Chaos in a Teacup – Part 1

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This series of articles were inspired by several author friends who have expressed awe at my organization (rude snort) or have complained about blogging. Since I’m not one to tell the truth, when fabrication will do, I thought I would throw off the veil of misconception, and reveal my less than stellar organization methods, as well as give a few blogging tips.

I’m not the most organized writer around. I describe my writing style as Chaos in a Teacup. It’s contained, but whirling around like a hurricane. I don’t outline, I don’t plan. I begin with a sentence that hops into my head, and run with it until the voices take a break. Sometimes, that’s a day, a week, or a month. Once in a while, the story is finished. Other times, it stalls and I have to wait for inspiration once more.

I am slightly better on organization, but I’m still standing on shaky ground. I have some friends who use Scrivener to organize themselves, but I can’t be bothered to figure it out, so I just use my freebie Open Office. It works for me. I don’t do spreadsheets, fancy files, or anything elaborate. I’m far more Old School. On my desk are four 3-ring binders. These are the small ones, which hold an 8 ½ by 11 inch piece of paper, folded in half.

Chaos in a Teacup photos notebooks cropped
Old School Organization Works for Me

In these notebooks, I keep the all important cast sheets for my many novels. The one for the finished stories is bigger than the unfinished. It wasn’t always like that, but I’ve made a lot of progress in the last four years. I set a New Year’s goal of finishing a book a month. I don’t always do it, but I usually get at least 10 books a year that way.

But I digress. One notebook for finished, another, smaller one, for unfinished. The two others hold notes and spare paper. Next to them, there are two index card files.

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Black is Finished, Gray is Unfinished

These hold the finished and unfinished protagonists. Since I write predominantly romance and romantic suspense, these are in pairs. I list each by name, book, who their significant other is, sibling and parent names, any children, and what other books they’re in, among other things. These are color coded with a pink line at the top for girls, a blue one for boys. Like I said, Old School. Not a fancy system, but an easy one to keep up with.

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Character Index Card Sample

I’ve always held to the KISS principle (No, not the rock band) Keep It Simple Stupid, or as I learned in Mary Kay, Keep It Simple Sweetie. Since I’m much more the former, and a lot less of the latter, I use Stupid. This little system of mine, low tech as it is, has taken me a long time to perfect. Many of my early books don’t even have cast lists, chapter and page numbers, or the exact date I started and finished them. There’s this Oh, I’ll Remember feeling, which is a bald faced lie.

You Won’t Remember. Write It Down! I’m here to tell you, with 110 finished novels and novellas and 52 unfinished YOU WILL NOT REMEMBER!

I keep lists of characters, even minor ones, because I have this habit of bringing in a character to do a job, only to find him or her important later. In fact, I recently was writing a romantic suspense, and I introduced a character, whom I thought would be the male lead. To my surprise, he took a back seat, and another guy, a minor character (I thought) became the lead. I hadn’t even given him a name, and had to go back and do that. That’s happened more times than I can count. I had one character, in another book, who was merely called The Hungry Actor. When he took on a bit more of a role, I had to name him, too.

My point in all this: Keep a List! You’ll need it. Don’t rely on your memory. When you’re deeply embroiled in chasing down plot bunnies, you won’t remember your own name, let alone some girl you brought in on page 3.

© 2017 Dellani Oakes

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About dellanioakes

Dellani Oakes writes mostly romantic suspense novels, but she occasionally dives off the deep end into science fiction, fantasy or historical romance. When she isn't writing, she's editing, marketing or hosting her two Blog Talk Radio broadcasts: Dellani's Tea Time – every second Monday from 4-6 PM Eastern, or What's Write for Me – every fourth Wednesday from 4-6 PM Eastern, on Blog Talk Radio, where she chats with other authors. Dellani's newest book, Bad Fall ~ A Romantic Suspense is available now! Dellani can be found on Facebook, Twitter and her personal blog.

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