by Cat Woods
Ask nearly any writer and you'll hear complaints about the distracting qualities of plot bunnies. Current WIPs often get left by the wayside as brand new plot bunnies entice writers away from one project after another, leaving a wake of half-realized manuscripts. Plot bunnies can be dangerous to the unsuspecting. Just like their counterparts are in my garden.
My back yard is a bunny haven. While we have two dogs, neither of them are interested in chasing bunnies away from my flowers. We also have a fence that should keep the bunnies out. Instead, it seems to keep them in. I think they like the safety and the ready to eat treats. We've tried... eliminating them in the kindest way possible to no avail. So, after years of fighting them, I've gotten to the point of working with them.
I've allowed them unlimited winter access to my landscaping smorgasboard as long as they turn tail in the spring. It seems to work for both of us. They prune my lilac tree, and every spring it fills out beautifully. They sheer off my perennials so I have less winter yuck to clean up. And the babies are just too dang cute as they romp around in the melting snow.
Plot bunnies are no different than real bunnies. They feed off the delicate blooms of our imaginations, yet can be nearly impossible to capture. They also multiply at the same rate—which is to say writers typically have far more of them at any given point than they know what to do with—and the babies are especially cute and compelling.
If left unchecked, both plot bunnies and their real life companions can destroy the best-laid plans.
While I haven't quite mastered corraling all my plot bunnies, I've found that treating them the same as my backyard bunnies helps keep my writing on track.
I allow them unlimited access during certain seasons.
Seriously, in between projects I allow myself the freedom to explore any idea that pops into my head. I have dozens of started projects. These projects run about 1,200 words and capture the essence of my ideas. I don't consider these failures or unfinished projects. I consider them practice. They also become a part of my writing file that I can pick through at other times. By giving them page space, the plot bunnies settle down and allow me to funnel my attention on my WIPs.
I feed them.
Strange, but true. I figure if I ever trap and kill off the rabbits in my mind, I'll have nothing left to work with, so I encourage them to multiply as needed. I always carry a notebook with me. It's filled with hundreds of mini-outlines, names, places, spaces and character sketches. Whenever a new thought strikes, I jot it down and play with it.
What I find most often is that the plot bunny isn't fully formed—and likely never will be. Rather, it is just a shiny, new idea that looks as cute and cuddly as the baby Easter Bunny. It's exciting for a moment, but once it's placed in the notebook among the other bunnies, it loses some of its appeal. It's underdeveloped and malnourished. At least for the time being.
Rarely, the idea solidifies. It gels, either on its own merit or within the context of other ideas. Eventually, a few bunnies band together and prune back the winter detritus, leaving room for spring's new blooms. Whenever I see or hear something I think my plot bunnies would like to eat, I add it to the notbeook. As time goes on, these ideas become new WIPs.
And the best part about feeding ideas this way: it takes virtually no time. Once I pen my plot bunny in ink, I'm freed to think about other things. Namely my current writing project.
So, the idea behind plot bunnies is to corral them, not eliminate them. If we embrace our fertile imaginations and provide some boundaries for dealing with new ideas, we will be less tempted to leave our current WIPs whenever a new bunny hops by.
How do you wrangle your plot bunnies into submission? Do you allow new ideas to take over current projects? If so, how does that work out?
Curious minds want to know.
This weekend, Cat Woods started spring cleaning her garden. Thanks to the backyard bunnies, she has more time to spend with her plot bunnies. You can find her wrangling both rabbits on her blog: Words from the Woods.