How to Deal with Plot Bunnies

Posted on

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

It’s the first Wednesday of the month and you know what that means: another installment of the Insecure Writers Support Group! Haven’t heard of IWSG? Click here to sign up! This month’s co-hosts  are LG Keltner, Donna Hole, Lisa Buie-Collard and SL Hennessy. Make sure you stop by their blogs and say hello!

Now, let’s get into my insecurity for this month. *Rolls up sleeves*

I was online the other day when I ran across this blog post by author Reese Ryan called “My Quest to Tame the Monkey Mind and Find Focus.” In the post, Reese talks about something I’ve probably been doing for the last year: chasing plot bunnies.

For those of you who don’t know, a plot bunny is a story idea that a writer chases but can’t catch. And because we can’t catch it, we either abandon it, or worse, get distracted by another plot bunny. The cycle repeats itself until one day, a writer finds herself surrounded by a pile of half-finished manuscripts (and candy bar wrappers because, hey: chasing plot bunnies makes you hungry) and asking herself the following questions:

Am I ever going to write a novel or will I spend the rest of my life trying but failing?
Do other writers experience this?
What in the world am I going to do with all these candy bar wrappers???

It’s not a new phenomenon. For centuries authors have been trying and failing to write novels (and then questioning themselves and their ability to write because of that). As the French say: Ain’t nothin’ new under the sun. But as authors, how do we deal? I think the important thing is to allow ourselves to “fail” and not beat ourselves up about it because some of those half-finished manuscripts may very well turn into finished manuscripts one day. Or: you may end up plucking a character out of one of those unfinished stories and using them in something else. I don’t think any story idea is ever wasted. We can always use something from an unfinished project. We just have to figure out what that something is.

So that brings me to my current WIP. Without giving too much away for fear of pissing off my muse, it’s a paranormal story set in a small Louisiana town about a girl whose life changes after a traumatic event. I’ve been chasing this idea for so long I’m embarrassed to tell you. I’ve chased more bunnies than I can count but all roads have led here: I have what seems to be a solid outline and when I put the characters on the page (knock on wood!) they seem to work. But I’m afraid that somewhere down the line, a shinier, newer story idea is going to come along and say (in a Brooklyn accent): “Pssst! Quanie: over here!” And I’m going to look up and go chasing that new idea and abandon the one I’m working on now. Sigh.

What about others? What are you working on currently? And how do you deal with plot bunnies? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

 


46 thoughts on “How to Deal with Plot Bunnies

  1. I’ve had so many plot bunnies, too. Right now, they are all resting in their corners while I focus on my WIP (which I’m getting distracted from again … it’s quite frustrating because I know it’s a good story but I haven’t nailed the voice, yet). One thing I’m grateful for, my plot bunnies all wait for me in their corners. They don’t run off and desert me!

    Best of luck with the WIP, Quanie. Having the plot down and characters who fit it is a great start!
    Claudine @ CarryUsOff Books recently posted..The Boy Who Waited & the Girl Who Worked HardMy Profile

  2. I have a couple of story ideas saved in a file, but I can’t say I have this problem. I guess it’s because I’m so obsessive. If a story idea develops enough for me to get serious about it, I plot it and finish it.

  3. you know, I had NO idea they were called that! Well, I def spend my life chasing them haha. I always just chalked it up to having a super short attention span. But yes it’s true how nothing is ever wasted. I created a guy I loved in a WIP that never amounted to anything. Then when I needed to up the romance in a revision with my on-sub MS he fit in FLAWLESSLY. Nothing wasted, and a much better MS! win 🙂

  4. Thank you Quanie, for assuring me that I’m not alone in my insane amount of plot ideas that never seem to result in an actual finished manuscript. Knowing that there are others in the same boat brings me so much relief! Although, not as much as knowing that I’m not the only one who has to avoid talking about my muse, in order to keep the heffa working…Now I’m wondering if she can read and knows I’m ‘talking’ about her. #WriterProblems
    Faith Simone recently posted..All Up In My E-Reader (October Edition)My Profile

    • Faith! Oh, Lord you just cracked me up! “Although, not as much as knowing that I’m not the only one who has to avoid talking about my muse, in order to keep the heffa working…Now I’m wondering if she can read and knows I’m ‘talking’ about her. #WriterProblems”
      *flatlines*
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

  5. Oh, ye gods, do I ever understand plot bunnies. O_o My “Novels” folder is filled with at least a dozen files filled with plots and plans, all in various stages anywhere from ‘workable with refinement’ to ‘abandoned in 2008’. To say nothing of books I started and dropped for various reasons. Oi!

    What works for me, though, is a quote from the writer of the first comic book I ever got hooked on. He said, “A good idea never goes to waste. It just appears somewhere else.” I’ve played mix-and-match with ideas and settings and characters, all just trying to see what works. It crumbles more often than not, but someday, I’ll find where all those ideas are supposed to go and figure out how to make them all work.
    Mason T. Matchak recently posted..IWSG: Keep it Secret, Keep it Safe.My Profile

    • We’re in the same boat. I have flashdrives full of folders that have full outlines and abandoned manuscripts. And “A good idea never goes to waste. It just appears somewhere else.” So true! I guess thinking of it that way makes it easier for us when we realize it’s time to abandon a story.
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

  6. Oh yea, I have tons of them but never knew they were plot bunnies. I usually refer to them as the hundreds of ideas which swirl around in my head and in some cases, dive off to places I am not ready to confront or create.
    I can’t tell you how many plot bunnies I actually entertained and wrote beginning chapters to. I have a YA trilogy which keeps jumping out of my hand because I can’t seem to tame the worlds I am trying to build. Plus, the research for this series is INTENSE. This is one of my biggest plot bunnies.
    I loved when you wrote, “you may end up plucking a character out of one of those unfinished stories and using them in something else.” I’ve totally done this before. This is one of our great gifts, Quanie, and just proves most of the characters running around our heads can usually find a home within our stories. They never leave unless they do=)

    • This: “most of the characters running around our heads can usually find a home within our stories.” So true! I love it when an old character shows up in something new. They certainly make sure that we never forget them. Good luck with your YA trilogy. I have several ideas that I can’t seem to tame, so I certainly understand that feeling!
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

  7. Excited to hear you caught one of your bunnies! I understand that feeling soooo much, Quanie. But you’re right—patience makes it work in the end. I’m in the process of corralling some themes and characters from an unfinished project last year into a new project that I think will succeed.

    Good luck!!
    Kiersi recently posted..Interview with Author Kate BrauningMy Profile

    • I think we’re all in the process of revamping old stuff into something new (and better). I don’t think the process ever stops. Sometimes I feel sad when I realize that an idea won’t work, but once I figure out how to use it in a better story, all is well with the world again. Good luck to you, too!
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

  8. Plot bunnies….grrrr. Yes, I’ve had my run in with these guys. I’ve tried to work on outlining to kill the plot bunnies ( no actual bunnies were hurt in the making of my novel )

    I’ve heard author cry that outlining kills creativity, but it works for me. Having a map to follow doesn’t mean you can’t change rout mid-trip, but having a destination helps keep me focused.
    Gina Drayer recently posted..#IWSG – Fostering a “Mastermind Group”My Profile

    • “No actual bunnies were hurt in the making of my novel.” Ha! Love that! And outlines don’t work for my bunnies. I just end up chasing them and then re-outlining. And outlining does NOT kill creativity! Because outlines aren’t just born…we create them, right??? I don’t know why people say that. SMH. If I didn’t outline I’d never write anything.
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

    • Goodness, Chrys. I think you’re probably the most organized writer I know. I mean, you write your blog posts a year ahead of time. That’s amazing to me. So it should come as no surprised that you’re able to write your projects in order of importance. I wish!
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

  9. Lots of plot bunnies. I am learning to stay focus and it is a learning curve. If a bunny hops by I make note of it and try to go back to what I was working. Learning to stay focused is my goal. Later I will go back to the other plot bunny, if another doesn’t grab the spotlight and take hold. Jotting it down lets me get the idea out, so I can move forward. Good Luck Harnessing Your Plot Bunnies.
    Juneta at Writer’s Gambit
    Juneta recently posted..IWSG The Search For InspirationMy Profile

  10. I have plot/dust bunnies, too–ooh, that’s a great idea! No, wait, so is that one! Quick, in the corner! Grab it! It’s exhausting. I’m trying to teach myself not to chase them, but to say, “Hmm, interesting.” Then I dump it in my bunny file, click save and move on. If another idea pops up, I put it with whatever idea it goes with and get back to work. That goes for the internet, too. It’s soooo easy for me to spend hours researching, and I DO wander off. However, I copy the link, add it to whatever idea it belongs to in “the file” and get back to work. Now the bunny file is always there, calling to me, but I don’t have to listen. I want to, but I don’t have to. As long as I have it written down, it’s there when I’m ready for a new project.
    Gayle Mullen Pace recently posted..NaNoWriMo: Know Your Weapons! by By Piper Bayard & Jay HolmesMy Profile

    • Gayle, you sound like you have a solid plan in place to deal with the bunnies. Good for you! And OMG, don’t even get me started on research! I can research my way right into another project if I’m not careful, so I typically don’t embark on projects that require a large amount of it. It’ll just give me another reason to procrastinate, lol.
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

  11. Hi Quanie,
    I had never heard of plot bunnies, but have chased so many. My writing teacher said you just have to write and eventually you’ll have what she calls the “sh*tty first draft.” You just have to allow that horrible manuscript to happen. I’m actually chasing bunnies now around a historical novel during the SF gold rush era. Trust me, I’m getting my exercise. Can’t quite make that gel. So, I know my first draft will truly be sh*tty. Enjoyed your post.

    • Yep, first drafts are generally pretty shitty. And that’s okay as long as you can get them done. It’s the getting through them that’s the hard part. And btw, I’m enjoying Quiver of the Pure Heart, and learning about the Fillmore district, so it shouldn’t surprise me that you’re writing a historical novel!
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

  12. Aha! So those elusive little fairy plots that flit around (and take up tons of paper!) do sometimes antagonize other folks! It’s a relief to know I’m not alone. I’ve always called them Dust Bunnies (pretty close, huh?) that swirl in the wakeful chambers of my sleeping mind until they’ve created a dust devil which drives me out of bed to take note of ardent whispers demanding a place to shout. And so a story begins…
    Terrific post, Quanie!

  13. Oh Quanie, you have touched on a sore spot in my writing life. I have so many plot bunnies running around my writing room, I need more file cabinets to house them in. Lately, I have been working on a novel that has far too many possible sub-plots and characters. It is so tempting to drop it and run after the next shiny new idea. My fear is that once I do so, another shiny new idea will show up and the cycle will start all over. Finishing something is so much harder than we think it will be when we first sit down to write.
    Elizabeth Hein – Scribbling in the Storage Room
    Elizabeth Hein recently posted..Any Tips on Bookstore Events?My Profile

    • Oh, those are the worst! I hate it when a story has that many possibilities because it makes is that much harder for me to decide which direction I’d like to go. And I agree: finishing something is hard. New ideas are so beautiful and we fall in love with them quickly but once the honeymoon is over, we’re quick to divorce them, lol.
      Quanie recently posted..How to Deal with Plot BunniesMy Profile

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge