps of paper if we’re really unorganized. Trust me, it’s possible.

Going outside and having a chat with some friends and family is an excellent way for us to stay sane. After all, knowing our characters, do we really want them to break farther into our mind than they already have? I’ve got some psychos in my books. The last thing I need is them talking to me more than they do now.

Imaginary people don’t talk to me. Honest.

  • Fun

    Action-packed things, no less!
    Panic! At the Disco concert on August 19th, 2011.

Unexpected, I know. This is the reason so many people forget about. Yes, contact with others increases our inspiration and therefore helps our productivity, and yes, having someone to talk to is a healthy way for us to prevent psychopathic antagonists from taking over our brains stay sane and distance ourselves from our work a bit, but how can we forget the most important thing about social contact?

We want to have fun.

There’s nothing greater than spending time with some friends. Head to the cinema or the theater, go out to dinner, go to the arcade. Go do something that’s fun and will help you take a break from all that work you do day in and day out – because writers never stop working; we’re always thinking – and just relax. Have fun. No matter how much work you have to do, never forget to have fun.

Without fun, would any of this really be worth it?

Go ahead and share your opinion in the comments! I’d love to hear what you think. And remember, take it easy and give yourself a break now and then, regardless of how busy you are. Tell work to wait and go enjoy yourself!

Have fun with friends and ignore the alluring voices enjoy life to its fullest!

That’s all for now. Let me know what you think and stay tuned for next time!


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Don’t Miss Your Life

Today’s post will be short and to the point.

Take a step back and observe your life. Do you do things that are fun? Do you spend time with family and friends? Or are your days filled with work and responsibilities and not an ounce of fun and relaxation?

If that’s the case, and even if it’s not, take four minutes to listen to this song and watch the video. Phil Vassar shows just how important it is to keep in mind what really matters in life.

This song brings me to tears every time I listen to it, because the truth is harsh and shown so spectacularly well in this song. Remember that sometimes it’s OK to mess up and to be a bit lax with your responsibilities, to say no and go do something not related to work. And most importantly, please remember:

Don’t miss your life.


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Happy 4th of July!

Happy 4th of July!

That would about conclude what I had planned for this blog post. Ironically, I am writing this just after midnight for me, but it’s still the fourth in America, so all is well.

Enjoy your day everyone!

English: Fireworks on the Fourth of July, 2009...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spend it with your family and friends and cherish the time you have with one another. Take care to appreciate the freedom you have and make the best of today. Barbecues are great. We had a nice meal, too. Sausages and home-made potato skins, as well as a freshly baked peach pie. Yummy. That’s all I can say about that.

Aside from that, my parents and I watched some shows together and had a nice, relaxing day. I also wrote a bit – yes, even on a day like today. What can I say? I’m in Europe.

What are your plans, or what did you do?

Have fun, y’all!


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Friday Fortune #2 – Werewolf’s Lair Snippet!

Friday Fortune #2

Welcome to the second edition of Friday Fortune!

What is Friday Fortune? On Wednesdays and Sundays, my posts are generally serious and focus on specific aspects of writing or even life in general. Fridays are here to mix it up a bit. On Fridays, you’ll be surprised with giveaways, free snippets, general questions, and so much more! If you have any suggestions for questions I could ask or things I could do; let me know so we can make this interactive!

This week, I decided to share a snippet from book one of The Hunted Trilogy, namely one of my favorite scenes so far!

Without further ado, here’s the snippet. Let me know what you think!

A young boy, just on the cusp of ending his first decade, laughed and ran. Delight sparked in his green eyes as he looked over his shoulder. His eyes widened and he ran faster. A second form, this one larger, lunged for the boy and tackled him to the ground. They fell as a mess of dirty clothes and shaggy brown hair.

The young man bared his white teeth in a grin and ruffled the younger’s hair. “Gotcha!”

“That’s not fair,” the boy whined, then yelped a laugh as they rolled over. “You’re bigger.”

“All’s fair in a challenge, and you challenged me.” He released the boy and rose, swatting his hair out of his sun-kissed face. “Maybe you’ll win when you’re bigger, hmm?”

“Be nice, now.” A younger Paige walked towards the quarreling brothers and let out a soft laugh. “Boys, boys.”

The older of the two grinned at her. “Are you going to stop us?”

Her younger face mirrored his grin. “Maybe I will, Jaden.”

Jaden’s grin stayed plastered on his expression and he slapped his hands together, stepping towards her. “What will you do, hmm? I could catch you easily.”

Paige’s grin wavered and she took a tentative step back. “Don’t even think about it.”

“Run, little girl, run.”

She did. Turning as soon as he spoke, she bolted. Ten feet. Fifteen. Twenty –

Arms circled around her waist and yanked her off her feet. Paige yelped as her momentum vanished and Jaden twirled around with her in his arms. “J-Jaden, stop!”

He disobeyed, spinning her round and round. His chuckle slithered into her ear and turned her yelps into laughter. The laughter became a small cry as he released her. Paige flew and landed in a pile on top of the youngest child; her arms dug into the ground, preventing her full weight from crashing onto him.

Her breaths turned into ragged pants as she rolled off of the young boy. She stared up at the sky, vibrant and blue above the luscious trees that surrounded them. “You’re i-insane.”

Jaden waltzed over to them and held out his hands to the younger ones. Tilting his head to the side, he smiled down at them. “But you love me for it.”

Tune in next week for whatever I have up my sleeve for you in edition three of Friday Fortune.


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Life Experiences: Why not add them to your book?

Many writers have heard the phrase “Write what you know.”

It’s good advice that is commonly misunderstood. Does it include writing about things you’ve done in your life? Of course it does. If you’re a lawyer and intend to write about a character who shares that career, then that is perfect! You know what the character needs to do and how a lawyer thinks.

But is it really all about what you think?

Experiencing a concert.

Emotions play a large part in writing, not to mention day-to-day life. That anger you feel when someone talks down to you as if they’re better, or that elation when things go your way; both of these feelings and other emotions that exist are extremely important.

For this, we’ll take an example. Almost everyone has had their heart broken at some point in life. While there are many causes, let’s take the simplest; a break-up.

You’re horrified, you’re hurt, and often feel like you can’t go on.

If you’ve felt that before, chances are, you can describe it in such a way that someone who hasn’t felt it, can’t. If a character you write about suffers, you’ll know how best to describe it to bring the emotions to life. The same goes for other emotions.

Anger, love, pain, sadness, and so many more.

Yes, things you know from experience are important – like your career, or things you’ve done in your life. On the other hand, the emotions are what you need to truly bring them to life in your stories. You can write the most detailed description of a day in a lawyer’s life, but without the emotion to spice things up and make it real, it’s not the same.

Or the beauty of a different country.

The day you moved out of your parents’ house; how did you feel? Remembering that could come in handy if you write Young Adult. Your first job interview. How nervous were you? Following up on that: Your first day at work, or your first day at college.

All of these are common, natural things that everyone goes through – even fictional characters. Use your experience to make readers relate, by making your characters feel.

Give it a try. Pick an event in your life and write about it. Make a character endure it and see how it turns out. Share it in the comments if you want! I’d love to see what you come up with.

Most of all, just remember that life experiences and writing what you know don’t just mean the events themselves – but how it felt for you to go through them.