We all face doubts and distractions from time to time.
But one of the most common distractions writers face is by far those pesky plot bunnies, a.k.a story ideas that pop up when you're already working on a project. And of course, those story ideas lead you down bunny trails of possibility.
Which is why plot bunnies are both a blessing and a curse.
To know that your imagination is fired up and ready to go is always wonderful, but when too many story ideas plague you, it can be difficult to stay focused on your current project. Your brain idealizes your new plot bunnies, making your drafting and editing start to seem pretty boring.
But obviously we can't chase down every plot idea that comes our way. We'd never finish writing a book! So what do we do to overcome the plot bunny overwhelm and get back to writing?
First, don't make this mistake...
Please, please, please don't ignore new story ideas.
You can't drop your current project the second a plot bunny catches your eye, of course. But if you try to suppress every new story idea that comes your way, you'll unwittingly train your imagination to stop dreaming and creating.
Think of your imagination like a garden.
If you don't water and feed that garden, it won't grow. But it's also not enough to just perform those tasks. You also need to pull the weeds and prune the bushes. Maybe even pluck a few creepy crawlies from the leaves.
In other words, your imagination is sensitive. It needs care to flourish, so don't ignore it when it's asking to be seen.
What do you do instead?
Here's the good news, writer: You have options!
There are many different ways to nurture your imagination while pruning its output. First, allow me to share the method I currently use. (Though keep it mind, this is what works best for me. You may find one of the other methods below more suitable for your writing process.)
When a plot bunny plagues me while I'm working on a project, I always acknowledge it.
After all, my imagination's gifted me a new seed of creation. It'd be rude to ignore it! But I also can't let that seed distract me from my current work. So instead, I give myself 10 or 20 minutes to make my new story idea manifest.
How so? Simply by writing it down!
When new story ideas hit, I open up the special file I keep on my computer and write down everything that's swirling around in my brain. Nothing more. No digging or exploring. Simply whatever I currently know, then I say goodbye until a later date.
But this method doesn't eliminate the struggle.
Saying goodbye is never easy.
Sometimes my story ideas fight to be explored even after I've written them down. That's when I whip out my steely resolve and refuse to give them any more attention, refuse to idealize them as better than the project I'm currently working on.
And that's the real problem here.
There's no way around the daily grind that comes with cranking out hundreds of words or editing those words into something readable. Simply put, writing isn't always fun. Which is why it's so easy to idealize new story ideas as being better than what we're currently working on.
Fight that notion.
Fight the idea that your current project isn't good enough, that there's some magical story idea out there just waiting to be discovered. Fight to keep on writing, writing, writing until you finally have a finished draft in your hands.
That determination and drive is ALWAYS worth it.
Let's look at some alternative methods:
My method of dealing with rampant story ideas definitely won't work for everyone. Here's a few other ways you can fight the plot bunny plague:
- Write them down in a special notebook. Or write them on strips of paper and put them in a jar. Now you have insta writing prompts for whenever writer's block strikes.
- Speak them aloud. Tell your story idea that you know it's there and that it's worthy of being told, but that you can't be the one to tell it right now. This may feel a bit silly at first, but it's a great way to manifest and release your story ideas. Give it a try!
- Make a rough outline. If you have a hard time working the idea out of your system, take a few days off from your current project to dive deep and make an outline. Just don't forget to go back and finish what you started!
- Plan to draft it. Absolutely love your newest story idea? Plan to write it after you finish the latest draft of your current project. Doing so will not only allow you to explore that story idea, but it will motivate you to finish your current project ASAP.
- Create an inspiration notebook. Do you often get ideas for new story elements rather than stories themselves (e.g. an image of a girl in a red coat, the urge to write a story set in France, etc.)?
Write those quick snippets down in a special notebook. Then, when you're ready to work on a new project, open your notebook, select a few of your favorite elements, and go create a story!
Aren't those some fun ideas? I'm particularly fond of the inspiration notebook. I haven't yet created one, but I think it could be a great way to help me acknowledge some of my smaller daily inspirations.
Are you a writer who often suffers from the plot bunny plague? I'd love to hear your secrets.
How do you handle story idea overload and maintain (or regain!) focus on your work? Do you use any techniques I didn't talk about in today's post? Tell me all in the comments below!
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Kristen Kieffer is a writer of fantasy fiction and the creative writing coach behind She's Novel. She's made it her mission to help aspiring authors write sensational novels because obliterating expectations is her jam. Her other passions? Coffee and Tolkien, of course!