I’m very keen on green living. And it seems to me that the three tenets of living in harmony with the environment are just as relevant to the writer at large. Let’s say them together: REUSE, REDUCE and RECYCLE.
No good idea lives but once and every technique learned should be applied where it’s applicable. ‘Show don’t tell’ is a good example – a mantra to be intoned daily and not treated as a helium balloon that’s treasured once and then released.
My theory of the week is that every good piece of non-fiction (and maybe fiction too?) should have three specific uses.
1. You should get paid for it.
2. You should use it as a showcase example of your work, referring to it in a CV or resume (for our American writer friends present), on a blog or in pitch letters.
3. If the rights have lapsed, you should look for other markets for the same piece or for an abbreviated version of it.
Cut away the deadwood, prune back the adverbs, similes (guilty as charged) and strip aside anything that doesn’t add value to your work in progress, whether it’s an article, a short story or a novel. When it comes to the edit, less is more. And while we’re reducing, work on eliminating the time wasters and distractions that prevent you from reaching your writing goals. Some blogs don’t count!
Just as aluminium cans can be made into new cans and a jar can live again as another jar or a bottle, so a good piece of writing can be reincarnated in different ways. If it’s non-fiction, it can be rewritten in a different style, with a fresh angle or for an entirely new market.
The original piece may also be a jumping off point for completely new work. If you’re stuck for ideas, go back through your work folder and see if there are any glaring unanswered questions. Get inspired by your own work.
An example of my own, which I may have commented on in the past (see, I’m recycling already!) relates to comedy writing. I answered an ad in Private Eye and that led to writing gags, sketches and songs for The Treason Show. That gig led me to me writing for The News Revue. I then tried to branch out into TV and corresponded with two producers. It didn’t work out but I got some radio work as a non-commissioned writer and since then I’ve done a little more on BBC Radio. Needless to say, any ideas that didn’t work for one outlet were soon reworked to make them suitable for one of the others.