The curse of the plot bunnies

When it rains, it pours, I’m telling you. And not in the bad way, either. Ever heard the phrase “plot bunnies”? It’s a story idea that refuses to go away until it’s written.

Here’s what I mean:

I’m working on revising the sequel to The Unwanted. (No, it still doesn’t have a title. I’m hoping that by the time I reach the end, I’ll have thought of one, otherwise I may just put a bunch of random words in a hat and start drawing them out.) At the moment it’s eighteen chapters long, and I’m just about finished editing the sixth chapter. This doesn’t exactly mean that I’m a third of the way through the novel; there are broad narrative stretches in later chapters where I’ve scattered random bracketed notes that say helpful things like [MORE HERE] and [FIX THIS]. I think by the time I reach chapter thirteen, I’ll be pulling out my hair. (And since I’m growing it long again to donate, pulling it out’ll be so much easier! But anyway.)

I’m also going through the novel I wrote in grad school and discovering some problems with it. Mainly, it’s got a muddled middle. It needs a dramatic kick in the pants, plotwise. So I’ve been reverse engineering the outline.

I’m sure that the combination of these two priorities is why every other day it seems like I get a new idea for a short story.

Now, I love short stories. I love reading them and I love writing them. The Hugo Awards (big science fiction awards ceremony, in case you’re not familiar) were this weekend, and the list of winners made me add several short stories to my to-read list. And they’ll probably inspire me to think up more story ideas. Short stories are tough to write, but by nature of their shorter length, oftentimes they don’t take as long to write as novels. (That’s not always true, though. One short story I finished this year took me almost three years to write.) Every time I sit down to work on the novel, there’s a voice in the back of my head that says, “You know, if you worked on (insert title of appropriate story), you could finish it and submit it to that magazine this month.”

That’s the other nice thing about short stories: the potential for more immediate gratification by publication. (Although that’s by no means a sure thing, either. Some stories I wrote ten years ago still haven’t been published.)

Maybe it’s the fact that I’m actively working on something that has my brain hitting on all cylinders as far as plot goes, so I’m coming up with more ideas than I can work on at once. The ideas are multiplying like rabbits. Hence, plot bunnies.

This proliferation of ideas is great and all, but it doesn’t much help for maintaining focus. And focus is difficult for me at the best of times. I’m easily distracted by the next bright, shiny idea; the novelty of a new story is much more enticing than the hard work of going back to the story that’s already written (and rewritten maybe ten times already) and figuring out why it’s not quite working yet.

All good writing is rewriting, really.

I know if I change course and work on one of them for a while, though, I’m going to lose the thread of what I’m working on. So, for the moment, they get written down as a sentence in my notebook, and they’ll have to wait until later. Because the novel won’t stand for being ignored. And there’s a lot [MORE] that I need to [FIX].

(Psst. I have an e-mail newsletter. You should totally sign up for it. I might surprise you with stuff you don’t get to see here, or anywhere, for that matter.)