Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Guest Blogger ~ Allie Pleiter

An avid knitter, coffee junkie, and devoted chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy mother of two, Allie spends her days writing books, doing laundry, running carpools, and finding new ways to avoid housework. She grew up in Connecticut, holds a BS in Speech from Northwestern University, spent fifteen years in the field of professional fundraising, and currently lives in suburban Chicago, Illinois. The “dare from a friend” to begin writing nine years ago has given rise to a career spanning two parenting books, eight novels including the multi-nominated MY SO-CALLED LOVE LIFE, and various national speaking engagements on faith, women’s issues, and writing. Visit her website or her knitting blog

The Chunky Method? Yep.

I’m a student of artistic productivity--I spend a lot of time analyzing how art gets made. I’ve learned a few things over the course of my study that I’d like to share with you--they’re useful whether or not you’ve signed a publishing contract. It’s become affectionately known as “The Chunky Method.”

Know your “chunk.” How fast you write during a typical writing stint is what I call your “chunk.” When you sit down to write, how many words do you get down before you run out or dry up? While tracking it sounds like measuring the ocean (i.e. impossible and useless), it’s a tool to calculate how to meet your next--or your first--deadline. One chunk = words per writing segment. Measure it over about five segments, take the average, and you’ve got your chunk. Most of us are more consistent in this than we realize. If you know your chunk, and you know the target word count, a little simple division tells how many chunks it takes to meet your deadline.

If you write in big chunks (over 2000 words in my opinion), pay attention to environment. Get a good chair that won’t invite back problems. Most “big chunk people,” need quiet or seclusion, so take the steps to get them. You’ll probably need an office--sooner if not later. Invest in earphones if you need music--or you need to drown out SpongeBob Squarepants.

If you’re small chunk person, wield that flexibility to your advantage. Don’t go looking for that quiet couple of hours because you likely don’t need it. Write anywhere. Invest in one of those new tiny laptops, see if your PDA can support an attached keyboard, or even use index cards (larger ones will hold 500 words handwritten). Get a little done every day and you’ll be amazed what you can accomplish.

Plan accordingly. Don’t pull deadlines out of thin air, and don’t think you can get a full week of work in right before your daughter gets married. Grab a calendar and plot things out using your valuable new chunky-attitude. If you’re a small chunk person, kidding yourself you can rent a hotel room and bang out the last half of the book in two weeks is just that--kidding yourself. Recognize your own process and know that you shouldn’t pull a literary “all-nighter.” If you’re a big chunk person, plan out the long stretches of writing time you need, even if that means leaving town or hiring a babysitter. Squeezing in an hour after the kids have gone to bed probably isn’t smart.

Don’t wait until you’re published to hone your process. “We want to buy your book,” is usually followed immediately by “when can you have the re-write ready?” and, hopefully, by “when can you have the sequel done?” Knowing and wielding your writing chunks will help you be ready when those important questions get asked.

I teach “The Chunky Method” to writers all over the country. Yes, writing is art, but it’s also business, and productivity is a science no matter if you’re making piping or plot-lines. Get chunky, and get writing!


An Old Fashioned Christmas…

That’s what led new believer Mary Thorpe to start over in quaint Middleburg, Kentucky. As director of the church’s Christmas pageant, Mary’s job is to bring the townspeople together, to remind them what the season is really about. But everyone is all riled up over one very handsome man: the man daring to run against Middleburg’s popular long-standing mayor. Mac MacCarthy wants change. Mary wants things to stay as they are. Is there a happy medium? Both Mac and Mary are in for one very big Christmas surprise.


Allie Pleiter said...

ACK! It's hard to have your messy desk displayed for the world...have pitty on me, gentle readers, I'm really a nice person and very organized, just not tidy.

Gina Holmes said...

LOL. I LOVED that you showed your messy desk. Very brave indeed. Good advice on the chunk method. I've just now 10 years in discovered I'm more of a small chunk person and get much more done fitting in an hour here or there than I do having a marathon. Though I can do both. I always thought I HAD to have the big chunk of time. After I met my first deadline having to use small bits of time, I'm reformed. All the best and thanks for sharing.

Jenna said...

Thanks Allie! This was so encouraging to me. I've always been a big chunk writer, and I've felt like I was failing because I find it hard to write in stolen moments. Thanks for validating my method! LOL

Allie Pleiter said...

It's so amazing to me how strongly people respond to the "chunky" thing. So many of us are convinced we're somehow going about our writing in the wrong way, and I think maybe we're just glad to have someone validate our own personal process. Both big chunk and little chunk people get the job done...just differently. And there are "combo chunk" people, but I didn't have time to get into that...maybe another time.

Ane Mulligan said...

Allie, thanks again for a great post. :) I adore your desk. It looks like mine! LOL