Plot Bunnies and What to Do With Them

The amount of time that has passed since I last wrote a blog post didn’t really hit me until I noticed the age of my featured post. Now, (a month and a half later) I decided to get my act together and delve back into the groove of posting on the blog weekly. Starting with something that I feel very strongly about: Plot bunnies.

Plot bunnies. They seem really cute and soft and loveable at first, but they turn out to be much more ferocious than they seemed. As a writer, I’ve learned how to encounter plot bunnies, tame them, and save them for later when the time is right. Name a writer who never struggled with plot bunnies. Hard, eh?

Plot Bunnies and What to Do With Them - Tea with Tumnus

I think we get these so-called “plot bunnies” because we are writers. We are constantly living each day, taking in the strange and wonderful, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and constantly putting bits and pieces of life and imagination and the unknown together with our own ideas to create stories. Note I said story plural. How could a writer ever focus on one story, one idea, and one set of characters for a whole year without other story ideas fighting for you attention? I doubt it’s ever worked. It makes it harder when new story ideas come to mind as we are writing … ideas in, focus out.

Of course, it depends on the various minds. Some writers are better able to handle plot bunnies than others and so they set them aside permanently until their WIP is done (which is usually done in a flash since they have no ideas constantly distracting them). I don’t know how it’s done. I am probably the most distracted writer on Earth.

Here’s how I deal with plot bunnies:

  • Think about them day and night
  • Stare into space while I sit in front of my WIP for hours on end
  • Develop ten different plots and characters all at once
  • Get inspired for even more story ideas on Pinterest
  • Draw new characters that happen not to be in my WIP and come up with names for them
  • Eventually forget about my WIP in all the New-Story Excitement

Here’s how I should deal with plot bunnies.

Dealing with plot bunnies is a real pain solely because it’s hard to control our thoughts. Now, there are ways found in YouTube videos, books, and maybe even TED talks that teach you therepeautic meditation and mental exercises to help you hold your thoughts captive, and it could work. But you might forget all about your writing and convert to Buddhism in the process. Instead, I go through a little procedure that helps to narrow things down and keep things simple. (Simplicity is better. Except when it comes to further developing plots.)

GOOGLE YOUR IDEA

Basically second-guess. You thought your idea was original, but what if it’s already been used to some extent? I know it’s frustrating; you come up with a plot and you discover in the next book you encounter that another writer had the same idea before you ever did. It makes you feel like a small and insignificant human. Sherlock Holmes once rephrased Solomon in Ecclesiastes thus: “There is nothing new under the sun. It has all been done before” if that makes you feel any better. So … this is all seems horrible. But to be actual, everyone has the same idea, but everyone has their own unique twist on that idea. Which is why we have thousands upon thousands of different books in the same genre. Which is why we have have Star Wars and Star Trek (Star Trek was first, but Star Wars is *cough cough* better *cough*). You see? Your idea may be taken, but that shouldn’t stop you. Come up with newer approaches. Different characters and backgrounds. And if that doesn’t work and it’s still way to similar to this other book that was published eons before than you’d like, you have the option to ditch your idea. Not that I suggest it. Googling your idea (maybe it’s your plot in one sentence or a character definition) shouldn’t throw you into the depths of despair, but it will help you figure out what details need to be twisted and tweaked so that you’re not “copying” someone else’s idea. I’m sorry. But hey. Not everyone’s idea is going to be exactly the same. 

Once you’re sure about your idea, it’s –QUICKWRITEITDOWNBEFOREYOUFORGETIT time. Yo. Don’t panic. Remember the beauty of …

NOTEBOOKS

Lots and lots of notebooks. That way I can store all my ideas, feel good about getting my ideas somewhere else than in my head, and focus on something else. The ideas are still stored in my mind’s archives, but I’m confident that I won’t forget those ideas since now they’re backed up someplace else. My mind empties and all that’s left is the focus and information I need to continue working on my WIP without ever having to worry about that story idea … until another one comes running in to take its place.

The first place I ever stow away brand new ideas are in notebooks because I keep them closer to myself than my laptop. It’s easier to whip out a piece of paper and pen and jot down the main ideas than find my laptop, sit down, wait for it to turn on, open up Google Drive, wait for Google Drive to open because it can be slow, find a new document, etc. etc. And if I don’t have a notebook accessible, my phone most likely will be, and so I text myself the ideas. (Which isn’t ideal, since two thumbs can only do so much compared to all ten fingers.)

If writing down the ideas into a notebook (or on your laptop or email or phone) isn’t your thing, leave it in your mind, and it can either stay or go away. It’s a risk, but choosing to leave it in your mind with the doors open can be a way to decide whether or not your idea is worth your while. Maybe it’s not if you’re not going to write it down. My advice is: Write everything down. It’ll do you good.

But what if your idea, even though it’s stowed away in notebook, keeps bugging you? So much that it’s nearly impossible to concentrate on your WIP and all you can do is fangirl about a story that has yet to be written? Try this:

RETURN TO YOUR WIP

Delve deep back into it. But not in the way you have been lately. View it with your new idea in mind and try to find how, where, and when, if possible, to incorporate this idea into your WIP. Maybe it’s an idea for the sequel or a book later on in the WIP’s series. Maybe it’s a character or an event, a new plot, whatever it is, perhaps you can fit it into your WIP. Particularly if your WIP is going slow and you’re stuck without the knowledge of what comes after the last scene you wrote. Maybe this new idea will fit right in. Now your mind’s lightbulb is starting to glow.

But what if this idea simply doesn’t fit in your WIP? Say it’s a totally different genre or it incorporates a multiuniverse that your WIP simply doesn’t feature. Welp, I have good news for you …

START A DIFFERENT STORY

Yes! It is possible to start working on an additional story while you’re still in the middle of your WIP without completely losing interest and zeal for it. You have to be very disciplined, however, and if you can’t imagine yourself working on two stories at once without almost ditching one, I wouldn’t suggest it, but it’s definitely worth a try. If you’re easily distracted and can’t handle two stories at a time, but you’re risky enough to give it a shot, write a schedule. Keep a planner. Spend an hour on your WIP and an hour on your new WIP. Make it fit. Just split the time you usually have for writing and dedicate each half to each different story.

And when even all these fail … ignore the new idea. Obviously it’s not worth your time writing down in a notebook, so therefore it’s not worth your time working on for a year or two. Stay focused on your WIP, no matter how many your have. Treat them all with equality. Scroll through all your WIP Pinterest board. Reread all your WIP notes. Reread what you’ve written of the story so far. Focus on ONLY your WIP … and if another plot bunny pops into your head and decides to stay?

Well, hopefully you’ll know how to handle it.

How do YOU handle plot bunnies? Are there any tactics you’ve come up with that have helped you focus on your WIP without getting distracted by additional story ideas? Tell me. Show me your ways. Thanks for reading!

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11 thoughts on “Plot Bunnies and What to Do With Them

  1. Wow. This sounds like that one Star Trek episode where there were tribbles everywhere! (I’m sorry. If there was a Star Wars equivalent I would have used it!) I have to admit that plot bunnies have rarely been a problem for me. But I have a very organized mind. I come up with fun ideas all the time but I only write them down if I actually have vision for a story. I am a big thinker and have balanced a bunch of ideas in my head since I was a kid. A lot of them do end up in my current WIP. But I tend to be a very focused person and enjoy working on one project at a time.

    Maybe my solution is that I let myself daydream a lot? I really do. Even for my current WIPs I need to let scenes simmer in my mind for a long time before I write them out. Sometimes one scene will go in 10 directions before I find the best one. So I make those bunnies work for me!!

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    • Lol! I had to google tribbles. (Yo, I love Star Trek; the Wars just come first :D) It’s interesting to hear of other writers who don’t struggle with the problem of plot bunnies! I bet it really helps being a focused person with an organized mind. I could use some of tht talent. 😀 I’ve never really tried daydreaming as a solution for plot bunnies! Sounds helpful. Of course, I daydream but I don’t get very far at all because I feel like I have to write them all down or else they’ll all escape.

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  2. Plot bunnies are like that rabbit in Despicable Me 2. At first they’re cute, and then they get shot with PX-41 and turn into a giant purple thing that wants to eat anything in sight.
    Thankfully, I don’t get a lot of plot bunnies, though I have had a few. The way I handle them is to simply write down the idea and set it aside. It may be a sentence or it might be a several paragraph explanation, depending on how much came to mind. I have a whole section in my OneNote digital notebook full of little ideas I think up. At least I don’t have the no ideas problem.

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    • Lol can’t say I know what the bunny from Descipable Me 2 is all about as I haven’t seen that movie yet. 😀 But yes, that’s the general idea. I’ve never even thought of the woes of some writers who get no ideas at all!! Guess I suffer from the other extreme (which is a lot better than nothing in my opinion, just overwhelming).

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  3. Okay, I guess my Vulcan side is showing *hard*, because I honestly couldn’t even figure out what a plot bunny was or how it would be a problem. (Lots of fluffy little rabbits hopping around you, why is that bad?) I actually had to look it up. And now, please don’t throw anything, but I really don’t have that problem, either. Sometimes I’ll get an idea that has nothing to do with anything, so I find a way to make it part of my WIP, or I just dismiss it.
    Maybe it actually *is* a problem for other writers? 😛

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    • Haha, yep, plot bunnies is an actual term for too many ideas that’ll distract you from the WIP. It must be a nice life without any plot bunnies bugging you to look their way. I suffer from too many Pinterest boards of “future stories” lol.

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      • Well, I don’t even do Pinterest (tried it, but it just didn’t work for me). Plus I tend to be so single-minded that I often have the opposite problem — I’ll forget ideas I really wanted to remember!

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  4. I totally chase plot bunnies. 😜 I LOVE IT! Although I’m a binge writer so like they don’t interrupt a project at all, but my #1 way of dealing with them is to think and chase them and then develop the story, write down an outline, and then go back to whatever else I needed to do first. I find writing an outline helps me keep the bunny AND not lose too much enthusiasm for it by the time I get to it. :’)

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    • Oooh yes!! Writing outlines is my favorite thing, but then my ideas go wild and I end up with something way more complicated and complex than I was thinking. 😛 I bet binge writing helps a lot, though. (Particularly in NaNoWriMo – 3 DAYS WOW.) Thanks so much for the comment!!!! 😀

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