Friday, April 10, 2015

Controlling Your Plot Bunnies: How to Write A Novel From Start to Finish Without Getting Distracted


I think it’s fair to say that most writers have a lot in common with Doug from Up. We’re mid-story, then an idea scampers through our brain and we stop everything we’re doing to try and catch it.

Okay, so there’s a slight difference between us and Doug. We don’t yell “Squirrel!” Squirrels are too mainstream. Instead we scream “Plot bunny!” because plot bunnies are way cooler.  

In case you’re wondering what a plot bunny is, let me explain to you where this term comes from:

I have absolutely no idea.

Maybe sometime in the writing community the term “going down a rabbit trail” morphed into “chasing plot bunnies.” Makes sense, at least as much as anything that comes out of the writing community can make sense.

Anyway, plot bunnies are those super cool but annoying ideas that pop into your head while you’re already working on a separate story. At first they look adorable, and you just feel like you need to go and pet it. But you get close and start working with it, then it suddenly transforms into an annoying creature that won’t cooperate and you’re left holding it in your arms like an idiot, staring at all of the other temptingly fluffy plot bunnies that can only be reached if you let go of the one you’ve already got.

Sound familiar? Probably. At least 9 out of 10 writers I know have issues with this (or used to have issues with it).

Me? I have finally learned to control my plot bunnies. It took a lot of chocolate, several hours spent having melt downs in the shower, not to mention a couple close calls with rabies infection (yeah, bunnies can carry rabies. Thank you, Google, for giving me rabbit-phobia). But now my plot bunnies are very well behaved and don’t stop me from cracking down and finishing a novel.  

So how do you focus on one story, and one story alone, without getting dragged under by plot bunnies?

Let me tell you:

Have a decent plan in mind. Before you start your story, you need to have a definite end in mind so that you don’t start a story and then just trail off or get tempted by new plot bunnies. It obviously helps to have a beginning charted out, along with a rising action and climax. If you don’t have these, you have no story. Your plot bunny is still a plot bunny and if you go in without a plan, you’ll end up flopping around, getting frustrated, losing interested, running off with another plot bunny, and then repeating the process. A vicious cycle, I know.

Have well developed characters. I cannot stress this enough. The more developed the characters are, the more you will be attached to them, the more you will want to see their stories through. You will be far less likely to abandon them for another book. I think we’ve all experienced loss of interest while reading a book or watching a movie because the characters suck. Sure, the idea may be cool, but the main character is kind of lame (*cough* Luke Skywalker *cough *cough*). Or maybe the book is written well, but nobody cares whether the characters live or die. Think Wuthering Heights, though I may be one of the few people who actually read that book. Oh the hours of my life I will never be able to get back….Anyway, you have to love your characters in order to keep the desire to actually see your book all the way through.

No book hopping. Ever. You work on one book from start to finish. You can’t write two separate books at the same time…that’s like having an affair. Just stop it. Sure, you can be writing a novel and take a break to write a short story or a blog post. That can be helpful. You can even edit one book while writing the first draft of a different story. I do that, and it works really well. But don’t ever write the first drafts for two books at the same time. This is a very bad idea unless you are:

  • A professional writer who knows exactly what you are doing
  • Writing a fiction and nonfiction book at the same time (slightly easier, but still not recommended) 
  • Writing two books of the same series
  • Batman
Under any other circumstances, just don’t even try. It’s distracting, slows down your writing process, and you’ll often end up liking one story better than the other, thus ditching one of the two books.

Keep an idea journal. While it’s not good practice to chase after every plot bunny you see, it is actually very helpful to jot down the random ideas that float through your brain. Especially if there is one idea that nags at you very often, then for goodness sakes, document it! You might need it later.

Make a Pinterest board for your book. If you don’t have a Pinterest account yet, just go sign up right now. It’s free and it has saved the lives of countless half-finished novels. By pinning character look-alikes, dialogue prompts, pictures of places that look like scenes in your novel, songs that fit themes in your story, etc, you will keep yourself engaged. It’s liked adding fodder to the fire. You constantly have images in front of you, inspiring you to write, getting you pumped about new ideas. Pinterest is a safeguard against quitting or becoming tempted to gallivant off with just any other plot bunny.

Write on a schedule. If you want to write a novel from start to finish without getting side-tracked, you need to dedicate a specific time each day to doing so. Writing is a job. Treat it like one. I have more on how to become a scheduled writer here.

Come to terms with the fact that you will never be able to write down all of the stories you see in your mind. A bit harsh, sure. A bummer? Definitely. But you can’t do anything about it. Just suck it up and move on. Completing one story is better than having dozens of half-finished books lying around. All we can do is pick the stories that we think are the best, that we think can make the biggest difference, and be happy with the fact that we’re seeing them to the end.

Those are a few of the ways I’ve found to actually finish a story without getting distracted by plot bunnies. What about you? Do you struggle with being unable to finish a book? How do you control your plot bunnies? 

Related articles:
The Scheduled Writer - How to Boost Your Writing Productivity
What To Do When Your Story Bogs Down
10 Way to Make Your Writing Time More Productive

Enjoy this post? Take a look around. If you like what you see, please don't forget to subscribe by email for a new post every week!

26 comments:

  1. Love hearing about the dust bunnies and learning how to sweep them away.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lol, your bunnies are hilarious :) I don't think I could've come with a better way to put it if I tried... Your writing advice is exactly what the doctor would order, I know this from experience. You sound like you've got everything under control :) So happy for you! Hug <3

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, I had way too much fun with that picture. Glad you approve. =)

      Delete
  3. Afraid the book hopping is my worst of the bunnies. I wrote a non-fiction and a kids fiction book at the same time. They were so different, I thought it would be easy - nope.
    Nice post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so interesting. I would think that writing a kids and non-fiction book would be easy too. Glad you told me otherwise. Now I'll make sure I never try it. =) Thanks for reading!

      Delete
  4. I luv this! Thanks! Following your blog now. :o)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much, Atara! I'm glad you enjoyed it. I really appreciate the follow and look forward to bring you more blog posts! =)

      Delete
  5. Funny and helpful - thank you! I keep getting distracted by a fantasy trilogy that I half-finished five years ago. I know it would be a pig of a job to re-write it to publishing standard (let alone finishing the darn thing), and I have so much work to do on my new stuff - but it keeps calling to me from a dark corner of my hard disk....

    Thanks for providing a ferret or two to control the bunnies :-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Haha! I know the feeling. I have a half-finished short story that wants me to turn it into a book. Writing this post helped me get it out of my mind. =) I'm glad you enjoyed reading it! Thanks for the comment.

      Delete
  6. This is really great. I think outlining to some degree helps me stay on course. Also documenting and outlining my new plot bunnies help to make them less distracting. Once I get to a point where I have to struggle to flesh out an idea, it's easier to abandon and then I can go back to what I'm supposed to be writing. That seed is still sitting in a document, so I can pick it back up when the time is right.

    I tried first drafting two novels at once. I barely pulled it off. I think I can do it if I ever get the opportunity to write full time. Right now, my time is so limited that I can only play with that second story when I feel stuck on the first one. And that rarely happens.

    Awesome post! very informative!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great idea! I have actually never tried outlining. They made me do it for school and I always found it frustrating, but I see how it would make things a lot easier. I think I'll give it a shot. Glad you liked the post and thank you so much for the comment! You just gave me that little push to start outlining my new novel. =)

      Delete
  7. Oh my gosh, I do this so much! Figures why I've never finished a first draft... I book/plot hop so much I think I AM turning into a bunny! Thanks again for the insight Hannah - I've only just found your blog and love it.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Unfortunately, my plot bunnies disguised themselves as event kitties... LOL. In other words instead of seeming like ideas for new stories they seem like things that could happen in a current story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol! "Event Kitties." I like that term. =) I get them all the time, too. You just triggered an idea for a new post. Thanks for the comment!

      Delete
  9. Actually I did have a plan but the plot bunnies took me in different directions. Still, they ended up making the story even better. So, sometimes bunnies are exactly what they appear to be, cute, sort of whimsical, very fast and sometimes funny. They can turn rather bloody if road kill or the Monty Python type. But, since my novel is about a murder, blood thirsty bunnies are a good thing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's so great when that happens! I can see how blood-mongering bunnies would be helpful for writing in your genre. =) Best of luck to you!

      Delete
  10. That's a great post!

    Unfortunately, my greatest nemesis is the inability to work on one project at a time, and I have to keep a few going on. I get bored of one project, no matter how much i love it, and the writing comes to a grinding halt. Something new keeps the wheels turning, but of course, it's a major distraction to the first project. Still haven't figured out how to break out of this cycle! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you! Getting bored with a writing project is a very difficult problem to overcome. I think creating music playlists and Pinterest boards for your WIP is helpful in keeping you interested. It may help you break your plot bunny cycle. =) Best of luck to you!

      Delete
    2. Thank you! :) I do have Pinterest boards (so long as one does not get carried away), I think I'm about ready to try music too. Whatever works! :) :)

      Delete
  11. I story hop all the time! It's super frustrating. I do it a lot because I want to make sure the story I'm writing is the BEST story -- I don't want to waste any time writing a story that doesn't do anything for me or the people who read it. Of course, after plot hopping all the time, I find I haven't written anything.

    ReplyDelete
  12. This was so helpful! as a very new writer I sometimes look around and find authors doing everything differently, so it's nice to see someone is not worried about being an unconventional writer "-"

    ReplyDelete
  13. I love your blog and i even printed out this one and your villain article to look at offline! God has blessed me by finding your blog. You actually do give great advice, and i was really surprised and refreshed at your villain post. It was really great advice!๐Ÿ˜˜ thank you

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is so cool! I'm so pleased to know that you enjoyed this article (and the rest of my blog). Thank YOU for the awesome comment.

      Delete
  14. I am absolutely guilty of book hopping. I can't help it, as a person that has dozens of novels lined up (90% of them are trilogies) it is very hard for me to just stick with a single one. I'll try. Thank you so much for the article!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's a hard habit to break. I feel ya. =D Best of luck! I'm happy you liked my post!

      Delete

Google Analytics Alternative