Tuesday, June 14

Going Green

Go green.

We hear it all the time.

But what could recycling have to do with writing?

A lot, actually.

We've all heard of the authors who recycle the same old plot over and over. And it generally begins to annoy the hell out of those of us who recognize it. Although the non-writing public doesn't seem to be bothered by the recycled plot.

I'm not talking here, though, about the published author who runs out of stories to tell and cycles a tired plot.

I'm talking about those of us who have yet to sell, and reuse pieces from those old manuscripts.

I'm currently working on a contemporary western, with light suspense. Most of what I've written in the past has been the same, or with more suspense. I've never done it, but I have a place where a previously written love scene would fit perfectly in my current work.

I've never done that before...taken pieces or even chapters from old mss and embedded them in a new work. For a couple of reasons. My writing always evolves. Constantly. I change and grow all the time.

And also because it always felt a little like "cheating" to me. I know, dumb. But to cut pieces out of old mss and use them in a new piece has always felt a little bit wrong.

But I have to wonder if it's actually a "green" thing to do. Most of those mss aren't going anywhere. There are a couple that I could try to get my agent to sell, but most of them are dated now. Would it be so wrong to cut and chop up those old works into something new and viable?

Do you recycle your old, unsold works?

Or do you write completely from scratch?


  1. Since I am new to writing I would say no, but if it is a good scene, I see no reason not to do it. As long as the other book is not going to use it.

    On a different aspect of recycling, I re-use any printer paper in the house. So if one side is blank I am going to use it to print my chapters on or other things I need for writing. I recently printed out an erotic theserus. Later as I was putting it into my notebook I discovered it was on my first graders dino math pages. Not sure other terms for female parts goes with 5+4, but it gave me a good laugh.

  2. I've done it and feel no conflict. Sometimes I even like something so well I repeat it. But then again I regift stuff too. But not to anyone who might read this blog -- Your gifts were well thought out extensions of the love I feel for you. :0))

  3. Hi, D'Ann!

    I can't say I re-use scenes. I'm a very linear writer--if I don't write the scenes in order, they never quite seem to fit together. I have to admit, though, when I was writing historical and archeological sections for environmental impact reports, I plagiarized myself all the time.

    I definitely recycle paper. My critique partners get pages printed on the back of all sorts of things, Amazon receipts, email, order forms, and pages from the previous critique. My Golden Heart entries will keep me in recycled paper for months.

    When my WIP gets marked up so much that I need to reprint it, I'll do it on clean paper, but the old copy will go on the recycle stack.

  4. I've never used entire scenes, but every now and then I actually have some phrasing in there that I'll use. And, sadly enough, reuse. I probably, like Kay, plagiarize myself. That being said, if I had a scene that would work and was never going to see the light of day in the ms. it was in, I'd have no problem using it. Would probably congratulate myself for being so efficient, to tell the truth.

    I find I don't print much anymore. I used to buy a box of paper every year during the holidays--don't know why it worked out that way--and I'm on the third year with this box. I do almost everything on-line. Even the editors I submit to only want electronic submissions. If I need it to sink in, I print it out, but don't usually remember to recycle that paper, though it's a very good idea. Especially GH entries!

    Good post, D'Ann, and interesting thoughts.

  5. Oops! Proofread my comment and screwed up my URL - why do those pesky commas jump off my keyboard and pose as periods?

  6. It isn't something I've done (yet), but it makes sense to me. If it's an old MS that isn't going anywhere and the scene fits in with the new book, why not make those small adjustments and go with it?

  7. Like others have said, if it is a scene from a MS that will never see light, then sure, why not recycle it. I have scenes that I've chopped from my MS and saved because I know with some tweaking they can be used in my up and coming stories. I also write a lot of history on my world. Most won't see the light of day, but some of it can and will be used in future MS's.
    LOL @ Angie. That's funny!!!!

  8. I'd say you could reuse ideas, but not scenes. If the manuscript is buried in the back of a drawer, there's probably a reason.

    Start fresh and revel in the fact that you've grown.

  9. I have recycled one old story. When I re-wrote it, I bolded the parts that I added/changed. When I was done, MOST of the manuscript was bolded! But, I ended up selling that story. It's called Milk Money and it's the second novel in my Chesapeake Weddings romance collection:http://www.christianbook.com/chesapeake-weddings-three-in-one-collections/cecelia-dowdy/9781602608023/pd/608021?item_code=WW&netp_id=636756&event=ESRCN&view=details

    Great question! I'm sure there are lots of writers out there who recycle their works!
    ~Cecelia Dowdy~

  10. This is very interesting! Great way of putting it.

    I don't recycle but I found that in two of my mss the two MCs dealt with the loss of a loved one.

    There are a few similarities but both MCs reacted to it differently.
    Great post!

  11. If the material is taken from unpublished material,and the scene fits, heck yes. Why not?

    And I too ALWAYS use the backs of copy paper for first drafts. Since I can't save on ink, I have to start somewhere.

  12. Although, I don't have many original (non-fan fic stories) currently written--I'm currently working on my 5th--I can say I've done this. Of course with a great deal of editing. And I suppose I ended up plagiarizing myself too...since my Star Wars fan fiction is essentially published on fan sites and is under copyright by my pen name Flowerlady. There's a love scene in my story "A Hunter's Angel" that was completely lifted from a love scene in the non-PG version of my Fan Fic "The Path of Dreams". I've also rehashed a plot, although the end result really is a story all of its own with completely new material... My story "The Long Road Home" is roughly based on another fan fic I wrote a few years ago, "Bless the Broken Road" which was inspired by the Rascal Flatts song of the same title.

    I see no reason not to rehash unsold or even deleted scenes from stories to be used in a new one.

  13. I don't think you should throw out unsold work. Sometimes you can pick up a manuscript and look at it with a critical editor's eyes and see if there's something worth salvaging. You never know. Rewriting is part of the process.

  14. Hi D'Ann~ My creative writing has been in three different genres so, unfortunately, I haven't recycled parts. But I would in a heartbeat. Still, if a scene hasn't been published, I figure it's mine to do with as I please :)

  15. I would recycle an unpubbed scene or line if it worked in another story. I have a mss I know will never see the light of day and I've kept it. It has some usable stuff in it. I also have a folder marked "scrap pile" full of deleted scenes or chapters that can be hacked up to work in a different story.

  16. Thank you, everyone, for your thoughts on recycling old mss, or at least pieces of them. I may chop up some old ones and use those bloody body parts in my new work! LOL.

  17. I don't think I've ever recycled old material, mostly because the stuff I've written is so different one project to the next.

    But,I have files and files of old stuff to cull from if I ever need to.

  18. Interesting topic. I've been putting my backlist up and while working with some 13 so far, I've discovered certain themes/elements that apparently are my constants. This is not recycling or staying with the same story at all, but certain elements I lean to--hadn't a clue. Should have gotten that clue sooner :) I'm putting up a new women's fiction epub, The Basket Maker's Wife, and found some of the elements OUT of my usual romance subgenre.