My Essential Writing Tools

Back in the old days, the only things I needed to get those words flowing were a pen, paper and an idea. A mug of hot chocolate on the side worked wonders too. Now, in this modern age of technological wizardry, writers have an abundance of tools at their disposal to optimize their writing.

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I, personally, have evolved from pen-and-paper style to an utter dependance on the cloud for my writing. I don’t adopt as many tools and stick to old-school tricks but here are five tools that come in handy and I highly suggest you leverage when you’re penning out your next masterpiece.


I. Scrivener

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Hands-down, my favorite all-inclusive planning and writing app has to be Scrivener. I’ve been using this for years now and it’s been incredibly helpful in piecing together the various elements of a novel with features for expanding upon character descriptions, setting, timelines and the plot. It’s perfect for long writing projects and you can work in bits and pieces by breaking it into segments and incorporating your research in easy-to-access background files as well. And once you’re done, there are various exporting options available depending on what you want to do with the completed manuscript.

Scrivener isn’t limited to just working with novels however but has options for non-fiction works, screenplays and even comic books! It’s not free but it’s definitely worth the purchase (it’s only $45)!

II. Trello

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For planning and mapping out your ideas, I find Trello to be incredibly useful. Yes, it’s a sub-function of Scrivener when you think about it but useful for smaller writing projects that don’t require a mass-scale program to plan out. If you’re an Android user, the advantage with Trello is it’s accessible via multiple devices (unlike Scrivener). You can download the app on PlayStore and set up reminders and deadlines for delivering content that pop up as notifications on your phone!

III. Pacemaker

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Pacemaker helps wonders when you have a writing project that you’re hellbent on finishing within a given time-frame. For example, during NaNoWriMo when you’re crunched for time maybe cause you’re juggling school or work but you want to see that 50,000 word novel complete. The tool helps structure your word goal per day dependent on the kind of strategy you employ. You can keep track of your progress and also extend the timeline if necessary.

Of course, sometimes life gets in the way and having a set word goal per day doesn’t always works. But having that number loom in the back of your head with a pinch of determination is all you need to get started, really!

IV. Pinterest

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I draw so much inspiration for my writing from the wonderful visual world of Pinterest. Depending on what are your interests where your muses are, you can create boards that source content from those areas. For example, I have boards designated for character visuals, settings, book covers and poetry/creative writing prompts. They’re a great writing reference to come back to later when I need ideas to draw from.

Specifically, my favorite board for this purpose would be Writing Things (feel free to check it out!), filled with various tips and resources from around the web on several topics like character development and world creation.

Honestly, Pinterest is an underrated treasure trove.

V. Spotify

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How could I not have a music-app on here? Spotify has been my best friend in this category due to the vast playlist options that tickle my inner muse. Many chapters have been written, curled up on the sofas of public libraries or standing at a bus stop, furiously tapping into my phone with my earphones serenading me thanks to this platform. My favorite playlist for writing would have to be Deep Focus. The soulful instrumentals are deeply inspiring.


So, there you have it! Let me know what you guys think of the above tools. If you use any others that you think are worth checking out, do let me know in the comments!

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Beatrice Reviews “Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe” by Melissa de la Cruz

“Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe” by Melissa de la Cruz

★☆☆☆☆

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.


Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe? More like Pride and Prejudice and (a Complete and Total) Injustice.

My habit of starting a book and not being able to put it down till I get to the very last word has nearly always proven a blessing. I can never leave a book unfinished. It’s practically a cardinal sin to me. But the more I read this novel, the more I felt an overwhelming necessity to chuck these principles.

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I cannot begin to comprehend what the author was trying to achieve with this book. Whether or not you’ve read the original Jane Austen masterpiece, this book was just a complete and utter mess. Sure, gender-swapping the roles was an interesting move and the tributes to the original characters and setting by retaining some of the names was evident but in no way redeeming of the utter displeasure the book brought me.

I see not a single way in which this story is worth being branded as a ‘re-telling’ at all. It’s a shame because the idea had a lot of potential and with the right execution, could have actually turned out worlds better than the disappointment it ended up being.

I’m not asking for re-tellings of classic novels to be spot-on. In fact, the more innovative the spark they bring in, the more fun they are. The entire purpose of a re-telling is to have a throwback to the magic of the original while still standing on its own as a memorable read. But nothing – and I truly mean nothing – was worth this re-hash.

The characters were total dillholes. Darcy (a female in this rendition) is a successful, uber-rich hedge fund manager making it big on her own having cut off ties from her family and pursuing a career on Wall Street. I am totally in for ambitious, career-powered women but oh-my-Austen-stars, her character is intolerable.  She certainly did not act, in any way, with the maturity you would expect from a self-made woman. Instead, we see the unravelings of an utterly petty, totally awkward, not to mention, very cringeworthy character.

(Also, author – in this day and age, I doubt a 29 year old single American woman would face as much pressure to get married as Darcy did in the book. It isn’t 1813, anymore.)

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And don’t even get me started on Luke Bennet. The character progression, if I can even call it that, was a wreck and I fail to understand what even happened there. No, really. I’m not even going to bother expanding on this point because it isn’t worth it.

One of my favorite things about the original is the beauty of the writing style. Jane Austen weaves stardust into her words, bringing to life a story for the ages about people that are not only flawed and human, but relatable.

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Kathleen Kelly from You’ve Got Mail says it right – the language is pretty flipping amazing. Of course, classics carry a charm that no modern-day rendition could capture in terms of writing style but by the Gods of Literature, at least try to make it readable.

I doubt this book was run by an editor. I spotted quite a few and very small editing mistakes – both in terms of grammar and actual plot loopholes. I’ve read fanfiction by kids that possessed a certain style in their storytelling, that although worked off the ideas of established novels, still made it their own. I just could not bring myself to be okay with the writing style the author employed here. To quote Chandler Bing, it was ‘a big dull, dud’.

This book is the exact example of one of the biggest reasons to stick to the ‘show, don’t tell’ rule when writing. Endless and boring dialogue consumed most of the pages with the characters verbally explaining their back-stories for the reader to hear. Brand names are dropped here and there to have us learn the wealthy lifestyle Darcy leads in New York. Plot arcs are forced down the readers throats simply to have there be this weak connection to the original Pride and Prejudice. It was like the writer was trying to prove a point on an English-Lit paper she had to turn in.

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I’ve never, ever written a review as scathing as this one but that’s also because I never read a book so bad as this. Maybe the strong reaction roots from my undying love for the original work of art but honestly, I’m saddened because this was such a waste.

If you’re going to re-write a legend, please don’t half-ass it and pleaseGodplease, do not think you’ll get away with comparing it to the original if you do. Just – no. Now, excuse me while I step away to go read a Jane Austen original.

I’m in desperate need of some literary healing.

• aethereal •

‘what a Dreamer,’ they scoff, throwing the word my way upon seeing the distance in my starry-eyed gaze. i pay no mind to their condescending tones, their earthly ways – no.

in.stead

i lift my eyes and
/ trace the edges of the velvet sky /
i touch the stars with my finger tips and
* bring the sparkle to my lips *
so my words may shine the light of a thousand suns 
and it burns me
( till i am nothing but a shadow of what i used to be )

in.stead

i glimmer,
i dazzle,
i thrive.

so faraway from the world
from the souls that tethered me to a lie
of what i am, of what i should be 
when i could be

more

and so i do not close

my star-bound eyes

that stare into the æther.

they call me a Fool and i smile

i may be a  Dreamer, darling

but at least i’m 

∞ a l i v e ∞

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Beatrice Reviews “Stardust” by Neil Gaiman

“Stardust” by Neil Gaiman

★★★★

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Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall—named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining..


My first read off my 2k18 Christmas Reading List was Stardust by Neil Gaiman. This also happens to be my very first Neil Gaiman book and oh my dear stars, I loved it. Granted, I know I’m the exact opposite of a harsh critic given my history of dashing out high ratings but believe me when I say, you’re in for a truly magical time with this book in your hands.

Stardust is undeniably a fairytale, yet goes beyond a conventional telling of magic and adventure. The tale follows half human, half faerie but every bit a boy in the prime of his youth as he makes a blind promise that sets him off on a journey that inevitably changes his life forever. Hailing from Wall, a village situated near the boundary between the world of mortals and Faerie, Tristran embarks upon an adventure into the world of magic and miracles, vowing to locate and safely return with the fallen star he spotted descend from the sky. Little does he know that he is not the only one in pursuit of the star.

Gaiman’s writing transcends the book from what it could have been – just another fairytale with witches, faerie-folk and whimsical characters – to an enchanting quest layered with multiple themes and allegories that resonate with the reader long after the end of the story.

There was once a young man who wished to gain his Heart’s Desire.

No doubt that Stardust is a romance (a slightly surprising discovery that tickled my fancies) but the love story interweaved into this book is just one element of the beauty it has to offer.

But through Stardust, we see the transformation and self-discovery of a naive boy, viewing the world as a quest ready to complete, into a man that acknowledges and accepts the challenges and twists that come along his path of fulfilling his Heart’s Desire.

 “The terms of my servitude are fulfilled, and now you and I are done with each other.”

In our world, the word ‘promise’ does not carry as much a weight as it should. But in the world of Stardust, the breaking of a vow is considered sacrilege. Whether it be between a young boy and a star, a family of brothers trying to (actually) kill each other two wily witches – one’s word means something. And sometimes with it comes the sacrifice of one’s freedom.

The wind blew from Faerie and the East, and Tristran Thorn suddenly found inside himself a certain amount of courage he had not suspected that he had possessed.

Brave or stupid? That’s a question I found myself asking about our protagonist, Tristran a number of times throughout his journey. Either way, Tristran possessed courage, a trait of his that is emphasized throughout the book, as he’s made up his mind to see his pursuit through to the end, even if the results may not be what he expected. ‘Courage’ as a theme is often presented in fairytales, sometimes in utterly outlandish manners, but in Stardust, it’s well-written and relatable. Because courage isn’t always about running headfirst into the fire. It’s also about knowing when to step back and let things go.

Stardust is like that old friend you meet up with on rare occasions and yet things are comfortable and familiar. Gaiman’s writing prompts a feeling of easiness and despite its magical, out-of-the-world elements is relatable with parts of our life that we may have not seen coming.

The characters are lovely and it is a joy to witness Tristran’s growth from a love-sick boy to a man of good values. I am not a big fan of the whole ‘damsel-in-distress’ trope and so I count my stars (see what I did there?) that there was none of that nonsense here. In place of sappy dialogues, Gaiman uses witty banter and good humor. The only slight problem I had with the book was the pacing – I found it a bit slow and laggy at parts, but it didn’t detract so much from the reading.

All  in all, I thoroughly enjoyed Stardust. Like an ancient fable passed down from generation to generation, the book is a collection of the best elements of a fairytale one could ask for – a beautiful love story and epic adventure with dashes of darkness and truth. While we may not be able to visit the world of Faerie, Neil Gaiman does a fantastic job of showing us that magic does exist in every nook and cranny of our world and all we have to do to see it is simply believe.

(Now, excuse me while I step away to make this a double-feature of fictional enjoyment and Netflix the movie!)

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Gotta say, the cast sure looks promising!

12 Days of Christmas Reading

The pleasures of falling deep into the pages of a promising book are endless and an adventure I very much cherish when I get the chance to do so. With December right around the corner, distant memories of curling up in a bundle near my bedroom with a nice steaming cup of cocoa and a good book linger in the back of my mind. Granted, hot Indian winters don’t carry the Christmas-vibe as effectively, I still can’t wait for the season to begin.

And what better way to reignite my love for reading than with a Christmas reading list?

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Boy, would it be a wonder if I get through ’em all – here’s to hoping for a Christmas miracle!

*~~~*

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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To bitter, miserly Ebenezer Scrooge, Christmas is just another day. But all that changes when the ghost of his long-dead business partner appears, warning Scrooge to change his ways before it’s too late. 

Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe by Melissa de la Cruz

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Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe, from New York Times bestselling author, Melissa de la Cruz, is a sweet, sexy and hilarious gender-swapping, genre-satisfying re-telling, set in contemporary America and featuring one snooty Miss Darcy.

The Adventure of the Christmas Pudding by Agatha Christie

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Asked to investigate an incident that needs to be dealt with discretion, Poirot reluctantly agrees to spend Christmas in the countryside with the Laceys. Dreading the cold and traditional English fare Poirot attempts to locate a missing ruby in order to save a kingdom…

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

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Narrated by Death, The Book Thief is the story of Liesel Meminger, a nine-year-old German girl who given up by her mother to live with Hans and Rosa Hubermann in the small town of Molching in 1939, shortly before World War II.

Miracle on 34th Street by Valentine Davies

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When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

The Adventure of the Blue Carbuncle by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

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When the Countess of Morcar’s priceless blue carbuncle is stolen, a reformed thief is charged with the crime.

In the Miso Soup by Ryū Murakami

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It is just before New Year’s. Frank, an overweight American tourist, has hired Kenji to take him on a guided tour of Tokyo’s sleazy nightlife on three successive evenings. But Frank’s behavior is so strange that Kenji begins to entertain a horrible suspicion: that his new client is in fact the serial killer currently terrorizing the city. It isn’t until later, however, that Kenji learns exactly how much he has to fear and how irrevocably his encounter with this great white whale of an American will change his life.

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

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Life moves at a leisurely pace in the tiny town of Wall—named after the imposing stone barrier which separates the town from a grassy meadow. Here, young Tristran Thorn has lost his heart to the beautiful Victoria Forester and for the coveted prize of her hand, Tristran vows to retrieve a fallen star and deliver it to his beloved. It is an oath that sends him over the ancient wall and into a world that is dangerous and strange beyond imagining…

The Red Tent by Anita Diamant

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Her name is Dinah. In the Bible, her life is only hinted at in a brief and violent detour within the more familiar chapters of the Book of Genesis that are about her father, Jacob, and his dozen sons. Told in Dinah’s voice, this novel reveals the traditions and turmoils of ancient womanhood–the world of the red tent. It begins with the story of her mothers–Leah, Rachel, Zilpah, and Bilhah–the four wives of Jacob. They love Dinah and give her gifts that sustain her through a hard-working youth, a calling to midwifery, and a new home in a foreign land.

Letters from Father Christmas by J. R. R. Tolkien

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Every December an envelope bearing a stamp from the North Pole would arrive for J. R. R. Tolkien’s children. Inside would be a letter in strange spidery handwriting and a beautiful coloured drawing or some sketches. The letters were from Father Christmas.

NOS4A2 by Joe Hill

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Victoria McQueen has a secret gift for finding things: a misplaced bracelet, a missing photograph, answers to unanswerable questions. Charles Talent Manx has a way with children. He likes to take them for rides in his 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith with the NOS4A2 vanity plate. Then, one day, Vic goes looking for trouble—and finds Manx. That was a lifetime ago. Now Vic, the only kid to ever escape Manx’s unmitigated evil, is all grown up and desperate to forget. But Charlie Manx never stopped thinking about Victoria McQueen. He’s on the road again and he’s picked up a new passenger: Vic’s own son.

Let it Snow by John Green, Maureen Johnson and Lauren Myracle

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John Green, Maureen Johnson, and Lauren Myracle encapture the magic of the holidays shines in these hilarious and charming interconnected tales of love, romance, and breathtaking kisses.

How To Beat Writer’s Block Like A Boss

My previous blog post was all about where I get my ideas from so I thought it only fitting to address the problem of what to do when you’re lacking inspiration to get those very ideas written out. Writer’s block is a common foe to us wordsmiths and also, one of the trickiest to overcome. Or so we choose to believe. So how do we go from Exhibit A to B?

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There are a few ways to remedy the infamous block, ones that have proven quite effective for me in the past. Here are a few general things to try when you get stuck.

  • Distract yourself from the distractions: Focus on your writing and writing only. Often times, writer’s block stems from having too many things on your mind that keeps you from finding the space and correct mood to get the words flowing. In that case, get all those prior engagements done with and create a distraction-free zone for yourself. That might require a little more discipline, especially if you have a lot on your plate from work or uni. Create a routine that works for you and stick to it.

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  • Take a break: If you’ve got the time write but you’ve been sitting there, trying to muster up the words to start your next big hit for over an hour – stop. Stop right there. Forcing yourself to get the words out never works because of that big bad P word – PRESSURE. It ain’t good for your heart and it certainly ain’t good for your writer’s soul. Take a moment to leave the words that won’t come out and go out for a walk, play with your pet, listen to your favorite music or make a good cup of hot chocolate (or whatever floats your boat). You might already have the space to write but it certainly shouldn’t feel like a prison.
  • Stimulation is key to get the ball rolling: The innuendo-lover in me is trying so hard to keep her comments to herself but this point is pretty important. Maybe you’re completely in the zone but you just don’t know where to start. In which case, engaging yourself with sources of inspiration could be your solution. Read a book by your favorite writer or watch a TV show or movie in the same genre as the piece you’re working on. Talk to your friends and family and gather ideas from them too. Interacting with the environment around you can often help visualize what you want to do with your work.
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If you’re stuck on a particular scene or can’t seem to get around a certain development in your story, there are a few more writing-specific solutions that you can try out.

  • Rewrite the scene from another character’s POV: I was stuck on a scene where my protagonist comes face to face with the villain for the first time and no matter what I wrote, the interaction between the two just came out chunky and weird. It felt so off. I was so focused on capturing her emotions, I realized what was missing was his part of the formula. So, I re-wrote the scene from villain’s POV and it helped me discover exactly what I needed to fill in the missing parts of the equation. Although that didn’t make the final cut for the story, it helped me get over the speed-bump. If you feel there’s a missing element somewhere, try and find it.

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  • Hit backspace till you’re comfortable to start again: Let’s say you’ve written the first page of your new chapter but you’re finding yourself unable to keep going. Everything was going well right up to that point. Try cutting something out and rewriting that part in different words to get back your flow. Maybe the last paragraph or two, or even the entire page. I guarantee you, your second rewrite will beat your first. It’s like trying on new pants. You just need to find the right fit.
  • Pull a Leo: And by this, of course I’m referring to the one and only Mr. DiCaprio. He’s infamous for his method acting and dedication to stay in character (Django Unchained anyone?). Try and get into your character’s shoes. Live a day of your life and approach everything the way you think your character would, see it through their eyes. Just don’t go extreme and kill anyone or uh…rub a gash oozing your blood over someone’s face. Nothing that’ll get you arrested, basically.
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And if all else fails:

  • DO ABSOLUTELY           .

(Get it? No?)

Do nothing, my friends. 

Sometimes, you just gotta wait it out. If you’re not feeling up to writing at that very moment, it’s absolutely fine. You should allow yourself to suck once in a while. We all need some time to rekindle the flames and if that means giving yourself some time off from the written word, do it.

You might think I’m contradicting everything I’ve said so far but trust me, if there’s a block that none of the above solutions can solve, it’s probably something a little bigger than you think. Got a personal problem? Are you stressed out from work? Did you watch Infinity War and find yourself unable to come to terms with reality after that ending (I feel you on this one)?

Give yourself a break and get back at it when you can but this doesn’t mean you can:

  • use self-pity as an excuse to get nothing done if it’s something you can address
  • procrastinate away because ‘you’re just waiting for your Eureka! moment’
  • find reasons not to get over it

The best solution to own writer’s block is simply: to write. 

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There’s no one out there who can write the way you do – so go. Don’t try to do perfect, just do you.

Be your own muse. 

Where Do I Get My Ideas?

From everything and everywhere.

^^ That would be my answer in its vaguest form, but honestly – there’s not much more to say.

Growing up, I had this little jar which I proudly dubbed ‘The Imagination Sanctuary’ consisting of story ideas I came up with on the go scribbled onto bits of paper which were then neatly rolled up and placed inside. Whenever I felt like working on a new project, I would reach in and grab a chit, and get to work.

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A little Jack Sparrow never gets old. 

Over time, the jar was tossed and replaced by a Word Doc spanning several pages. Not nearly as magical, but it did the job and continues to be sanctum to hundreds (I’m not kidding) of novel ideas I’ve come up with – ranging from fantasy to sci-fi to romance and even childrens’ books. Whether I get them all written out is another story.

I draw inspiration from everything I see on a day to day basis and leave my brain to do the rest of the work. A lot of my stories are imaginings I concocted while being bored out of my mind in the middle of a lecture in school.

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Others are rooted in dreams I’ve had that I jotted down the moment I woke up so I wouldn’t forget the potential they had to be written out. One of my sci-fi story ideas consisting of an alien invasion and intergalactic characters with special abilities was spun from a visit to the dentist and my lack of fondness for modern medical equipment.

So there’s absolutely no restriction on where inspiration can strike from. Although I do have a few tips on how to cultivate a more ‘idea-friendly’ environment for yourself apart from the ones I’ve already mentioned:

Knock yourself out with bingeing on TV shows and movies: this can do wonders. What better way to gain inspiration than from successful and entertaining productions that have engaging characters and good scripts (I hope)?

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Read, read, read: consume the written word like nothing else before it. I used to read a  lot as a kid (the luxury of time having robbed me blind of this satisfaction now). Read genres you love, classic and well acclaimed writers to see why they’re so good and new ones to discover what’s happening in the genre as of late. I’m heavily influenced by the books I read and it helped me become better at the genre I dabble in.

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Your social circles: a lot of the oddball humor and witty dialogues that come out of my characters are directly in relation to my interactions with my close friends and parents. I even based Helena, a supporting character in my story The Closer off of my best friend. It helps to observe the people in your life. After all, your characters are human too. (Or not in case you’re writing about shiny blood-sucking vampires or something. In which case, I sincerely hope yours will be more interesting.)

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The news and whatever’s up in the real world: fun fact –  Suzanne Collins came up with The Hunger Games when she was flicking between two channels; one showing some reality tv show similar to The Bachelor and the other broadcasting latest news about the Iraq War. She fused the two together and BOOM: a worldwide literary sensation was born. Of course, she had to squeeze in a-looot of work in the middle somewhere.

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Writing communities really do help: I talked in detail about this in my previous blog post but being part of one can boost thinking levels to a whole other planet. You get to mingle with writers in similar genres and absorb feedback and criticism on your writing. This not only helps you grow more ideas but improve as a writer too.

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And to save the day if all else fails, Google it: this is self explanatory but a search engine that can produce an endless list of helpful resources is pretty much a modern day magical wizard substituting as one’s muse (except it’s really no magic here but next-level algorithms and mathsy stuff).

In short, like I said at the start, I get my ideas from everything and everywhere. It’s really just a matter of paying more attention and being receptive to your surroundings. Heck, the next time you’re at the bus stop or in a cafe somewhere, I dare you to eavesdrop a little on the conversations people are having around you. There’s bound to be a hidden gem somewhere.

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