Brave New Publishing & Attack of the Feral Plot Bunnies

That rabbit is DYNAMITE!

It’s a Brave New World of Publishing out there. We’re no longer locked into only one path to becoming a professional writer. Yet,  despite all the shinies and tools and gadgets, there are core fundamentals that will remain unchanged.

Humans LOVE a good story. One of the reasons I worked so hard to put together a simple plan for author branding is the writing needs to be paramount. Most writers, no matter which path they choose, do not see success on the first book. A standard tipping point is book THREE.

Many of you are hearing stories of writers-gone-indie who are making a really good living. Most of these authors are comprised of two types of writers:

a) Authors with extensive backlists.

They worked their tails off for years and years and wrote A LOT of books and got the rights back to those old titles. Time didn’t change the fact that these were still really good stories. But, reality dictates that B&N can only shelve so many books. 

But note, these authors already put in YEARS of sweat-equity. They are reaping NEW harvest from older works.

b) Authors who work hard and write their tails off and write A LOT of books.

Indie authors Amanda Hocking, John Locke, Aaron Patterson, etc. didn’t see success with Book One. They wrote their tails off and built up a tremendous amount of potential energy. Thus, when word-of-mouth ignited? These authors enjoyed the benefits of compounded sales. They didn’t write ONE book and then beat others to death marketing it.

How To Be Successful in the New Paradigm

Regardless which publishing path you choose, writers have to learn to write good books at a professional pace. Yes, sure it took six years to write that first book, but what if NY loves it and hands you a three-book deal? Are they going to give you 18 years to complete your obligation?

Without certain fundamental skills, it’s easy to get lost in a labyrinth of plot bunnies…bunnies that, over time, turn feral. Plot bunnies, like real bunnies, multiply like CRAZY if left untended.

Our stories can get so complicated we need a team of sherpas and a GPS to locate our original idea. This wastes time and makes it hard to keep writing more books. Thus, to combat this, writers must:

Learn to Develop a Bad Situation into a Solid Core Story Problem

The best way to combat feral plot bunnies is to truly understand the antagonist. What are the different types of antagonists? How do we use them to generate page-turning tension and thus keep the bunnies at bay?

Most new writers don’t properly understand the antagonist, yet the antagonist is the reason for the story problem which must be solved by Act III. If the core is weak, the rest of the story will be flawed. I watch writers rework the same book year after year after year and yet, I can tell in five minutes what the problem is.

No core antagonist. No clear story problem. Ripe breeding ground for plot bunnies.

This is why a lot of writers want to throw up in their shoes when faced with having to pitch an agent.

Lack of a core story problem makes it impossible to generate true dramatic tension, thus what we are left with is drama’s inbred cousin, melodrama.

Plot bunnies LOVE melodrama.

Problem is, we aren’t taught to write commercial fiction in school and so we have options:

  • Read a bazillion books. Read so much story structure is practically embedded in our DNA.
  • Read a bazillion books then write a bazillion books (most of them bad) and then finally write enough books we stop sucking.
  • Read a lot, write a lot, read craft books and get some training in commercial fiction.
  • Read a lot, write a lot, read craft books, break apart movies, go to conferences/critique groups and get some training in how to write good fiction

Notice there aren’t a lot of shortcuts. I was bummed too.

Most of us begin a book with a fuzzy idea, a scene and then we take off writing (Hey, I did it, too). Okay, but I want to make you aware that the story problem must be proportionate to the size of the work. Sometimes we do have a story problem, but it just isn’t strong enough to be a foundation for an entire novel. We have to get good at learning to:

  • Formulate interesting story problems.
  • Develop the core problem until it is strong enough to support a novel.
  • Make sure the problem is clear and actionable.
  • Learn to layer the problem to sustain dramatic tension.

When you get good at spotting good ideas and then developing that idea into something that can make an interesting novel, your writing will be leaner, meaner and faster. You will be able to write multiple books because you won’t be duct-taped in Act II by a hoard of rabid plot bunnies.

To help you guys, I am offering a class to train you to understand the antagonist and create solid plot problems quickly and easily.  As a gift to you, I am offering a 15% discount Wana15. Class is July 23 and in our WANA International Digital Classroom. I know it took me years and a lot of pain, heartache and cookie dough to grasp the concepts I will be teaching in this class.

Regardless the publishing path we choose, we need to be experts at our craft. My goal and WANA’s goal is to give you what you need to be successful.

So, are you being held hostage by feral plot bunnies? Are you stuck? Can’t seem to make it past a certain point in your novel? Is your work getting rejected and you’re unsure how to change it to make it work?

I love hearing from you!

To prove it and show my love, for the month of July, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.

NOTE: My prior two books are no longer for sale, but I am updating them and will re-release. My new book, Rise of the Machines–Human Authors in a Digital World is NOW AVAILABLE. 

I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novelor your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).

Right now, I am flattened with a cold or flu or something that just makes me want to crawl off into a dark place and die, so I will announce last month’s winners sometime this week.

And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.

At the end of July I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!


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  1. Feel better, Kristen. Love the Plot Bunnies!

  2. Sometime wish there was a shortcut, but writing and rewriting helps to polish my craft. 😀

  3. Finger’s crossed. Book four hit the digital book store this past May and will hit the rolling book store (a.k.a. my trunk) this month. lol. I’ve produced a book a year since 2008. Is this still too slow? I write in the fall, edit in the winter, rewrite and edit again, then publish in the spring. Summer is mostly the little bit of promotions / marketing I know how to do. Any tweaks to the process you’d recommend would be greatly appreciated :-).

    • Lanette Kauten on July 2, 2013 at 11:02 am
    • Reply

    Ahhh… The bunny at the top of the blog is cute.

    Several people I know have been attacked by this cold all at once. It hits hard, but fortunately, it ends quickly. Be better soon.

    Also, I shared this blog post on Twitter.

  4. OK, OK. You made me add two more points to my Beta readers’ checklist…

  5. Hey Kristen, hope you feel better. Quick question – says here the class is July 27, but the course listing on the WANA site says July 23. Which is it?

    1. The 23rd. I am blogging with the flu. My brains are scrambled. Will correct.

  6. Hope you feel better Kristen. And thanks for the post. Awesome advice.

  7. A very good post as usual! I am certainly glad I found your blog! Thanks Kristen!!!

  8. Thanks for putting your finger on the pulse of the problem with my current book.

  9. Thank you for the reminder to keep pursuing the vision–by reading, writing, and doing all I can to learn the craft and hone my work so it shines. You’re right–there are no shortcuts. Hope you’re feeling better soon. God bless!

  10. You’ll be better in no time at all woman. Take good care of yourself with plenty of orange juice and rest. Love ya!

  11. I follow a good number of blogs, but I glean the most useful info from yours! Probably because I’m nearly done with my WIP, and went back to write a “real” Chapter 1 that focused the plot and established a strong antagonist (or so I think!), so this article is timely. I happened to write most of the story with a basic plot: revenge for a murder, and as I added characters and background, I was able to formulate a proper Chapter 1 and made a clear and concise story problem that brings the rest of the story into better focus. It’s all a learning process, and something I’ll try and set out to do earlier because as you said…with the central plot problem in hand, it’s easier to write the story!

  12. Hope you feel better soon! Thank you for blogging in spite of being sick! 😀 Your words are invaluable. 😀

  13. Feel better soon. We need you at you best.

    • Kristen Johnson on July 2, 2013 at 2:19 pm
    • Reply

    I’ve recently realized plot bunnies are a huge problem for me. When explaining my story to a writing mentor, she said, “Your story is so complicated, *you* don’t even remember what happens.” Oh, the agony. Thank you for this post. Perfect timing.

    • Lalo on July 2, 2013 at 2:36 pm
    • Reply

    You just keep coming with fantastic blog posts. I’m a new writer, new to fiction, anyway, and I find your posts to be very helpful. And they’re free. It’s amazing!

    1. Thank you and happy you’re here *hugs*

  14. I feel confident the plot for my current WIP, which will be my first attempt to be published is strong enough. I know three book trilogies are popular and I have the basic outline for a good one, but I am concentrating on getting the first manuscript done before I commit any of my limited time to the second, much larger project. What is your opinion of the speech recognition programs like Dragon for getting rough ideas into the computer. I find the time to write is hard to come by. I wonder if I might be able to accomplish more with the software. I know it is not intended for fine editing, but just so I can get ideas recorded.

      • Jennifer Rose on July 2, 2013 at 3:41 pm
      • Reply

      If you don’t mind me chiming in, the voice recognition on the iPhones are pretty good. So, you could download an app to make notes on. Then you would be able to take down ideas wherever you go! There’s even a Dragon iPhone app. (I don’t know about Androids because the voice recognition isn’t so good on my Samsung, but it was on my old iphone….) Good luck! 🙂

  15. Good eNewsletter!

  16. Hope you feel better soon hun xx

  17. If you hadn’t said you were sick, I wouldn’t have known. More power to you. 😉 Get well; this flu stuff zaps energy right out of you.

  18. Kristen, hope you feel better quickly. Thanks for another great post.

  19. Kristen, get well soooooon!!!
    And I LOVE the feral plot bunny (he looks more like a zombie and I’m loving zombies right now)
    Realizing and executing the core story problem is paramount!!! I’m not normally held hostage by the FPB. I kick their butts like a boss…and I owe a lot of that butt kicking prowess to you!

    As always, thank you for your wisdom.
    Have a great evening,

  20. Great Blog Kristen, book three will be going up in August. I’ll watch out for those: wascally wabbits wuining writer’s works.

  21. Hope you feel better soon and I thank you for your posting efforts while ill. The post was up to your usual high standard.

    My plot bunnies, though melodramatic, are also cute so I keep them in a hutch in the backyard. I’ve written books before, but never published them because they were little more than carrots looking for bunnies. Now I keep cougars in the house and they’re lean and mean and know how to keep me on the straight and narrow. My present WIP will see its day in the light, but for now it’s my training ground. If it doesn’t sell then that’s more learning. I love what I do and that’s a gift I won’t disparage.

  22. Excellent points Kristen!I’m just about to have Book I professionally edited and will decide from there which path I will pursue. I will definitely keep these things in mind! Feel better! 🙂

  23. Reblogged this on Conservative Calmversation.

  24. Feral plot bunnies. Oh, I love it.

    • Aerisa on July 3, 2013 at 4:52 am
    • Reply

    Great tips 🙂

  25. Feral plot bunnies – lol it gave me flashbacks to one part of Zork…

    Well, as you may (or may not) know, I’ve for the moment moved away from most active story/book-writing, to focus on game design. However, I’ve noticed that yeah, I need a ton of writing even now (especially since my games are and will be based on my stories and books – and worlds I’ve created. So it’d be interesting to me to see what you thought of one of them, yeah, if I won:)

  26. “Notice there aren’t a lot of shortcuts. I was bummed too.” Lol! I’ve said this to people who asked me about writing and getting published! I’d say something about great minds but I don’t want to bring you down to my level.

  27. I’m definitely with you on the need for a strong antagonist. I had the hardest time figuring out my story problem and plot– stuff just happened because the plot demanded it. And then I finally changed the real identity of my villain, and everything clicked into place. And I mean everything.

  28. NOOOOOOO! Whyyy oh why must the class be two weeks before I get home T_T
    Great post. Can you recommend a craft book on antagonists?
    It’s funny, the most extensive reader I know is my mother. She reads anything, any genre. but she has no concept of story. When I ask her what a story is about she just can’t give a summary even if her life depended on it. When I ask her “what’s the goal? Who wants what?” she cannot give an answer.
    And I wonder where I got my writing skills from …

  29. Get well soon Kristen! I love your blog!

  30. Love, love, love this post. So sorry you aren’t feeling well, and I hope you haven’t gotten some cyborg virus.
    I am copying the link to this post and will be sharing it with the writer’s group when we have our discussion of antagonists next week. Going to check on your workshop also… I love antagonists and it sure sounds interesting if I can dig up the $ for it.
    Thanks Kristen. Feel better soon.

    • Rose on July 10, 2013 at 12:17 am
    • Reply

    Lots of food for thought here! Lettuce, carrots, radishes. I hope there aren’t too many fp bunnies running around my novel. I will have to look into this!

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