Monday, June 14, 2010

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

After our pastor’s sermon on the faulty thinking of the “save the planet” slogan (only Christ can save the planet, after all), I debated about the wisdom of this title! But it still captures what I want to say today.

Over the years, writers tend to pile story/article ideas, partially finished manuscripts, rejected manuscripts ... we need more and more space (whether digital or physical) to keep track of our writing family.

What can we do with the growing junk pile? Recycle it.

The “reduce” rule would make an excellent topic for a post on writing tight ... I’ll save that for another day.

But ... reuse and recycle. Those both apply to our “leftovers.”

Reuse I think of in terms of research. Some people have made a career out of writing about the same setting (time, place, and/or culture). Beverly Lewis and Wanda Brunstetter and their Amish books come to mind, although both women have written books in other genres as well. I belong to a marketing group that started among writers committed to American history 1860-1876, Civil War through Reconstruction.

The same time period is the setting for two of my published books as well as a third that an editor has expressed interest in. I keep reusing my understanding of the Year of No Summer in new ways. (Beacon of Love and Bridge to Love)

Researched a story about storm chasers that didn’t sell as a romance? How about reworking it as suspense? A contemporary novella I proposed about a fire in Mesa Verde National Park has morphed into a historical novel about a film producer filming the Anasazi ruins at Mesa Verde.

Use topics you researched in depth for publicity. Offer yourself as a speaker on that topic. Blog about it. Write articles. I wrote an article on witnessing to Buddhists which involved a lot of research. I used and expanded that research to write a second article on a biblical view of reincarnation. (Both articles sold.)
  • Your assignment: Find a story you have written and/or sold. How can you use the same information you accumulated during writing that book in a new and different way

Reprints. If you write articles and short stories, keep looking for places to sell reprint rights. My short story The Ultimate Survivor has appeared in three separate places.

Rewrite. Write on the same topic with a slightly different slant. I wrote three articles on using “the arts” in children, one for a parenting magazine and two for teaching magazines.

Prolong. If you’ve written a stand alone, and a publisher wants a series, find a character (or characters) that demand their own story. That’s what I did with my first book, Romanian Rhapsody: Carrie’s best friend Michelle will have her own romance in Plainsong.

  • Your assignment: Think of a character from one of your books who could be the center of another story; or research ways to resell or rewrite articles you’ve already sold once.

Reminder: For an opportunity to win one of my books (as well as books by Susan Page Davis and Karen Witemeyer), please leave one or more comments on my blog during the month of June.


  1. Great advice, Darlene. Thank you for sharing this! I have plenty of research to use! :-)

  2. Good post. And thanks for the ideas. :)

  3. Hi, Sandi, Carole! Thanks for stopping by. Sandi, you certainly have LOTS of research.

  4. Thanks for the encouragement, Darlene. I have some devotionals I may recycle someday if I ever establish a website. Something to keep in mind.

  5. Bonnie, you do that ... sometimes the same event can spark multiple devotion ideas as well. Go for it!