Friday, August 15, 2014

Life Lessons—How to Deal with Rabbit Holes when You're Writing

by Bruce Brady @BDBrady007

Curiouser and curiouser!

This is how Alice described her experience in Wonderland, and it's my reaction when I realize I'm writing myself down a rabbit hole.

I used to get frustrated, delete my work and start over. Now, I've learned to step back and ask my inner helper what I should do. More often than not, the answer I get shows me how the seeming rabbit hole actually fits the story by reminding me of Psalm 77:19 which tells how God led the Israelites through the Red Sea, "...a pathway no one knew was there."

Frequently, my inner guide helps me weave a better story than if I just forged ahead without paying heed. Of course, this means the occasional rewrite of portions of my story, but the end result is worth the extra effort.
Sometimes, however, that quite gentle voice urges me to scrap my WIP (Work In Progress) and write about the same subject from a different angle. This actually enhances the story. Other times, I’m lead to write about something entirely different, which, as evidenced by comments I receive, usually reaches people at a time when they needed to hear this new subject.

In every case, the real lesson is patience. 

If, like me, you prefer being in control, then patience doesn't come easy. My natural reaction to a roadblock is to push through it and do things my way. But stepping away and listening to your inner spirit will usually lead to a better result than the alternative.

The next time you catch yourself heading down a rabbit hole, push yourself away from your keyboard, pen or recorder, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, and ask your guiding spirit to give you the words or direction you should take. Instead of seeing rabbit holes as negatives, see them as points of thought that when pondered can produce improvements to your work that will better help your readers understand your message or story. Even better, see them as friends who want to help you increase your readership.

So I'm curious. How do you deal with your rabbit holes?

Don't forget to join the conversation!


Curiouser and Curiouser - tips to deal with those writing rabbit holes - via @BruceDBrady on @EdieMelson (Click to Tweet)

Bruce Brady is an author, writer and playwright. His work has appeared in Focus on the Family’s Thriving Family,, and on stage. Currently, Bruce is working on a Young Adult Novel about a boy who must deal with the death of his dad, being bullied, and helping his mom through her grief. His first five pages took third place in the ACFW South Carolina Chapter’s “First Five Pages” contest.

When he’s not writing, Bruce spends time learning from and helping other writers. He serves as Mentor of Word Weavers International’s Online Chapter, and as a member of Cross ‘N’ Pens, The Writer’s Plot, ACFW’s National and South Carolina Chapters.

“My dream is to entertain my readers and give them hope as they travel the rocky road of life.”

Connect with Bruce on his blog, The Write VoyageFacebookTwitterGoogle+, and Pinterest.


  1. Hi Bruce,
    Thanks for this post. When I find myself in a rabbit hole, it's usually because my characters took me there. What I've learned to do is follow it for a while and see where it leads. On a rare occasion, it's been to a dead end. But, very frequently, it leads to a better story than I originally intended. I guess you could say I've learned to embrace the rabbit hole but not marry it. Even if I end up scrapping it, it has taught me something about my characters, the story world, or the plot that I can use. Rabbit holes have also helped make me a better writer and to trust my characters and the boys in the basement.

    1. Thanks Henry. Although new to novel writing, I'm learning what you have discovered. I think it makes writing more exciting. However, it's more difficult to tell people what your story is about.

  2. Depends - I'm writing a memoir. Some of my rabbit holes move the story forward and add depth. Others are nice memories, but don't serve the main theme. When I get blocked in my editing, it usually means the rabbit hole isn't useful to this story. I keep a deleted file folder on my computer and the scenes that are unnecessary rabbit holes are put there so that I can maybe use them later on.

    1. Thanks Heather. I've not been saving my deletes. I'll start doing that.