Plot Bunnies, Rabbit Trails, Distractions, and Doubt: The writer’s life

My guest today is Christa MacDonald, who really tells it like it is. Real, and honest. This truly is the writer’s life.

Christa MacDonald is a 2017 Carol Award finalist for contemporary Christian fiction. When not working or writing Christa can be found ferrying her kids around, reading, gardening, or attempting something crafty. She and her family live along the coast of New England. Connect with Christa at

Christa MacDonald’s book is The Broken Trail
Smart, successful education consultant Katherine Grant travels to a rural Maine town to help turn around the local Christian private school and ends up locking horns with the town’s police captain.

Here’s what Christa has to say about the life of a writer:

Writing is a funny occupation. It requires both wild imagination and sober diligence to complete a book. A novel often starts with the spark of an idea. Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of the Anne of Green Gables books, got her idea from a news article about an elderly couple who were to adopt a boy from an orphanage, but were sent a girl by mistake. That was all it took to get her mind churning. Any author might have a flash of interest when they read something or are hit by an idea like a bolt out of the blue, but the difference between a creative person with a lot of good ideas and an author is…wait for it…hard work.

Disappointing, isn’t it? I didn’t say the best writing software or plotting outline system, free time, or even tasty snacks because, while those things can help, they can’t replace the discipline of putting one’s backside on the chair and one’s fingers on the keyboard/pen. There are a million ways to write a book, but they all boil down to one word after the other until the end is written. That being said, I’ve found several things that really work when taking that spark of an idea and turning it into a bonfire of a novel.

A good outline can save a work in progress from the the terror of rabbit trails. A rabbit trail starts off as a the idea for a secondary plot, but it’s so unwieldy that it ends up hopping around uselessly until entire thousands of words need to be ruthlessly cut or the whole novel is shelved. If you start with an outline, you’ll spot these a mile off. No secondary plot that does not serve the primary plot deserves to be in the book.

A member of the rabbit trail family is the plot bunny. This is a bright little idea that hops up and down for attention. They have nothing to do with the work in progress, but are novel, and so enticing. The best method to deal with them is to write them down in another doc or on an index card and file for a later date.

Distractions of every sort will pop up while writing. Sometimes they’re cute, small humans that demand dinner or tall, loud ones that wonder if the laundry’s been turned over because they need a white shirt for tomorrow’s…whatever. Life intrudes. It’s okay. Feed the kids, turn over the laundry, and then get back to it.

Distraction’s evil cousin is doubt. Every single author… Ahem, let me say that a little louder…EVERY. SINGLE. AUTHOR deals with doubt. Critique partners, especially ones that are willing to be candid, are the best antidote to doubt. A writer’s group is great for this as well. Feedback is the key here, but be prepared to be both uplifted and devastated because positive feedback is necessary for killing doubt, but constructive feedback is needed to improve.

Writing is an odd occupation. It has such a duality to it. Books are written in solitude, but they communicate to the wide world. Authors write to reach as many readers as possible, but spend hours alone to do it. We most often read to ourselves, immersed in a world with a crowd of characters while sitting alone. When someone reads a book I’ve written they’re essentially listening to me tell a story and chances are we’ll never meet. I hope I get to meet as many readers as possible. Fair warning in case we meet, I will probably smile too much and talk too fast. The very first reading I did, I forgot to take the gum out of my mouth and read so fast one attendee swore that she could only catch every third word.

One last piece of advice to combat bunnies and dark thoughts alike: the world needs stories, especially ones that shine light into the shadowy places. We need authors brave enough to write the truth with a capital T. It might be a hard slog, but the write life is worth the effort.