So my nice quiet, docile steampunk plot bunnies totally turned rabid yesterday. Gnawing on my legs, my arms, digging steel claws (they’re steampunk plot bunnies, remember?) into my brain. I barely escaped, I tell you!
One of the things I keep track of along with my word count and productivity is the number of days I spend plotting (and on what projects I’m plotting). It’s a new thing I added into my productivity spreadsheet this year. When I’m posed the question “Don’t you ever worry you’ll run out of ideas?” I just have to laugh. Here we are, into the last quarter of the year, and I’ve racked up 61 plotting days over 18 different projects (and that doesn’t count the dozen or so fully blueprinted books I plotted out over the two years prior). Three of those are the things I’ve written/am writing this year (DOTH, Whisper of Shadow, and Riven). A few were abortive attempts at the short story for the anthology that ultimately turned into WoS. A few were revisiting old projects to apply the principles I’ve learned on story structure to see if they sparked and turned into something. A couple were the other two novels in the DOTH trilogy. And then there are the plot bunnies that have turned into full on, planned out future projects for other series. It’s been a big year for me creatively.
Given the fairly regular occurrence of new ideas, it’s important that I have a system to manage them, to get the kernel of the idea down so I won’t lose it, but not go so far that I’ll be distracted from my current WIPs. How I deal with said plot bunnies depends a lot on what comes to me first. If a character or conflict comes at me first, then I’m whipping out my Blueprint and sketching out the details. If an overall concept comes first, then it’s a little looser, jotting notes about world building. It’s when the characters show up (as they did yesterday) that things get hairy and I get really distracted from current projects.
So what’s a writer to do? I mean, obviously I’m grateful for the constant influx of ideas. It keeps my brain sparking, keeps me interested. But I can’t let myself derailed. I’m a recovered pantser who only finished two books before I turned 26 (out of probably 50 starts), who used to project hop as soon as inspiration struck for something new and interesting and not mired in the Dreaded Valley of the Shadow of the Middle. I’ve learned discipline over the last six years. I finish things.
Sometimes I’ll give myself a day or two to just focus on the plot bunny. Really plot it out, figure out the details, outline the plot, the structure, the character details. That’s generally enough to get it out of my system until I have an opportunity to come back to it (and some of those projects won’t ever get past that point since there is only one of me and so many of them). But for plot bunnies like this current one, where I have an entire world and a sudden CAST of characters trying to take over my brain, this is harder. It’s like trying to fend off circling sharks with a feather duster. Because new characters are often LOUD, and their world is so INTERESTING. I keep a composition book in my purse for each of these projects (yeah, I know my purse is super heavy). Sort of a combination series bible and brainstorming book. And I’ll scribble notes when I’m somewhere I can’t actually write.
Then it comes down to writing time and I keep giving that notebook sidewise glances in the same way I’ll keep staring at the dessert tray when there’s salad on my plate. Then it often comes down to self discipline to make myself work on the current WIP. Like last night. Which was absolutely like pulling teeth.
So, since I’m always in search of new methods and stuff to try, I’m opening the floor to you dear readers. How do YOU combat plot bunnies and keep them from taking over your world?