Natasha McNeely's Author Blog

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


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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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Collaborations: What They Do For Inspiration

I’ll be the first to admit that a collaboration is something I’ve never properly attempted, but I’m open to many things. Because of this, when a friend of mine mentioned the idea of us collaborating last week, I jumped at the opportunity. We spent this past week discussing details; the characters, in what kind of style to write and a vague idea of what we wanted to happen and more specifics for the first chapter.

Granted, we live halfway across the world from each other, so our only option for the joint project was online.

And we’re making it work.

It took us two nights of back and forth typing in MSN – her doing a section (anywhere from a one-line paragraph to multiple paragraphs), then me following suit and repeating that process until we finished the first chapter. I can honestly say that this form of collaborating is both intriguing and immensely fun and satisfying.

One of the pros for working together on a story is that, even if you don’t have inspiration, your partner in crime can continue. And what they write just might spark your muse and send you into a writing frenzy. I speak from experience when I say that writing with a companion changes so many things dramatically. By writing together, you inspire and motivate each other and keep pushing one another to write, write and write some more. It’s both a challenging and rewarding experience; something that is worth it in the end.

So long as you have someone you share interests with and can connect to and stay on the same wavelength as them, venturing forth into a collaboration will be easy. Have a rough idea of what you want, but make sure to discuss plans and ideas with your partner. The key to keeping a joint writing functional is to have constant contact with your friend or fellow writer. Always talk, always compare and always discuss things that could be done better or differently or not done like that.

Never close yourself off from constructive criticism; the other writer’s contributions are just as meaningful and important as your own.

Accept it with open arms. Knit it a little sweater. It’s meant to help you improve.

Teamwork is an essential part of collaborating, so make sure you’re willing to compromise and spend time changing or discussing things that you may feel are fine the way they are. But most of all – have fun. Writing should always be an enjoyable experience and a collaboration is no different. The only different in it, is that you’re two – or maybe more – authors working on the same story.

Don’t hold back. It’s an amazing experience.

Have you ever collaborated before and if so, how did it go? Do you have any advice for people who would like to collaborate?
If you haven’t; is it something you can see yourself doing?


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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?


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Under the Stairs

Some months ago when I was struggling to keep up with college work and my writing, I felt a potential opportunity for publishing pass me by. I had heard about Divertir Publishing and how they’re a company focusing on short story and poetry anthologies to give unknown writers the chance to break into the realm of published literature.

A dream come true, I thought, except I forgot about it as teachers increased my workload.

The one place I spend the time I have to relax is an art and literature website called deviantArt. One day as I did my daily things, the unexpected happened. Lisa D Keele, one of the editors of Divertir Publishing, contacted me, asking if I’d like to send in a story. Only then did I remember the opportunity and the next thing I knew, I made time to select one of my stories and submitted a query. The first time I ever submitted something for publication.

One month later, an email appeared in my inbox and I found out they had accepted my story. My lifelong dream hit me like a brick and I couldn’t believe my luck – I found it difficult to come to grips with the thought that one of my stories would be in print. I still do.

Now, two months after that, the collection of flash fiction containing my story and nineteen others, is available via Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Divertir Publishing.

Two children open a forbidden door under the stairs…
A barkeep shuts his doors one night every year for a special party…
Do you
really know the Muffin Man…
A boy’s chance to save the world rests in the hands of a dismissive pterodactyl…
Big troubles come to a wizard when he loses his hat…
A former police officer decides to face the events of his past…
A woman’s relationship with her husband causes her to face a disturbing truth…
A time when the end is really the beginning…

Under the Stairs (M. Jarboe)
A Night Off (Dave Rudden)
Hot Stuff (Stephanie Jordan)
The Trolly Thief (Rachel Worsley)
Catch (Verena Sandford)
Rob Meets Pterodactyl (Helen Harvey)
Sixteen Fingers (M. Pence)
Baking Through Suicide (Matthew Taylor)
The One Star (Gwin Pearce)
The Forgetful Wizard (George Lasher)
The Gardener (Megan Kennedy)
Midnight Dreams (Lillian Leader)
One-Way Ticket (Elizabeth Harvey)
Swap (Morgan Lane)
Matthew Lucas Davis (Jennifer Childs-Biddle)
Truth (Verena Sandford)
La Petite Sirene (Alex Fox)
A Parley with the Wasps (Elizabeth Layne)
Sex, Guns and Lies (Natasha McNeely)
The End (Lisa D. Keele)

Sometimes, just sometimes, miracles do happen. You may not expect them to and you may not notice it when they first occur, but in time, the smallest situation can change your life. With enough hope and a little patience, your dream will come true.

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

What is your experience with publishing? Have you ever been published, or are you looking to be in the future?