Jeanne: The Chunky Writing Method

Chunky candy barThis weekend my RWA chapter, Central Ohio Fiction Writers, hosted Allie Pleiter, inventor of the Chunky Writing Method. The Chunky Method is a way of scheduling your writing time to make yourself more productive, based on how you naturally write–in big chunks or small chunks.

The size of your natural chunk can be determined by how many words you can write on a normal day before you run out of energy/creativity. In the absence of writer’s block or incomplete research, which will stop any writer from moving forward, each writer will still hit a point where they just run out of steam.

Big chunk writers, according to Ms. Pleiter, can write thousands of words before that happens. Small chunk writers run dry after only a few hundred words–or even less.

But, she says, don’t despair. By figuring out which kind of writer you are, you can adjust your writing schedule to make the most of the way you write.

Big chunk writers typically need big chunks of time to produce words. They need time to get into their story world before the words start coming. They also, often, need a dedicated space to write and a minimum of distractions. Once those things are in place, they are fiction-writing machines.

Small chunk writers, on the other hand, can sit down in a coffee shop and start batting out their word count on a moment’s notice. They don’t need warm-up time or a dedicated space, so it’s much easier for them to schedule multiple chunks in a single day.

Not sure which kind of writer you are? Ms. Pleiter suggests tracking your word count for five days. Sit down and write till you run out of steam. If you average over a thousand words per session, you’re a big chunk writer; less than a thousand suggests you’re a small chunk writer.

Want to know more about the Chunky Method? Check out Allie Pleiter’s website.


11 thoughts on “Jeanne: The Chunky Writing Method

  1. Alas, I am rarely a fiction writing machine. Would that I were. Maybe a half a dozen times in the year can I write more than 1000 words per session, and all the other days it’s much less. However I am not a small chunky writer by this definition. I like to write in the same place every day, I like to start at the same time every day, and I like to have my usual stuff around me. Sitting down anywhere, like a coffee shop or a waiting room or someplace like that, means that I’m busy looking around or adjusting to the new situation and not focusing on what I want to say on the page. So that’s just me.

    But I agree that it’s important to figure out when you are most productive and then repeat those circumstances as often as you can. It just turns out that being at home and writing at the same time every day is my sweet spot.

    • I’m guessing there’s a lot of writers who will fit some-but-not-all of her criteria for big vs. small. For me, the biggest takeaway was that my total inability to get words on the page when I go to writers’ retreats is probably not because I’m a loser, but just because that isn’t how I write.

      • You could never be a loser, Jeanne, just because you can’t get words on the page on command! I think understanding and experimenting with the various writing methodologies is great, but as you say, probably most people are a combination of styles.

        • A couple of years back, I figured out that if I spend about an hour early in the morning walking by myself, I imagine scenarios in my head. Then when I get to my desk, I can sit down and be productive right away. I think that’s why Allie’s method spoke to me–because he big chunk description lines up so so well with my personal experience.

  2. I can be quite a chunky writer, but my headspace has to be right. I do need the time. And I need to have the inspiration — I often come up with my own random ideas, but Elizabeth’s writing sprints have been such a help for short stories. I don’t need a place, because once I start writing, it’s just me and the computer. Sometimes music helps get me into the writing flow.

    Generally, I find I write for about 45 minutes (and generally produce about 1000 words in that time, which sometimes need major editing, sometimes don’t). I’m happiest when I’m writing a story that I can finish in an afternoon or at least within two days — longer than that, and I lose some of the freshness, and a lot of the details get fuzzy. So far, my best work has been in the 3000 to 7000 word range, which is three to seven hours of work, with breaks. (And of course, I edit, so those extra days add a few hours over the course of quite a bit of time for polishing.)

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