Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Plot Elephants

Many, many writers I know complain about how they have "too many ideas" and how "distracting" they are, and how they can't possibly EVER write ALL the ideas they have.

They have even come up with a name for this affliction: plot bunnies. (My favorite description would have to be ZNZ's post on plot bunnies.)

Source which leads to the real source

Let's look at real life bunnies.

According to the all-knowledgeable Wikipedia (no, I don't trust it on everything), a rabbit's pregnancy lasts about 30 days. Yep, 30 days. The typical litter can be anywhere from 4-12 little pink gummies (er, I mean bunnies), which develop very rapidly and can be having their own litters just months after being born. As Wikipedia says, "this means in one season a single female rabbit can produce as many as 800 children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren."

Quite frightening, isn't it? Though I haven't heard claims about eight hunderd story ideas, I have definitely heard the "more than I'll ever be able to write" figure several times. (Which you would argue isn't really a figure. I suppose not.)

Recently, Josiphine posted on plot bunnies. She, however, unlike most proponents of plot bunny philosophy, allowed for a different kind of writing, by mentioning something Gail Levine apparently described, that is that there are writers "who only get maybe 1 idea a week and have to hold onto it tightly."

One a week? I have to laugh. I get one I can run with every two years or so, if I'm lucky.

Hence, plot elephants.

Again, real life elephants: first, they generally have only ONE calf per pregnancy. And how long is that pregnancy? Twenty-two months. Funny, that's very close to the 2-year long period that it seems to take me to finally get an idea I can spit out in a rough draft.

It's not that I have to wait two years and then BLAM an idea pops out of nowhere. Far from it. In fact, it is very much like pregnancy. It's only when I "give birth" to these ideas that I'm able to look back and see where they came from.

I wrote draft one of Forest of Lies in a record three months. However, by the time I finished that rough draft, I had been fiddling with "Robin Hood story" ideas for two and a half years. How long had I been looking at Robin Hood when I got the original brainstorm of an outline for Forest of Lies? About two years.

I recently spit out outline, world development, and rough draft of Quintessence ALL in four months. However, what came before Quintessence stretches far back, as my "tale of threes" posts on characters and themes explain.

I spent a long time battling the "why don't I have as many ideas as all these bunny people" feelings, but I think I'm over that now. I love my single calves. As with babies, when I finally get my ideas, they're beautiful, and I love them. And they're totally worth the wait.

Do you have plot elephants or plot bunnies? How about the writers you know?


Josiphine said...

Wow, you quoted me! I feel so special now, :)

Amanda said...

I am in love with the theory of plot elephants now. I totally chuckled when I read the elephants part, because for me, its totally true. I can completely relate...right now I'm scurrying to get a draft (would love a second draft) to take to the workshop this summer. But I have this dreaded feeling that may be rushing my elephant a bit...it still needs to "sit" time to grow and deepen.

Anonymous said...

I really liked this post Nai. :)

I think I get plot weeds. They sprout up all over the place in my idea garden, but most of them need to be pulled and thrown in the fire. If they survive the flames and continue to grow, then I'll begin tending them to see if they turn into a flower. :)

Okay, *steps out of symbolic box*

Anonymous said...

*laughs* A fun post, but with substance too. Bonus! :D

I'm going to guess I have plot elephants. I've been working on Out of Darkness on and off for two years. And my next project has been in development on and off for two years. But then this past year, I had a rash of ideas. Hmm...think I need to do some weeding too. ;)

Thanks for posting this, Nai!


Nairam said...

@Josiphine: You are special. ;)

@Amanda: Thankfully, the Quintessence elephant came in the NICK OF TIME for the workshop. O.o It was completely rough though, and I only HAD about 4 pages from chapters 1, 3, and 9. Which is kinda weird. But anyway.

@StoryGirl: I actually can have something like that going on to. I *had* things I worked on between FoL and Quintessence, but they didn't take off like those two did.

@Pippin: You're welcome. It makes me happy to see that I'm not the only one, too! :)

Hannah said...

Hmm...I think I must have Plot Ponies; they come faster than elephants and slower than bunnies.

Nairam said...

Haha. ^.^

Sandy said...

I was thinking of saying what Hannah said :P

I love this analogy. It's perfect.

J V said...

Great post!

Hearing someone like you tell how long it takes you to get an idea on paper makes me feel a whole lot better about how long it's taken me to write my still-unfinished novel.

Keep posting,

("James V" from OYAN)

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