Posted by on Jun 24, 2014 in Evergreen, On Writing: Craft and Commiseration | 0 comments

When Plot Bunnies Attack

When Plot Bunnies Attack (Photo credit: nodigio)

Once you harness your plot bunnies,  productive writing feels like cheating and the words come easier. Let me explain.

I keep mentioning that my new percentage based writing goal is really working well but I’ve never really explained why. Let’s go into that, shall we?

To catch everyone up, my new system is pretty simple. I have a single word count goal for the year and I’ve augmented that with some percentage based benchmarks. In English, it means that it’s not enough for me to hit the total word count by the end of the year. I have to hit it making sure that those words are split up in a certain way. For me, this is to make sure that at least 75% of my total is Focused writing (like freelance work, revisions, etc) instead of Free (journal, blog posts, etc) and that I’m splitting my writing three ways so that each of the main types of writing I do (Prose Fiction, Non-Fiction and Playwrighting)  are each about 33% of the total. You can easily adjust this idea to your writing life depending on what areas you think need work.

I’ve found that this new way of tracking my goals doesn’t just work, it works INSANELY well for me and has resulted not only in my getting more writing done in less time, but my getting more things finished and submitted/published than any prior year. Now, let’s get into why it works as well as it does.

Think about what it’s like when you’re knee-deep in a writing project. At first, you’re in love with it but as you get to the middle you start to get that feeling. You hate everything you’ve written. You want to quit. You want to work on something, anything else than this stupid story. Then the plot bunnies come, tempting you with shiny new ideas all of which sound so much better than what you’re currently working on.

The secret of my new system lies entirely in that feeling of wanting to work on anything other than what you’re currently working on. I’m slogging through some annoying edits on a play and I’m thinking, “All I want to work on is my novel. I have some many good ideas for it!” Old me used to force myself to keep bashing at the play until it was done and, only then, could I jump over to my novel.

Now, I’m literally working on something different every day to keep the three totals even which means I rotate what I’m working on from day-to-day, session to session. If I’m sick of editing my play, it’s OK because I’ll get to work on my novel next. Or when some shiny new non-fiction idea comes knocking, I don’t have to hide it away until I’ve finished my novel, it can just be tomorrow’s project.

In the same way, I never really get sick of a project because, even if things are going well, I force myself to switch gears in my next writing session meaning I’m rarely burned out on a single project and almost always excited about what I’m working on. But I’m still working in a focused way, getting specific projects done, even though I’m always jumping back and forth between a minimum of three projects at once.

(And you know how I was worried about doing too much free writing? I’m finding that less than 25% of what I’m writing total is free without my having to even really try. Because I’m excited about my focused writing, I’m not as tempted to pad my word count goal with easy writing. Having 75% of my writing activities going towards Focused projects is such a massive improvement on its own, I’d recommend this system if that was the only gain.)

The other biggest thing is that, unlike my old work-on-one-thing-until-it’s-done method, I’m making progress in all three categories of writing at once instead of just one. In the past, I may have finished a novel but that meant that all my playwriting and non-fiction was ignored for weeks. Now, I’m working a little bit in each area of my writing life day by day so nothing is ever neglected. And forcing myself to genre hop like this is having the neat effect that my brain is almost always fresh when I jump back to a project because I’ve been in such a different mode with my last writing.

Everything I work on feels like I’m cheating on another project which keeps me inspired and, most importantly, writing!

So, the next time you get the sneaky little feeling like you’d really rather be working on something else, instead of ignoring it, find a way to use it! As long as you make sure that you eventually go back and finish what you start, working on multiple things at once may be just the thing to save you from a writing rut!