How to Care for Your Plot Bunnies (Without Neglecting Your Book Rabbits)

You’ve been focused on a particular novel for a while. You’re trying to stick to this project and only this project, not get distracted by plot bunnies. But… uh oh. Another plot bunny just hopped onto your desk and it’s really trying to get your attention…

I have good news.

You can take care of that plot bunny and get it to leave you alone so you can continue working in your main project. And it’s actually pretty simple to do.

Give the Plot Bunny What it Wants

…But only for a time. Give yourself a set amount of time to focus on the new plot bunny. I usually allow myself a week, but I tend to lose my initial interest in the plot bunny within 2-3 days. You’ll know best how long you need before a plot bunny leaves you alone.

For whatever time frame you set, let yourself work on this new idea without guilt. For me, entertaining a plot bunny usually means creating a Pinterest board, maybe putting together the beginnings of a story playlist, and scribbling down as many notes on the characters and plot as I can come up with. When I was younger, the process would look more like slamming out 3,000 words of a first draft and leaving myself with a bunch of loose ends that I came back later and had no idea where I was going with.

Your process will look however you need it to. (But I do recommend making note of any details you can think of so you don’t leave your future self with unanswered questions that you know you understood when you started writing).

You can work on your main project alongside this new plot bunny for your time frame, or you can let the plot bunny consume your time completely; it will depend on how much interest you have in each project and how tightly your brain latches onto new ideas. Either is perfectly fine. Remember, this is your guilt-free playtime with the plot bunny.

Why It Works

If you’re like me, you come up with a bright and shiny new idea and you get super excited about it… for about two days. And then it becomes work to shape the story into something that will support a novel and the interest fades.

What this method does is capitalize on that initial burst of interest while removing the guilt of neglecting your primary project for a couple of days.

Your novel will still be there in two days; the plot bunny might end up forgotten. And two days isn’t really that much time out of your novel. Even a week, in the grand scheme of a novel-sized project, is not that much of a time suck. And the break might even do your novel good.

If you don’t take a break, then the plot bunny will keep nagging at you and distracting from your main project, and you won’t work very effectively on either project. Giving your full attention to the plot bunny for a few days will prevent you from subconsciously splitting your attention, impairing your productivity and creativity, by allowing you to dedicate your attention to one at a time.

Meanwhile, you’re also collecting all of the most crucial information for a new project that you’ll be able to work on later. When you have the time to come back to this plot bunny and really work on it seriously, you’ll already have a starting point and you’ll know what was most important to you about the story. Maybe you made a lot of notes on the theme, or maybe on the aesthetic, or maybe the characters are the most crucial element. Your notes will let you know right up front.

Letting yourself work on a plot bunny for a few days is ultimately beneficial to both the plot bunny and your primary project, and it adds another story concept to the list to choose from later.

Have you tried this method before? How do you handle plot bunnies that crop up while you’re working on something else?

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6 thoughts on “How to Care for Your Plot Bunnies (Without Neglecting Your Book Rabbits)

  1. Ha ha! Thanks for this post. This is a great way of dealing with plot bunnies. Believe it or not, I had never heard the term before. Now I will never let them run away!

  2. “Give the plot bunny what it wants.”
    I love that! I don’t think I’ve ever been able to do that, though … at least transferring to something physical like writing instead of just creating all kinds of plots and scenes in my mind. Maybe I need to just let that little guy loose sometime … Great post! :)

    1. It seems counter-intuitive at first blush, but I’ve found (at least for me) it actually works really well! And having physical notes, even if they’re just brief summaries of ideas you have more fully in your head, is so helpful when you come back later. (I definitely understand having stuff in your head that never gets on paper, though! It can be hard getting stuff written down. XD)

      1. I know I’ve probably forgotten some aspects of plots before because I haven’t written them down, so that is a really good idea. However, if I start writing everything down, I might look at it and realize how weird of a plot it actually is. Which could be helpful in some cases, I suppose. :) Anyway! I’m going to have to fully try this sometime.

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