by The Well-Rounded Writer


So you have a brilliant idea, but things aren’t working out quite the way you expected. Or maybe you are writing an article and want to know how to get the most out of your subject matter. Should you just scrap your idea after one use? In case you couldn’t tell from the title, the answer is “no.” There is more than one way to use an idea and you shouldn’t throw one out until you have examined all the possibilities. So how exactly do you salvage that writing idea and make it reusable? How can you take a good idea that isn’t working and give it some new life? Here are some suggestions for saving those little thought gems from the trash pile and making them reusable.


Change The Format – Poetry, short story, article, etc. By changing the format, you have to change how the idea is written.

Change The Market – Along those same lines is trying to change the market you are selling to. While you obviously would change if you were to switch from writing a novel to writing a poem, it can also mean using the same format but trying to change the market. Do you usually target print publishers? Try submitting to an online publisher. Maybe you could get into ebooks. How about switching categories to make your writing more or less specific?

Change The Genre – By changing the genre, one idea can serve as several different stories. This can also help if you are having writer’s block. Sometimes the mind can be given a jump-start when forced to think about things in a different way. For example an idea like: “a girl goes through a tunnel and…” could change to

  • Horror: a girl goes through a tunnel and finds a serial killer.
  • Fantasy: a girl goes through a tunnel and finds a magical world.
  • Sci-fi: a girl goes through a tunnel and finds an alien portal to another planet.
  • Romance: a girl goes through a tunnel and gets lost, only to be rescued by her soul mate.
    Okay, not brilliant ideas, but you get the point. The basic idea stays the same, even when the specific details change depending on the genre.

Change The Point Of View – From first to third person, or from hero to villain, etc. A story written from the heroine’s point of view will be different from the villain’s, or the hero’s, or that chair in the corner’s point of view. You can have the same story told in different ways, each highlighting what is most important to the “speaking” character. Each is a unique story, depending on who is doing the telling.

Change The Gender – Like changing the point of view, although a little less thorough. You can try changing the genders of characters within your story. We all know guys and girls think differently about certain subjects, and the way they interact with others is different as well. Next time you are stuck and thinking about giving up on an idea, try changing some of your characters and see if it doesn’t make it easier to continue. This can also work with article writing too. If you are writing a gender neutral article, say about a holiday, try making it gender specific. For example, an article titled “How to keep kids safe while trick-or-treating” could be changed to “What single dads should know about trick-or-treating” or “Ideas for women to stay safe during Halloween.”

Change The Character – Another idea related to changing the point of view. How about using your first article or story as a jumping off point for a series? Let’s use the tunnel story above as an example. A girl goes through the tunnel and finds a serial killer. That’s the first story. Now how about writing a story for the detective who rescues her? Or how the serial killer got started? Now instead of one story you have three. In my experience this works especially well in fantasy series, but you can try it no matter what genre or form you are using.

Change The Scope – This is especially useful in article writing as you can use it to help tailor the same basic article to different markets. For example a national or state publication might be interested in the “How to keep kids safe while trick-or-treating” article, but you may have a better shot at selling “The top 5 most common Halloween dangers to kids in ___ city” to a regional publication.

Change The Subject – Another useful idea for article writing. While you keep the same basic idea, you change the focus of the subject just slightly to create a new, but related article. For instance you may first write an article on how tires are made, then surprising uses for tires, then whether the chemicals used in making the tires are too dangerous, and so on, and so on.

Change The Theme – I suppose this is like changing the subject, but this is geared more toward fiction writers. The theme is the underlying message of your story, so changing it slightly will likely result in your changing the story as well. If you change it dramatically, the entire focus of your story should change as well.

Use The Idea As A Brainstorming Starting Point – Probably one of the best reasons to use an idea log and write every idea you have down, good or bad. Seriously, I can not begin to tell you how many times I wrote down a bad idea and then weeks, or months later, it inspires a good idea. It also helps when I think I have a brilliant idea and can come back to it a week later and ask myself what was I thinking? Generally I go through my idea logs every so often, or when I am trying to procrastinate, and see if they spark any new ideas. Usually the answer is yes.

Combine Ideas – Another great use for the idea log! Going back through you may find that two ideas are similar enough that you can mesh them into one. Or that two crappy ideas, when combined, actually form a brilliant idea. Mix and match the obvious and obviously wrong and see if you can’t come up with something new, or at least get a few new ideas.

So there you go. Do you have any other ways to reuse and recycle? Have any of these ideas worked for you?



Guest post contributed by The Well-Rounded Writer. This blogger helps writers by providing advice, resources, and inspiration for writing. It will also focus on various aspects of the writing lifestyle. For more information, check out its website.