Sunday, April 8, 2018

Pleiter’s Chunky Method Workshop Helps Writers Fine-Tune Goals & Deadlines

Article by Lauren Miller

Multi-book author Allie Pleiter has a seventeen-year career in writing that has resulted in more than 1.4 million books sold. In that time, she’s mastered the ins and outs of writing productivity and time management – she has to in order to produce four new books a year. On March 3rd, Pleiter came to speak at SLWG’s monthly workshop to help other writers hone their ability to set achievable goals and meet their deadlines as professional authors.

According to Pleiter, time management has become a critical, necessary skill to staying employed as a working author. When she first started, the goal was to publish one trade paperback a year. These days, the expectation is a new book every six-to-nine months. For romance authors, the industry expectation has become three to five books a year. Pleiter explains, “It’s basically about controlling your writing speed. If you are published, you’ll need this skill to stay employed. […] So, I’m going to show you how I get that done.” Pleiter spent some time discussing time management in general and the benefits of managing creativity before she launched into her signature ‘chunky method.’

What is the Chunky Method?

At its simplest, the ‘chunky method’ is factoring in the quantity of writing you can accomplish in an individual session/sitting (based on an average sampling of five or more) and using this as your baseline to factor how much writing, and how quickly, you can accomplish over long periods of time. When she first started, Pleiter was writing 600 words a session.

One caveat worth noting is that a given session in the beginning, when you’re attempting to learn what your ‘chunk’ is, is intended to be based on your natural writing breaks. Don’t push yourself in the beginning to meet an arbitrary number. “Many writers think when you’ve hit the end of your chunk, you’ve hit writer’s block – you haven’t! You’ve just [hit] the end of your chunk! So that’s the time to get up and take a break. There’s no such thing as writer’s block with the Chunky Method,” Pleiter says.

Estimating Deadlines and Project Goals

When you can factor in your daily word count, estimating accurate deadlines for publishers becomes less of a guessing game and a very real probability. Have a deadline pushed up? What might otherwise seem like a nightmare may now be manageable.

Pleiter explains, “If your editor asks you to turn [your book] in a month early, that will induce panic if you’re looking at the big picture, but if you think of it as 50 [words/day extra], that’s not as big a deal. […] Once you look at the chunky method, you see the daily task, not the distressing totality of it.”

Once you know your writing speed, you can also use this knowledge to factor in long-term goals like the time it’ll take to finish a manuscript (but Pleiter recommends adding 10 percent). Non-fiction word counts vary, but standard industry guidelines for fiction include:
  • Single title: 85k-100k
  • Novella: 20k-40k
  • Short Genre Fiction: 55k-75k
  • Mysteries: 55k-75k 
When in doubt, consult with the publishing house for its target word counts. Pleiter led attendees through an example of what this looks like in a practical application, as described in her book: The Chunky Method Handbook: Your Step-By-Step Plan to Write That Book Even When Life Gets in The Way.

When projecting deadlines for projects, don’t forget to add time for the inevitable sick days, holidays, vacations, even other writing-related tasks like editing, research, or interviewing, that will extend your deadline further out than originally anticipated. Pleiter adds, “When you go to choose a deadline for yourself, plan for the stuff you know is coming, so that way you won’t be behind the eight ball when you reach the stuff you didn’t know was coming.”

Writing Helps

Based on Pleiter’s experience, writers rarely can be lumped into a single category, but she has noticed they are either “big chunk” or “little chunk” writers, and either linear (list-makers, results-orientated) or non-linear (process-orientated) writers. By identifying what type of writer you are and how you work best, and what your writing environment looks like, you’ll be maximizing your chances for better productivity in the long haul. Pleiter gave examples of each of these four types of writers (and you can certainly be a combination of them!) and examples for how to schedule your writing tasks for effective time management.

When you find yourself stumped in the writing process, writing exercises can be a helpful way to get on track. A couple of writing apps Pleiter recommends are Written Kitten and Write or Die, which use rewards or consequences (respectively) to encourage writing. Other writing exercises might include the envelope system (saving ideas for your books in envelopes) and casting (picking actors that remind you of your characters). Consider adding in sensory triggers (like music, writing rituals, or images) to get your writing mojo on.

Many things in the publishing industry are outside a writer ‘s control, but one thing you can control, Pleiter concludes, is effective time management. She believes, the Chunky Method may help you with that and then some.

Speaker Bio:

An avid knitter, coffee junkie and unreformed chocoholic, Allie Pleiter writes both fiction and non-fiction, working on as many as four novels at a time. The enthusiastic but slightly untidy bestselling author of over thirty books, Allie spends her days writing, buying yarn, and finding new ways to avoid housework. Allie hails from Connecticut, moved to the Midwest to attend Northwestern University, and currently lives outside Chicago, Illinois.

The “dare from a friend” to begin writing has produced a seventeen-year career with over 1.4 million books sold. In addition to writing, Allie maintains an active writing productivity coaching practice and speaks regularly on faith, the creative process, women’s issues, and her very favorite topic—The Chunky Method of time management for writers. To learn more, visit her website at

Ridley Pearson Honored at St. Louis Walk of Fame

Local spotlight and photos submitted by Peter Green.

Ridley Pearson joins St. Louis Walk of Fame. Author of 55 books and friend, member and supporter of SLWG, Pearson was welcomed today (April 2, 2018) into the Delmar Loop's Walk of Fame by Joe Edwards, its founder.

Ridley Pearson and St. Louis Walk of Fame founder, Joe Edwards

Ridley Pearson and his new star!

Ridley Pearson and SLWG reporter, Peter Green

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Meghan Pinson: "Novel Revision 101: DIY and Collaborative Revision"

Article by T.W. Fendley

Meghan Pinson, founder of My Two Cents Editing, outlined a comprehensive plan for taking a novel from the first draft to a finished manuscript at the Guild’s Feb. 3 meeting in a talk entitled “Novel Revision 101: DIY and Collaborative Revision.”

“It’s fine to write a terrible first draft...lots of people do that and turn it into a beautiful novel by the tenth or fifteenth draft,” she said. But the first step is to finish your first draft. “And don’t show it to people before you’re really finished.”

Then, she advised, let it sit for at least a month or two so you can forget how the story came out of your head. You want it to feel like someone else wrote it so you’ll be objective when you begin to edit.


Whenever you’re not actually writing or revising, she suggested that you:
  • Research characters, settings, or occupations
  • Investigate target markets
  • Make a list of books on the shelf where your book would appear
  • Make a list of authors/titles/books that inspired you to write this one
  • Create a reading list of books with similar elements to yours (e.g. set in Montana), then study how description, point of view, etc., is used in those
  • Pull every book on writing craft that looks good to you in the bookstore or library , then skim them to find your favorites. Most books on craft tend to deliver the same advice from different angles, so find the ones that speak your language. 
Some of Meghan’s favorites include:
  • James Scott Bell, Plot and Structure; How to Write Dazzling Dialogue
  • Donald Maass, Writing the Breakout Novel
  • Robert McKee, STORY
  • Raymond Obstfeld, Novelist’s Essential Guide to Crafting Scenes
  • Linda Seger, Creating Unforgettable Characters

Revision process 

“When you begin revision, read your draft all the way through in as few settings as possible, making scant notes,” Meghan said. “See if you can figure out where it gets boring, and determine what’s going on there.” When you’ve done as many revisions as you can, then you’re ready to seek outside advice.

“You cannot fix everything, and no one person can ever find everything,” she said. “This is where critique groups, beta readers, and professional editors are helpful. When you’re ready for external feedback from other writers and readers, the easiest route is the most expensive one, and the toughest one is the most time intensive. In the middle are beta readers.”

Beta readers

Meghan says the best beta readers read widely in your genre and are drawn to your book organically. “Leave your relationships out of your writing process” by finding betas on Twitter, Goodreads, and Facebook. You can seek betas at any point in the process and ask them to do anything from catching plot holes to finding the last typos. This is a great chance to lasso early reviews before publication, too.

Give prospective betas a brief book description, the word or page count, and your cover (if you have it), and ask for honest feedback on your unpublished novel. Ask whether they prefer copies, Word docs, or ebooks; you can use Calibre to prepare a rough, free ebook. “Give them a timeline, then double it,” Meghan said. “If you want comments back within a month, tell them they’re due in two weeks.”

One interesting thing to find out is where beta readers stopped reading. “It’s very useful to know, although it hurts. It will be way down the line from where an agent would stop reading because betas feel a sense of obligation.”

You should provide a set of questions to guide your betas’ responses. “Hopefully, you will get three to six readers, at least,” Meghan said. “If you hear the same thing from more than one reader, that’s useful information; if just one reader comments that something doesn’t make sense but no one else says that, maybe let it go.”

It’s okay to ask other writers to be beta readers if no strings are attached. “Know what you’re asking, and know what you’re giving. It’s not an equal exchange if a beginning writer is asking someone who’s on their eighth book. But anyone who volunteers, just love them! … Fresh eyes are really good. You want enthusiastic volunteers.”

Meghan’s beta reader questionnaire is available on her website; she customizes it for each book she submits to her list of 60+ readers, and has invited guild members to adapt it for their own purposes.

Critique groups

“Critique groups are another great way to get feedback from readers,” Meghan said. “Each group has its own approach.” Choose a group that matches your genre, if possible, and make sure to ask for the sort of feedback you want: grammatical/mechanical markup and story critique are very different.

The St. Louis Writers Guild’s critique group coordinator, Jennifer Stolzer, said she acts as a matchmaker between interested writers. A form in the members’ section of the SLWG website collects information to share with other authors in the specified genre. On the guild’s Facebook page, writers can solicit critique partners without being a member.


“Never be nervous about asking a professional editor to define terms or to help you figure out the kind of editing you need,” Meghan said. She outlined some of the common types of editing and the average costs, ranging from proofreading ($25+ per hour) to a full critique ($1,000+ per book).

Copyediting or line editing to fix grammar, punctuation, and style should be one of the last steps, but it’s often the first step people want to take, she said. Editorial assessments, story critiques, content editing, and developmental editing are different ways of collaborating with an editor to improve the content of a book, and each tends to cost $60+ per hour, but different editors charge differently -- per page, per hour, or per project.

Different types of editing take more time than others, and Meghan gave ballpark estimates for a few different services, based on a 250-word page, which is the industry standard:
  • Proofreading: 10-15 pages per hour
  • Copyediting – 8 pages per hour
  • Line editing – 3 pages per hour 
She says if anything takes your editor longer than two pages per hour and you’re not independently wealthy, you’re better backing up and studying grammar before you hire a professional editor. She can help you with that, too.

Meghan Pinson provides expert editing, engaging critique, and fearless consulting to authors of novels and nonfiction manuscripts. She launched My Two Cents Editing in 2009 as a full-time freelance copyeditor and has steadily expanded to help her clients move from first draft to faithful readerships. Now her small crew of literary specialists provides comprehensive manuscript critique and a full range of editing services: editorial assessment, developmental editing, line editing, copyediting, proofreading, and post-editing cleanup. She leads writing and editing workshops and collaborates with her partner at Outrider Literary to guide authors through publication along indie, traditional, and hybrid paths.

Meghan is a member of the Editorial Freelancers Association, the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society, the Missouri Writers Guild, the St. Louis Publishers Association, and Reedsy (where you can see her portfolio). For more information, check out