Tips on Writing: Chunking It Down



Odds are good that since you are reading this blog, you might want to write book.

But how, exactly, do you write a book?

How do you take an idea and make it into a book?

One word at a time.

And once you've got the word, you turn it into a sentence.  You take the sentence and turn it into a paragraph. Paragraph into a chapters.  And so on and so forth.

Back in the day when I was an MFA student, the novelist Sena Jeter Naslund told a group of students how she motivated herself to write.  She wrote one word, and then a sentence.  And then she'd tell herself, that's great, sweetie, now all you have to do is write another sentence.  And word by word, sentence by sentence, she would produce a book.  (And she is known for writing loooong books.  Also, that "sweetie" in the above sentence was mine.  I'm pretty sure Sena, being the gracious southern woman that she is, has never called a person "sweetie" in her life.)

Word by word, sentence by sentence, is how we get books written.

But each word and sentence will come a bit easier if you have some kind of guideline.  It can be an outline if that word doesn't freak you out.  (Some people love it, others hate it.)  I sometimes work off a scrawled list of where I think I'm going.

Once you have a list or outline or guideline, whatever you want to call it, here's what you do:

1.  Take an item from your list.

2.  Chunk that one item down into sub-topics.

3.  Take that small, tiny little sub-topic and write every damn thing you know about it.  Do this as a free write if you like (set the timer for 15-20 minutes and write without stopping). 

4.  If you have more to say, use a sentence from your free write as a new prompt and have at it.

5.  Now take another small, tiny little item from your list and write like the wind.

6.  Rinse and repeat until you've gone through your entire list.

7.  Rewrite your free writes.

8.  String your free writes together into a scene or chapter.

9.  String your scenes together into a book.

10.  Voila! You have written a book.  (And no doubt you'll need to rewrite it again.  And again.  And again.  But now you have a rough draft.)

See how easy it is.  (That hysterical laughter you hear in the background is my alter ego, my inner critic, Patrick.) And by the way, this technique words for any kind of writing project.

What do you think?  Have you used this technique or a similar one to write a book?  Please leave a comment.  And if you like this post, feel free to tell your writing friends.  You might also want to subscribe to my newsletter in the form to the right to stay in touch.

Create a successful, inspired writing life: Consider your current writing project.  Make a list and try following the above routine to make your writing easier.


Photo by CathyK.



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