How To Get It “All” Done: Chunk Down by Beth Barany

Novelist, Chunk Down Your Writing Project by Beth BaranyOn one of my recent weekly Wednesday live chats (on the 7 keys to author success), a writer asked me how I juggle working on my fiction while working full time.

As you may know, I’m deep in the edits of book 3 of my YA fantasy novel I plan to publish mid-June, and I’m requesting more book reviews for the first book in the series. And I run my company helping authors. So I had a ready answer for her. I’m living this right now.

What I told her was that I chunk my activities down into manageable, measurable pieces. I learned about chunking down (or up) from NLP (neurolinguistic programming) at

Most novelists I know need to craft smaller activities, not larger ones! We’re already big picture thinkers. So here’s how to chunk down, using an example from my work:


1. Choose: Pick a project that you want to work on that feels a bit unwieldy or unmanageable or just huge, like editing a 390-page novel for example. (Raising hand!)

2. Honest Assessment: How much work can you get done in a day, in a week? If you’re not sure, test.

For example, when I first started editing my novel, I printed out pages, grabbed the first 20, and went to the cafe to hand edit them. I tracked my time, and learned that it took me about an hour to hand-edit messy, 8-10 first draft pages — fixing typos, but mostly adding texture, clarifications, and nuances. Okay.

I edited those pages and printed them out again, hand edited them again. This time it I could go through 15-20 pages in an hour of cleaned up pages, catching dibby dabby typos, missing words, and little errors in continuity.

3. Set Up a Schedule + Choose Small Tasks: Draft a daily schedule of what you can reasonably do each day. What can you do daily that won’t blow out your circuits? We novelists are marathoners, long-haul truckers, mountain climbers. One step at a time.

From repeated experience, I know that I can read 12 new first draft pages, and input edits on the same day. This feels doable.

4. Visualize Daily Success: Athletes have long been coached in visualizing success to prepare for their competitions. NLP uses the power of visualization to create change. You too can harness this tool.

  1. Step into the experience of doing your daily activity.
  2. Take a deep breath and connect to each of the five senses of this experience.
  3. Choose an anchor for this positive experience.
  4. Come back to now and integrate the feelings and the anchor.

For example, I see myself sitting on the soft coach, listening to Fall Out Boy, pages spread out in front on me on the lap desk. My water bottle is nearby, and the TV is on in the background. My perfect editing environment. My anchor is the feeling of pen in hand and the image of manuscript pages before me.

5. Take Daily Action: Craft a checklist to keep track of your daily progress.

Here’s an Instagram pic of how I’ve been keeping track.

6. Be flexible, test, tweak, edit, adjust:

I used as an example my editing process, and I’m doing the same type of chunking down for my getting reviews activities. I send out 2 per day. At least that’s the goal. I need to craft a hand-written checklist, though. I notice that activity keeps me more grounded than just the spreadsheet I use to track my progress.

As you can see, I’m always refining my process, trying new things, tweaking this and that, and sometimes hitting the pause button, and then the restart button.

Your Turn!

Click to tweet: What can you do to chunk down your writing project?

Experiment, play, and above all take action!

A Challenge

If you find you’re not taking action, I challenge you to make the task smaller. Yes, smaller! Or shorter, less time spent on it. One page instead of 10. Or five minutes instead of an hour.

If you’re having problems taking any action, maybe you need a rest to reconnect to your inspiration and your big why. Or ask for help. Or both.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

As always, I’m here in support of your success!


PS. Contact me with any questions or post them in the comments below.

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