How the Chunky Method Saved My Life

A couple of months ago, after being sick and traveling and meeting two book deadlines, I stalled when given some unwelcome health news which required tests and more tests. I got really, really behind on an adult mystery, and for hours I would struggle to write, only to throw it all out at the end of the day.

I was used to writing in 90-minute or two-hour blocks, taking a break, then doing it all again. I’d used that schedule for years, since I no longer have small children living with me. But sickness and burn-out had taken their toll, and I wouldn’t make my deadline at the rate I was going.

Enter the Chunky Method!

I had signed up to attend a Saturday writing workshop, and I was eager to be around other writers t. The speaker, Allie Pleiter, was to talk about her book, The Chunky Method Handbook: Your Step-By-Step Plan to Write That Book Even When Life Gets in the Way. To be honest, I didn’t expect to learn anything really new. I just wanted to be encouraged.

I got so much more!

In a Nutshell

Based on our personalities, our lifestyles, our season of life (small children, day job, retired empty nester) and our health, we all write in different “chunks.” By Allie’s definition, a chunk of writing is what you can comfortably do in one sitting, stopping when you pass the point of “this writing is good” into “the writing I’m doing now will have to be tossed out because it stinks.” She had a test for determining the length of your natural chunk. Big and little chunks are equally valuable.

Frankly, I was going to skip the test when I got home and move on to the rest of her book. I had to get busy! Anyway, my natural chunk for years had been about 90 minutes, or about 1500 words. I knew that already. But was it anymore? My writing life was certainly no longer working.

Back to the Drawing Board

I decided to do the chunky test. (You’re supposed to do this five days in a row, one chunk per day.) I didn’t have five days to use for this, so I did four chunks spread throughout a day. I was careful to stop when I felt too tired to keep going productively. Big discovery!

My chunk had shrunk!

I wasn’t able to comfortably write 1500 words at a sitting. My four chunks averaged only 500 words, and my sitting was only 45 minutes. At first I was really dismayed. I was too far behind to write the novel in 500-word chunks. Or so I thought.

I had nothing to lose by trying this method of writing my “comfortable chunk,” then resting a good while, then doing another “comfortable chunk,” and so on throughout the day.

Changing It Up

It worked! Before the Chunky Method workshop, my struggles had only produced about 1200 words per day, and sometimes not that much. Using the Chunky Method, I was able to average about 5,000 words per day rough draft, and some days nearly 8,000 words. And with the rest breaks between the chunks, where I walked or just went outside, I wasn’t stiff and sore or even very tired in the evenings. [NOTE: Determining your "chunk" is just the first step in the Chunky Method. I would tell you more, but I don't want to plagiarize her book.]

Because I was writing so close to the deadline, I followed my own advice and got a paid critique from a writer I know and trust who has written award-winning mysteries. (Thank you, Mary Blount Christian!) After revising according to her excellent critique, I was able to turn in the manuscript on time. (And very little revision was requested by the editor this time too.)

So, in case you’re stuck, or you’re trying to write in the midst of stressful circumstances, I’d encourage you to buy this book. It could change your writing life. It sure did mine!

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