If you’ve ever been involved with NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in any capacity, you’ve probably heard the term “plot bunny” thrown around. And even if you haven’t, you may have come across these creatures in conversation with other writers.
Plot bunnies, like real bunnies, can be either troublesome pests or wonderful pets, depending on when they show up and what you do with them. There are many breeds (I happen to love the Wikiwrimo discussion of these), but at the end of the day, a plot bunny appears in order to tempt a writer with a new project. If you’ve got nothing but unscheduled time, unlimited funds, and no current writing projects on your hands, then a random plot bunny appearance is great, but whose life is actually like that? And this is where the bunny trouble begins.
I’ve had to do lots of work to keep my own bunnies at bay, and at first, it was really hard! For a while, I could swear there was an errant story-rodent nipping at my heels every time I looked up. But, as I’ve told other writer friends, it is absolutely crucial to learn to manage these guys because: if you do not keep your plot bunnies under control, you will never manage to finish anything. Then you’ll have much bigger problems than bunnies.
In this post, I’m going to offer some tips on taming your plot bunnies (at least as much as that’s possible).
Tip #1: Abide by the 3-Project Rule
In addition to being the brains behind my critique group’s awesome Twitter chat I wrote about earlier in the week, my friend Eva is also a genius when it comes down to getting stuff done. She came up with a super-helpful restriction for our group in order to help us all keep our plot bunnies in check. We call it her 3-Project Rule, and it’s exactly what it sounds like: no one is allowed to work on more than three projects at one time. And no swapping out or rotating, either: we commit to our projects, and a new slot opens when one of the three is complete (that includes final revisions).
Be warned: committing to three projects does take some of the “fun” out of writing. I’m planning to write a post on inspiration, writer’s block, and other issues that relate to this idea of fun, but at the end of the day, if your aim is to have your work out there in any kind of official capacity—if you want to be published—then writing isn’t always going to feel recreational, which makes sense. If you want to finish a project, I can’t recommend the 3-Project Rule enough. It’s not always fun, but it will help you keep the focus needed to take a writing project from start to finish.
Tip #2: Build a Pen
As you can see in the header image for this post, plot bunnies don’t always have to roam free—they can appear in concrete form, and even be contained! My friend and critique partner Sara crafted the awesome plot bunny kit pictured in the above image, complete with paper bunnies and a journal in which these troublemaking ideas can be kept.
It’s really important not to lose your plot bunnies. You thought of them for a reason, and you want to hold onto them when you’ve finished one of your three projects and need to swap in a new one. I recommend building a pen: have a plot bunny kit like the one pictured above, or simply get yourself a notebook into which you write all of your bunnies. Every time an errant bunny nips at you, jot down whatever details it’s pestering you with and keep it in the pen—just don’t actually start writing the thing! With a little discipline and self-control on your part, you can make the bunnies work for you.
Tip #3: Scoop the Droppings
Sometimes, what seems like a new plot bunny is actually the droppings of your current project. If an idea is pestering you constantly while you’re working on what you believe to be a different book or story, ask yourself: is this idea actually relevant to what I’m working on in some way, and I just don’t know it yet?
I’m a marinator—I think about my projects for ages before actually writing them. I do a lot of the groundwork and prewriting in my head. If you’re like this, sometimes it can be difficult to parse which ideas belong to which projects, and that’s how you can mistake a dropping for an actual bunny. Sometimes, a quick brainstorm on a sheet of paper will help you to determine what actually belongs where (I’ll talk about plotting more in future posts).
Troublesome though they can be, plot bunnies continue to be adored across writing communities, and with good reason. They’re helpful creatures to have hopping around, and we love them for it! Please feel free to share your own plot bunny problems and advice for domesticating them in the comments section below—it always helps to have more tips!
Until next time, I wish you inspired writing and well-behaved bunnies,