Posted in Challenges and Contests, Coffee and Conversation, Flat Surface Friday, Just for Fun!, Life Writing, Marketing my Writing, NaNoWrimo, Writers' Resources

The Structure of Lovely Chaos: Coffee and Conversation

When I was six, my family was driving on a highway late at night. Streaks of headlights and taillights painted the dark. For the first time, I realized that each car held people living lives as important to them as mine was to me. I wanted to know what those lives were, and to share my own. So settle in, and I’ll get you a cuppa something refreshing, and let’s chat…

How do you decide how to spend your free time? Do you set specific goals, or let things come as they will? Prefer order, or chaos?

Because I tend to prefer a blend of both, let’s explore specific goal-setting –  with spontaneity and playfulness.

A few weeks ago, in the thick of NaNoWriMo, several members of my local region decided we’d form a small critique group. We’re all working toward publication on several fronts, and we’re feeling that we need some structure and accountability in that process, so there will be rather strict policies in place:

  • We’ll be expected to submit ten pages by our weekly Sunday night write-in.

  • We’ll all submit our critiques by Wednesday, so that there’s time for people to consider changes before the next Sunday.

  • We’ll remain a small group of 4 or 5; which means that each of us needs to both submit and critique in order for this group to be beneficial.

I need a plan, so that I know which project to give my main focus to each week. The catch – I don’t like strict, “have-to”schedules. There really aren’t many things more likely to send me into full-on resistance mode. So – I’m taking a more playful tack that suits me better, while still letting me meet the requirements of our group…and that leads me through the bamboo curtain to my study, where I do most of my writing these days.

It’s about a 10′ by 15′ section at the end of our long, narrow living room, partitioned from the main space by three tall bookcases bolted into a weight-bearing wall to form a divider. There’s no window, so I’ve done what I can to add pops of color and points of visual interest. Like most of my writing, it’s still a work in progress – some spaces are in a state of chaos, others are cluttered or dusty, and a few are clean and tidy. I see an analogy to my life there, but that’s not what this post is about, so….moving on, we find the yellow-canvas covered homemade bulletin board that used to reside at the day care where I worked.

There lies the intersection of both of these quests: the desire for an embracing creative space, and the desire to build and share my repertoire of published work.

Almost two years ago, I set my bulletin board up with pages for each of my works in progress…but the setup wasn’t flexible or useful. A change was in order, and when John Holton over at The Sound of One Hand Typing introduced me to kanban boards, a system of columns for the various stages of multiple projects,  I found the beginnings of an answer. But thehe board was very linear –  great for an analytic personality; I do better with somewhat structured disorder (hence the name of this blog).

I let the idea percolate in my mind, until a week or so ago, when my gaze fell on a roll of wrapping paper, and something about the pattern reminded me of vines. Over the next days, that pattern and the board grew into a plan. It’s not quite done, yet, but it’s close, and suits my purposes:

A viny kind of beginning….
  • I can fit a great many projects on those vines.

  • Using just a stapler and a staple puller, I can move each work along the horizontal as it progresses through the process.

  • I’ll be able to see what’s active, and at what stage, at a glance.

  • I can add or subtract things as I please.

  • I had a lot of fun cutting and writing and laying out.

  • I indulged myself, and made something very useful.

  • And it’s fun to look at, too!

Taking shape, with plotting and drafting projects added.

Once I had my currently active projects in front of me, it was a lot easier to set up an informal schedule for that critique group, which begins in January – only two weeks away.

I’m focusing primarily on short stories, with a secondary focus of novels. For seasoning, I might occasionally toss in some poetry or an essay. Since I intend to make my experimental foray into self-publishing with two short stories, I’ll begin with these. Both have been published in separate volumes of the World Unknown Review anthology. While I’m working on that, I’ll be revising two more stories, and creating a plan for the first of my Kifo Island Chronicles novels. The novel revision will follow.

Simmering done, and Revisions in progress…

So, for all intents and purposes, here’s my tentative critiquing schedule:

Short Stories:

  • “A Splash of Red”: Semi-autobiographical dream-based fantasy; previously published here.

  • “Monday Morning Coffee”: Contemporary fantasy; previously published here.

  • “Slow Jazz Awakening”: Star Trek: Enterprise Trip and T’Pol shipping fan fiction.

  • “Peach Liqueur Love”: Near-future fantasy; might expand into a novella, eventually.


I’m excited to finish the board, and to start moving projects along the path to completion. I’ll be posting periodic updates here, as we go along.

How about you? Are you a linear thinker, or a more chaotic one? Do you take your nature into account when setting goals? Do you have projects lined up for 2016? Let me pour you another cuppa – I’d love to know!

Done for now….and ready for 2016 action! =)


I am myself. I own my life, and live with three other people who own theirs. My intention is to do only those things that bring me joy, and to give myself wholly to those things I do. Writing has been my passion throughout my life, and this will become the home for my writing life...because it brings me great joy!

6 thoughts on “The Structure of Lovely Chaos: Coffee and Conversation

    1. I used never to plan, but I’ve found that I do better with an open-ended framework. It makes better use of my time, and all the thinking ahead makes for better stories.

      But I still love stream of consciousness, which is why I love #SoCS.

      I love seeing how other folks handle this writing thing! Thanks for sharing!

  1. I have a stricter schedule than yours, though it has some flexibility. I can’t seem to work unless I have everything laid out the way it needs to happen. My mind feels like a chaotic mess unless I have all my to do lists in order. I do sometimes bounce around the list, if I need to take a break from the words, or if something is keeping me from doing something.

    Hope your method works well for you.

    1. With kids in school, it makes sense that you’d need more structure. With unschoolers, it’s definitely a good thing that I can work without things just so, because it usually isn’t. =)

      I sometimes have a list beyond m posted goals, and other times not. Often I have a list, but know life may change things…

      I may be more structured as the kids get a little older, because they may have jobs, and certainly the time is getting closer when, even if they still live with us, they won’t be dependent upon us as they are now..

      On the other hand, I’m very comfortable with a certain degree of chaos, because it seems to feed my creativity.

      By the way, I stayed up extra late the other night to read Into the Sun….and…wow! I knew from the WIPpets that I would enjoy it – but it was so much more than I expected! I was almost holding my breath at that final confrontation. Brava!

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