Author Toolbox · Writing

Caring for plot bunnies – Author Toolbox

For the first Author Toolbox Blog Hop, created by Raimey Gallant, I thought I’d talk about something we have all done battle with at some point in our writing lives – plot bunnies.

Author Toolbox Blog Hop

We’re well into week three of Camp Nano, and I’m just under halfway to my goal of 35k words of draft two for The Fair Queen. So, naturally, I’m being besieged by plot bunnies.

Now, the most important thing when you’re in the middle of a big project is to not let the plot bunnies distract you from your work. You might be losing momentum, struggling to stay motivated and finding your current work-in-progress boring – we’ve all been there! But, writing isn’t all about the shiny and new sparks of inspiration, sometimes it’s about hard work.

That said, what do you do when a brilliant idea pops into your head whilst you’re busy working on something else, or not in a position to sit down and start writing?

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Make a note

If you’re a smart and sensible writer and human being, you will have one of two things within reach at all times – a notepad or a mobile device. If not, grab any stationary surface and inscribing implement (your sleeping cat’s back and an electric razor are not recommended).

Write it down.

It doesn’t matter if it’s a 300 word synopsis or a single phrase, write that idea down right now. You will not remember it when you come to sit down and write later, I can almost guarantee it. How many times have you been to the supermarket and thought “I won’t make a list, I know what we need”, and come home with everything but the one thing you went for? It’s not just me. Write that line of dialogue/character name/plot twist/cover design idea down.

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Make it legible

Hands up if your handwriting is terrible? Some of you are probably thinking “I’m a writer, my handwriting is carefully crafted calligraphy, how very dare you”. Well, I’m not one of you, and I’m sure I’m not alone. There have been many times when I’ve come to read my own handwritten notes, usually quickly scribbled, and had no clue whatsoever what they said. Don’t let this be you, do not waste your beautiful plot bunnies by scrawling your notes in chicken scratch that not even an FBI handwriting expert could decipher.

Write in all caps if that helps you to read it later, draw a picture if it’s easier than describing your mental image. Just make sure you will know what the hell you were talking about later.

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Proper care and feeding of plot bunnies

It goes without saying that you should keep track of all your notes, use a separate page or document for each project or for ideas that have no specific purpose as of yet. This will help when it comes to raising your plot bunnies into fully grown WIP rabbits (I just made that up, can you tell?).

If you’re between projects, or need a break after completing a first draft or round of edits, then now’s the time to whip out your notes and get turning those plot bunnies into fully-formed ideas. Lay out all your notebooks and open your phone or laptop to your document of notes (I use OneNote on my phone, it syncs to my laptop so I never lose any ideas). Now start trying to connect words and phrases together to make a story concept.

Maybe you’ve scribbled down a couple of great character names, pop them into Google and see where they originate from, which era they suit best, and what characteristics they are associated with.

If you’re a visual person and have a collection of photos saved in your phone why not mine these for potential locations, architectural details and scene prompts? Then, see which of these might fit together with your other ideas. Maybe you’ve got a photo of a gorgeous sunset over a plaza in southern Spain from that holiday three years ago, an elaborate fountain from a Turkish bath, and a dress you’ve always dreamed of buying – could you combine these ideas to create a scene, or even an entire story?

If you take care of your plot bunnies, they’ll take care of you by providing endless inspiration for new writing projects.

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Hunting those wiley wabbits

Not sure how to get started collecting plot bunnies? It’s really simple, you just need to make it a habit to write down any little sparks of inspiration you get throughout the day. Carry a notepad and pen, even if you always have your phone on you – for some just the action of handwriting a note can set the muse free.

When you’re out and about, take notice of the little details around you and take a quick photo or jot down a word or two. Listen in on other people’s conversations (subtly, don’t be that guy) and write down any turns of phrase you like or find interesting, record accents you want to use or even steal plot points from real people’s lives. You’ll be amazed at the places inspiration can spring from if you just open your eyes and ears and pay attention.

And there you have it, you’ll be farming an entire herd of plot bunnies in no time, and you’ll never struggle for something to write about. What are your tips for finding inspiration and keeping track of all your ideas? Give me your advice in the comments, I’d love to hear how other people do it!

Lyndsey

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Caring for plot bunnies Lyndsey's Book Blog

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48 thoughts on “Caring for plot bunnies – Author Toolbox

  1. Notebooks are my best friends – I’ve found notes scribbled down hastily that (though my handwriting is scary and at times illegible) have turned into wonderful stories. Waste not, want not πŸ˜‰

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  2. Writers never know when inspiration will strike. I’ve had ideas hit me when I’ve been on the edge of sleep, on a deserted road, while reading a book. I always have note folders available in Scrivener, as well as physical notebooks (one for each project. I buy them during back-to-school sales).
    Thanks for the ideas.

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    1. The more I hear about Scrivener the more I think I should try it! I get all my ideas when I can’t write them down – walking the dog, driving to work, falling asleep. It’s not easy being a writer! πŸ˜‚

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  3. Careful with Scrivener – someone mentioned recently that she’s lost her work a few times, because their backup system is flawed or something. I’m such a huge advocate of carrying a pad of paper and a pen around. Also, when I have plot bunnies that strike me in the middle of a big writing marathon like Nanowrimo, I have to be really careful, because it turns into an extra day of weaving the new plot points in if it’s for my current project, so I like your idea of maybe writing it down instead and coming back to it. Anyway, I hand wrote something else in response to this post, but I can’t read my writing. πŸ˜‰ Just kidding. Thanks for posting this advice for the hop!

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    1. Yes, definitely make a note and come back to it at a later stage of writing/editing! I had so many changes and ideas written in my notes by the time I finished draft one, the second draft has been a complete rewrite to incorporate them all, but if you do it as you’re going along it’s easy to get muddled and make an even bigger mess of your manuscript πŸ˜‚ plus you get an even better idea later and realise you’ve wasted time making changes you now need to remove 😰

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  4. Yes! I’ve recently started writing down ideas/quotes/scenes in a notebook in addition to Scrivener. I usually start by writing my outline with scrivener (when I’m likely to make changes/mistakes) and then write it down neatly when I’m more confident with my outline.

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  5. Plot bunnies is a terrific expression — I have long imagined small, sparkling, fascinating little creatures that dart away, trying to lure me away from the work in progress. Yup, I’m a sucker for sparkly little gems, the stories that haven’t made it far enough to call themselves started, but which seem ever so much more interesting and reward than whatever I’m doing right now!

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    1. They certainly are dastardly little critters, like goblins trying to lure us with their pretty trinkets. Don’t fall for it! Keep those plot bunnies in line and focus on the task at hand 😊

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  6. OOOOH Good topic!
    I use Scrivener and physical notebooks. And I like notebooks that have graph paper instead of regular rule lines because graph paper seems to tame my insanely illegible handwriting.
    My stories often are generated by my stumbling upon an interesting setting in real life. My 2016 NaNovel was inspired by a day trip to a tiny hamlet on the Carquinez Straits in the San Francisco Bay Area. I went home and began a research project on the history of the place, and in the meanwhile, a few characters wandered into the setting. By the time November rolled around, I had several settings for different scenes and chapters, the chequered history of a family going back several generations, spanning two continents and periods of history going back to medieval Europe, mysterious and powerful heirlooms, etc.
    The story was still hard to write, even with all the research. As usual for me, a minor character meant to push one tiny plot point forward strolled into the story, became one of the main characters, and did all sorts of mayhem to my plot. He made it a better story in the process.

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    1. That story sounds epic! It’s amazing what can come from a single idea and a whole lot of research πŸ˜‚ graph paper notebooks sound genius, for Nanowrimo last Nov I made an excel spreadsheet of thirty scenes I needed and it was a godsend, so graph paper would be great for handwritten notes.

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  7. Hi! I have a notebook for big story ideas, but I just started carrying an idea notebook with me. I love it! I write down ideas and also all the things I learn about social media promotion, my writing to-do list, etc. I love it!
    My Post
    Leslie

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    1. That’s such a good idea Leslie, making notes about building your author platform as well. It’s such an important part of becoming a successful writer. We’ve got to get our words out there! πŸ˜„

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  8. I love the title of this post πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing: I love the idea of using photos for inspiration!
    I had a plot bunny incident during week 2 of Camp Nano. Luckily, I run weekly writing prompts on my blog, so I channelled the plot bunny there. I did spend a day after that on the new idea, but when I returned to my Camp project I felt refreshed and blissfully free of plot bunnies: for now!
    My best ideas always come to me whilst I am driving. I need to invest in a Dictaphone!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh wow, I’m sure I’d get myself into a pickle if I tried to work on more than one project at once (at least without having completed a round of drafting or editing before starting on something new). I’ve never tried flash fiction though, maybe I’ll give it a go at some point, I’m sure it’s really good for practicing the craft 😊

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      1. It can be tricky to work on multiple projects at once, but I find that so long as I document everything and make a note at the top of the page that tells me where I am up to, it tends to be okay πŸ™‚
        Flash fiction is great fun because you get to experiment with other genres too: You’re also right about it being good practice, for both writing and editing πŸ™‚

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  9. Funny 😊 but altogether too true. My mind conjures plots quicker than the Road Runner doing a lap around the block – and more often than not when I’m in the middle of writing something. Add to that the fact that I have truly slow penmanship and by the time I start jotting it down, details start to escape like egg white out of a cracked shell. The number of lip liners lost to the endeavor is borderline martyrdom. Recently I took a fiction writing course and one of the most important trick I picked up was to always keep a tiny notebook and a pen with me – like a proper journalist to record my fancy. I originally tried Notepad on my phone but scribbling doesn’t have the same feel when implemented via smart devices.

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    1. I hear you, sometimes you’ve just got to handwrite it to get the ideas to flow. Like in school when you hand wrote out revision notes to make them sink in better. Tapping on a screen just isn’t as satisfying ☺️

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  10. Haha, I love the image of growing plot bunnies into fully-grown “WIP rabbits.” That’s great πŸ™‚ And thanks for this post! I’m a firm believer in always having something on hand to write with, in case an idea comes to mind. And I’ve been doing more to save notes on my phone as well, since it’s often in my hand anyway πŸ™‚ The situation I haven’t come up with a solution for yet is coming up with ideas in the shower. I have these brilliant ideas when I’m in the water, but it’s like they suddenly disappear when I step out. It’s a bit maddening!
    Also, I never thought much about the work that goes into feeding the plot bunnies after. All these ideas are scattered across notebooks and in different memos in my phone; I should try to get them organized and put more work into growing them πŸ™‚

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  11. I totally agree about keeping notes. I write in Scrivener and keep the notes section open while I’m writing. That way I can quickly jot down a thought and get back to writing that draft. Also, i don’t have to worry about my hand writing or keeping track of where I put the notes. Good luck with your bunnies!

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  12. I us a bullet journal for everything now, and they even have a code icon (!) to use for jotting down ideas. I tend to convert ideas into short stories rather than books, since it’s so hard for me to generate short story ideas. Now if only the stories themselves would reproduce like rabbits…

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    1. Ah bullet journals are something I’ve heard a lot about but not tried yet, I do love the look of them though. I would love it if my stories reproduced like rabbits! πŸ˜‚

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  13. Great advice for keeping your inspiration alive. I use an amalgamation of digital, notebooks, and scraps (when I am without the first two). You never know when one of those plot bunnies will be the solution for plot progression or a subplot in another work. (I like to think of my plot bunnies as arctic hares running in droves and working together to thrive.)

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    1. Exactly, any idea could turn out to be the answer to a problem you’ve been having with a plot or a scene, and if you lose your train of thought before writing it down it would be such a shame!

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    1. That’s a good idea, I have tried text to speak but only for listening to my writing to try and hear any errors I didn’t pick up by reading it. I’ll have to try it for making notes hands free 😊

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  14. I use an app on my phone to keep track of those random, but brilliant, ideas that come and go. I then email them to myself from the app and store them in a safe place. I used to use OneNote to store them, I should start doing that again as it always worked well for me and I can’t recall why I stopped! One problem I have is my most brilliant ideas come in the middle of a bubble bath and I often don’t have my phone handy. A friend of mine got me a notepad and a pen that they use in the military, It can be written on when it is wet! So, that works well for jotting a note down while soaking in the tub sans phone.

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    1. That’s a good idea, my husband is military I’ll have to ask him if he has one! Otherwise, Louise shared a link to a waterproof notepad in her comment – My Aqua Notes I think it’s called ☺️

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  15. These are awesome tips! It’s so hard to avoid the plot bunnies when you’re working on one project. And I’ve got terrible handwriting too. (I think this is true of most writers.)
    I use an app to write random things down and loooove my pinterest boards to keep the inspiration flowing!

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    1. Pinterest, yes! So handy to be able to pin things from across the web or photos you’ve taken to collate them under project names, or just inspiration. Pinterest is fantastic for writers πŸ™‚

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  16. Oh, my God. I love the titles of your blog posts. I keep seeing them on my Pinterest dashboard, and before I’ve even read a word of your post, I’ve fallen in love. Not to mention that your posts are brilliant as well. They simply make me happy, and they make me feel like my quirky little writer’s habits are still quirky, but lovable as well (especially when you call them rabbits!). Thank you so much for putting my little habits into words of wisdom about rabbits. (Yes, I meant for that to rhyme.)

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