I would call this one a challenge but I thought – hey, why not mix it up a little?
Totally not because my previous reading challenges have crashed and burned due to my utter lack of continued persistence to keep it going.
Jokes aside – this will be my year of redemption. I’m absolutely determined to read all these books by December 31st, 2019. For the books that stand out, for either good or bad reasons, I’ll be posting book reviews (hyperlinked where available).
May the Gods of Literature provide me the strength, energy and renewed passion for the written word to make it through this list!
Italicized – read / completed month (R) – book review available Bold – currently reading / current month
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.
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.
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)!
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!
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!
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.
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!
‘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.
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 )
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
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?
Boy, would it be a wonder if I get through ’em all – here’s to hoping for a Christmas miracle!
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, 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.
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…
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
There’s no one out there who can write the way you do – so go. Don’t try to do perfect, just do you.
^^ 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.
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.
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)?
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.
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 Closeroff 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.)
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.
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.
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.
I remember having a conversation with a classmate once back when NaNoWriMo was happening. She asked me how I manage to write so much while still managing to ‘be a nerd’. She was under the misguided notion that writers get into the zone by isolating themselves from the outside world, locking themselves up in a room and punching in words into their keyboards. Maybe some writers do that (the 1% I bet you) but that definitely does not apply to me. If at all, my writing has grown immensely over the years by doing the exact opposite.
July 9, 2009 – 12 year old Beatrice returns home from school and settles into browsing her Facebook feed (she was super interested in the mechanisms of social media back then *cough* especially MSN messenger *cough*). She notices a cute little advertisement to the right corner of the page for a writing community called ‘Protagonize’ and decided to explore and give it a shot. Little did she know it would change her life f.o.r.e.v.er.
I am not being dramatic.
Joining Protagonize did change my life for the better. I was on the younger end of the writers on the site but talking, collaborating and sharing my work on the community did wonders for it. Comparing and contrasting my writing from the pre-Protagonize-era versus when it really started to boom on the community, it’s pretty clear how much I’ve improved.
Unfortunately, the community shut down June of last year. It was difficult, to say the least, to bid farewell to that small but golden corner of the Internet that I’d come to call home. My time on the community spanned eight years of friendships formed, collaborations entered into with fellow writers and literary adventures I’ll never forget. I will always treasure Protagonize for what it was and still continues to mean to me.
Since then, I’ve migrated to Wattpad , another writing community much larger in scale than Protagonize was with millions of readers and writers. Wattpad is great, especially in terms of finding a marketing base and target reader segment due to its size, but I feel it doesn’t come anywhere close to capturing the magic of what Protagonize was. Nevertheless, being part of an online writing community is always something you can do to step up your writing skills.
You have a platform to showcase your work and meet like-minded writers and readers that can help cultivate your skills.
Constructive criticism is necessary to grow, as tough as it may be to hear. Getting feedback from other writers and reviewers can help you nurture your weaknesses into strengths.
It’ll discipline you. Once you get a steady base of readers expecting updates from the other side of the world, you’ll be more motivated to keep the words flowing and it can help establish a routine which could be just what you need to keep your writing intact.
You’ll have inspiration in abundance that can help keep writer’s block at bay. When you’re not busy writing, you’re reading other people’s work. This can help form ideas for your own stories and get the ball rolling again!
Friendships are formed. I met some of the most amazing people online on Protagonize and Wattpad – some of them very dear to my heart. We became writing partners and collaboration buddies and not only is it fun, it helps you grow and pitch ideas off one another.
The evolution of writing communities has also led to a new wave of self-published authors. Writing online helped me find the confidence to publish my first book, A Midnight Reverie and is the very reason I’ve embarked upon the journey of publishing my second. You get a support system and you find a place to share your writing. It only gets better from there.
I still believe because of Protagonize – in who I am, not just as a writer, but as a person. If you’re a writer, I urge you to join an online writing community. There are so many to choose from but once you find the perfect fit, there’s no going back.