Natasha McNeely's Author Blog

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


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I’m making a list – and checking it twice!

Yes. Yes, I did indeed go there, nearly two months after that holiday season came to an end. What can I say? I prefer Christmas to Valentine’s Day, and the title fit the topic of today’s post.

Why does it fit?

Because, just as the title says, I am making a list – and checking it twice! Not a list of children and who has been naughty or nice, but a list of titles and ideas and stories! Writing, Books, Text, List

My muse has been in uproar lately, throwing idea after idea at me and to make sure I can push those aside and focus on The Forbidden Series, I’m making a lovely list with basic information, so that once I finish this series, I can start another one without spending ages trying to remember the basics.

Believe it or not, I have at least thirty books worth of material; needless to say, I still have a few years of writing to go! And this number keeps rising. Why, just yesterday, after discussing very vague ideas with my friend, Elisa Nuckle, these ideas morphed into an entirely new series – one I am quite interested in, no less.

What can I say, the idea of breaking the fourth wall sounds quite intriguing to me.

So, I’m throwing all these ideas into a document that I’ll safeguard until the time comes for me to move on to something new; or, until I need to add another tale to the still-growing list.

Lots of work? Maybe. But in the end, it’s definitely worth it.

How do you go about keeping your stories organized, and choosing what to work on? Is there a method to your madness?

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How to Achieve Your Goals

Friends

A friend's support for my first journey into National Novel Writing Month, last year.

Everyone has something they want to meet. It’s only natural and it’s our internal survival instinct. Survival of the fittest, people often say. Well, only those who take action can live among the fittest. Laying back and watching time fly by like the wind will only serve to waste precious moments that could have extensive productivity in them.

How you deal with this is your choice. A common question is how to maximize productivity, and not have it disappear. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Choose your goal!
    A deadline looms ahead – an essay, project, or test. Perhaps you intend to write a novel, short story or poem. Maybe it’s not even related to writing; lose weight or start working out. All valid goals, but small details are a necessity to making it that far. These goals are too open. Narrow them down.
  2. Narrow it down!
    So, you think you can make it work? Not if it’s that broad, you can’t. Set a deadline, a daily, weekly or monthly goal; figure out exactly what you want to do. You want to write a short story? How long, by when, and about what? Tomorrow, next week, next month? 1k, 2k, or 4k? Lions, tigers and bears, or something else?
    The more detailed you plan, the more likely you are to succeed.
  3. Solve the dilemma!
    So, you know the what, by when and how much. Great! Now, let’s figure out when you’re going to get around to working on it. After class or work, after dinner, before you leave the house in the morning? Pick a time and minimize distractions. For writing, turn off the internet during your writing period, so you can focus. Turn off your phone, bolt the doors and enjoy being alone.
    Figure out the best way for you to work productively. Without that, it’ll be a long ride.
  4. Find some support!
    What’s life without those people who stand by you? Without a friend or family member who will listen to your troubles and help you through them, how can you succeed? Find a person or two, however many you need, whom you trust and are close to.
    Inform them of your plans. Let them help you. You’ll be surprised how useful it is.
  5. Get to work!
    Now that you’ve figured out what to do, what stands in your way? The greatest enemy who stands between you and that task you wish to accomplish, no matter how small it is, is you. If you can’t make the time and discovery what works best for you and you alone, then how can you manage your time?

You can do it. All you have to do is try.


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Writing Process: What’s yours like?

In my earlier post, Publication Anxiety: How do you deal with it?, I discussed the process that leads up to publication in brief summaries. One of the most important parts is getting the story or poem down on paper.

Of course, that isn’t always as easy as it seems.

So, you have that wonderful idea and want to put it to the test. To have the words flow like a brilliant wave of excellence and weave into the tale you’re dying to tell.

So, how do you do this?

The writing process is different for everybody. While the basic idea of typing or writing the words in the same, the way it happens varies from writer to writer. Some authors have an idea pop into their head and just write. No matter what happens, they get words down every day and don’t stop for anything.

Others aren’t able to write that successfully. They’re thinkers; they strive to perfect the idea in their head – perhaps with character bios and summaries – before beginning the task of expressing the story. It’s a slower process, but once they have their ideas mapped out, the words flow the way they should.

Another big group of authors exists. We’ve had instinctive writers, detailed writers, and now, we have plotting writers. These are writers who plot out almost every little detail of the novel or story before choosing to start writing. They’re much more detailed than the earlier group and as expected, their process can take longer, as they spend much time working on every small detail.

Granted, these are only three of the many types. There are mixtures and authors that stray from the norm – what little norm there is among writers.

Sometimes, determining which type you are will help you get the words down. Knowing in advance that you prefer to make character bios, or have gross information on where you want to go with the idea can help; you’ll be more organized. You’ll get things done.

After all, isn’t that what writers want?

What kind of writer are you? Do you stray from the norm?


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Publication Anxiety: How do you deal with it?

Trip

Image by Rickydavid via Flickr ~///~ Writing is a journey.

Publication. A word foreign to many and one many long to reach.

That’s the easy way of explaining it. What isn’t instantly explained is the process in getting published. It has more steps than many realize and takes a lot more effort and persistence – maybe even a little luck.

Of course, no writer wants to believe in the latter.

So, you’ve written that wonderful short story, novel or poem and polished it until its shine makes the sun look dim. Great! You have successfully completed the first five steps.

Five, you may ask? Why, yes. The previous paragraph holds the five steps within it.

  1. The idea. So, you have the tiny bud that can blossom into something beautiful. Now what?
  2. The empty page. You open the document or grab your notebook, ready to write it all down – and then stop. Fear, anxiety. Can I really do this?
  3. The words. Finally, the words flow like a beautiful fountain spewing from your fingertips and on the page. I can do this!
  4. The horror. You read what you wrote and suddenly, everything does a complete one-eighty. Did I really write this?
  5. The trial. You put your mind to the task at hand. The first draft sucks – even Ernest Hemingway said so about first drafts. It’s time to give it that well-deserved shine. It will be great!

There you have it. A simplified version of the process every author is bound to go through. Intrigue, fear, excitement, disgust, and finally determination. Sometimes – often, really – authors go through steps four and five multiple times before they get that brilliant sparkling that indicates the perfection. The same goes for steps one and two. It takes authors multiple tries to finally get to step three and have the words release themselves.

Now, you have a finished, polished draft ready to see the world. What do you do with it?

For this, I have another list of steps as followed:

  1. The search. If a short story or poem; which anthology or magazine do you want to submit to? If a novel; which publisher is for you? How can I choose? There’s so many!
  2. The details. Narrow down your options. Focus on the genre of your short story/poem/novel and find publishers who specialize in it. Okay, that’s easy enough.
  3. The query. Once you’ve chosen a handful, start querying. There’s no problem in querying multiple publishing houses at the same time – just make sure to check their guidelines about it. What happens now?
  4. The wait. This is essentially the worst part of the entire process. Waiting weeks, maybe even months, for the letter or email stating “yes” or “no” to publishing your wonderful creation. I can’t take the stress!
  5. The finalization. You might be asked to make a few edits. After that, the view of the publishing world will greet you. Just one step remains.
  6. The joy. That’s it! You’ve just gotten the piece you’ve labored over for weeks, months, or even years into a book or magazine. Bask in it and don’t be afraid to show your family and friends that you’re happy. I actually did it!

Those who receive the dreaded “no” must simply rinse and repeat the querying. Maybe do a little extra editing. Sometimes publishers will say why they rejected something, but don’t count on it. Whatever you do; don’t give up!

Of course, the publication itself is only one step in a bigger picture, despite the many steps it took to reach it. Advertising plays a large role, particularly after the release of the book. But that, my friends, is a topic for another day.

Do these steps sound familiar, or do you have an entirely different set of steps? How do you deal with the wait for the “yes” or “no” answer?


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Change of Pace: Summer Holidays

Very little feels better than getting that piece of paper that signifies your grades at the end of the semester and coming to realize that you passed with flying colors. Top of the class and on to the next year.

One of the things that surpasses that sensation is time off; six weeks, exactly. As of yesterday, June 22nd, my holiday has begun and I will have freedom until the 9th of August. A month and a half that I will use to work on my novel, catch up on my reading and just general relaxing. My novel is at a solid 36,000 words now. By the end of my holiday, I intend to have at least 50,000; it is very likely I will overcome that obstacle and venture even closer to my last word count.

To give a more precise plan: It is my goal to write a minimum of 5,000 words per week. With that schedule, I shall reach 50,000 by the midway point of my vacation. By extent, it means I could easily hit 65,000 words by August. Let’s make that my secondary goal, shall we?

The nifty little progress bar on the side of my page will change when I complete a chapter. After the holidays, it’ll reach at least 50%. Making my secondary task will have it at 75%. That’s progress, if I ever saw any.

I plan to get so much writing done, because I have a busy year ahead of me. As it is my exam year, I’m unsure how much time I’ll have to spend on my novel – and writing in general. It is a journey into the unknown. When the time comes, we will know how matters turn out. I will make it work. Nothing, even impending exams, will keep me from finishing this book by my nineteenth birthday.

As for unknown and uncharted territories; I will find my way into one from the 24th of September until the 21st of October. For four weeks, I will live with a yet-unnamed family in France, for an obligatory abroad work experience, organized by my college. For almost a month, I shall live and work in France; I will learn the culture, improve my language skills and find inspiration in ways that I never would have otherwise. Even if I cannot write while there; when I return, I will have inspiration aplenty.

Nothing will stand in my way of completing this novel, nor commencing the editing process and its sequel.

What are your plans when it comes to writing this summer? Do you have specific plans for your blog, reading or writing? Or do you have different plans altogether?


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Change: Is It Necessary?

This is something I know a lot of people wonder and the answer is something neither here nor there. It all depends on the change itself and the person the change influences. For example, an artist could choose to change their sleeping patterns to free up more time for creating. An author could do the same on their writing. Maybe someone intends to change their career path, or maybe something as simple as changing what they have for breakfast.

Change comes in the smallest forms.

I made a change recently. While I don’t wish to delve deeper into the change itself, it hurt. Sometimes change is a necessary evil that will harm you on your way through the process of making the change. Even if that is the case, it is something is necessary; it is often for the best, even if it does not seem so at first.

Moving on, more changing are coming. I’m aware that I need to change my writing habits, or else I will never finish a novel. Because of this, I plan to write a lot this summer to compensate – especially as I’ll be away for four weeks this fall. I must take the time to focus on my goals and what I want to do; it is necessary. A necessary evil in some ways.

Change always is.

I don’t want to drag this post out longer than it needs to, so I’ll leave you with a last piece of advice. If you feel there is something you need to change, no matter how small it seems; don’t be afraid to do so. In the end, the change will be worth it and even if it isn’t, nine times out of ten, it’s just as easy to switch back to the old way.

Have you ever changed something major in your life before? If so, did it work out well for you, or not? If you haven’t; are there things you’d like to change?


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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?