Reuse and Recycle

by Tanya Lloyd Kyi
FiresWe all have the same complaints. Newspapers are regurgitating content. Editors are reusing tired articles. Publishers are recycling old ideas.

But while we writers and readers continue to push for great content, we can also steal a page from the publishing playbook. Why not see how many ways we can reuse our own ideas and our own content? How many mediums can one idea span, and how many projects can one research session feed? After all, it’s the research that takes so much time. The more ideas we can spin from it, the more profitable writing becomes.

Traditionally, a writer pens a feature article with enough material left over – and enough reader interest – to birth a book. But with today’s array of media forms and contraction of publishing empires, we should be pitching new takes on old material. Or pounding on the doors to even more genres. With some extra information, a radio documentary becomes a series of articles. Pick the most interesting points, and it’s perfect for a children’s magazine. Offer a behind-the-scenes look at the idea’s germination, it becomes a workshop at a writers conference. The left-over bits? Blog posts.

In 2004, I wrote a children’s book about famous fires. At my publisher’s prompting, I took my background research and created an information book about fire. Then I cut the text and reduced the reading level. The publisher added illustrations, and it became a book for younger children. That book sparked a series of four more. Together, the stories from those books became both a paid presentation for elementary school students and a workshop for beginning writers. I think I’m done writing about fire now… but you never know.

Too often, we get caught in our love of a specific genre, or our own definitions of ourselves, and fail to see new opportunities and new audiences for our work.

Having a steady supply of ideas is an essential part of freelance writing. And so is pushing those ideas to their limits.


Tanya Lloyd Kyi is a Vancouver children’s writer. Her most recent book is Anywhere But Here (Simon & Schuster). 


Posted on November 15, 2013 at 9:05 am by editor · · Tagged with: , , ,

Leave a Reply