Come on, Writers, R-E-C-Y-C-L-E, Recycle!

Saturday, April 15, 2017
So I needed to clean out my fridge and boy, do I get annoyed with myself when I waste food! But at least, I thought, I can recycle all these containers. Which of course made me think of the Recycle song, and as I hummed that catchy little tune, lo and behold, I knew what I had to write about today.


Not the trash kind—though that’s super important—but the writer kind of recycling. And I’m not talking about selling reprints of articles—though that’s certainly an important marketing strategy for your work—but some of the less obvious ways to r-e-c-y-c-l-e, recycle.

Recycling Research

Whether you’re writing a novel, story, or article, there’s a good chance that you’ve done your research. Maybe you know everything there is to know about the Salem Witch trials because of that historical fiction you just finished. Or perhaps you’ve taught yourself semaphore, a system of sending messages with flags, for that non-fiction article you pitched to a children’s magazine. You’ve done all this work, and now it’s time for that research to work for you.

Sift through all those details for something intriguing; it may even be something you never used, or something unrelated to its original use. That information about the witch trials could very well turn into an article relating to geography, biology, or medicine. And all that research on semaphore could signal an interesting twist in a cozy mystery.

Divide and Recycle

And what about that novel or story that has too much information? It’s tempting, when you find fascinating facts, to cram it all into your writing. But too much information, even when it’s fascinating, can weigh down your words. The obvious solution is to pull out the extraneous bits. Those extra bits of information might be able to stand on their own as an article, and even better, you’ve already done the vetting.

The same goes for that fifth subplot in your novel that’s making your pacing plod along. An interesting yet unnecessary subplot might be a darn good short story that could sell on its own.

Recycle The Rejects

Just like I clean out my fridge every once in a while, it’s a good idea to go through your reject files. Because unlike my fridge rejects that absolutely must go straight to the trash, you might just find a treasure amongst your writing.

Now, it’s very possible that the treasure is not going to be staring back at you, all sparkling and bright. But what is possible is that you are going to skim an article or story and suddenly see, as bright as day, why it didn’t sell when you first sent it out in the world. Do your revisions and recycle it!

So there you have it, writers. R-E-C-Y-C-L-E, recycle! (Well, now I just have to share the Recycle song from Rocko’s Modern Life…

Cathy C. Hall is a kidlit author and humor writer. She's busy right now, checking her files for writing she can recycle. She'll let you know how that works out!


Sioux Roslawski said...

Cathy--This was a "duh" moment when I read your post, because I never thought about using research and sifting through it to find something else to write about.

Have a great rest of the weekend, Cathy. And since tomorrow's Easter, you should eat some chocolate eggs or a bunny--a solid one. ;)

Cathy C. Hall said...

Thanks, Sioux, I might eat more than one (the chocolate kind, that is)!

Mary Horner said...

Love this reminder that we don't always need to reinvent the wheel! I've used my NaNoWriMo writing that was sort of stream of consciousness in another piece that helped explain character motivation. I've also used some of my old, short poems as stanzas in new, longer poems!

Debra Mayhew said...

I'm with Sioux on this one! It's nice to know those little bits that don't fit in a larger work might be able to stand alone. It reminds me of the time I brought a picture book ms to critique and was told it wasn't really a picture book, but could very well be a children's poem. Always fun to see things from a new perspective!

Linda O'Connell said...

I have taken your words to heart and just fattened up a poem, which is now a piece of women's creative non fiction, and it's looking for a home. Thanks for the great tip. Eat more chocolate!

Donna Volkenannt said...

Good advice, Cathy. Thanks for broadening my thinking on recycling. Now I'm thinking my fridge needs cleaning.

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