Recycling for Writers


by ARHuelsenbeck


People concerned about the environment strive to reduce waste. As writers, we can do our part as well, to the benefit of the earth and also for a greater return from our labors. Here are some of the ways writers can recycle, repair, repurpose, and reuse.

Reuse and recycle paper. I have a file cabinet full of physical rough drafts. Every so often I go through and reread them. Some are so horrible they go directly into the recycling bin. (Unless only one side of the paper has been used; then it goes into the “use for rough drafts” basket. I also use blank sides to print pieces to bring to my critique group, or grab them when I need scrap paper to write down a brilliant idea before it escapes.)

Recycle empty printer ink cartridges. Some office supply stores will give you a couple of dollars of store credit for each cartridge you turn in for recycling.

Rewrite old pieces that weren’t successful the first time around. Some of my unsold drafts show promise; tightening the writing or tweaking the angle could make them sell.

Give your work new life in a different form. Recently I unearthed some short stories from years ago that I hoped would be bought by a Christian children’s magazine, but weren’t. I rewrote a few as picture books and sent them out to agents.

Develop new skills that will enhance your work. It’s funny—I’ve heard that publishers like to use their own contracted illustrators for picture books; but many agents prefer PB manuscripts from author/illustrators. It’s a paradox. So I’m determined to practice drawing until I’m a decent illustrator. (Something tells me it will be a long journey. . .) If I submit my stories with artwork, maybe agents will recognize their potential.

Resubmit pieces that have been published elsewhere, if your rights allow. When I freelanced in the 1990s, I sometimes sold first rights to one publication and a year later sold reprint rights to another. A friend in my critique group is the Queen of Reprints because she’s a serial submitter—she sends her well-crafted articles to new markets on a regular basis. Each of the projects on our computers (or printed out in physical files) represents many hours of effort. Why limit ourselves to only one payday for all that work? Did one of your books go out of print? Perhaps you can recover your rights (check your contract) and send it out to a new publisher or self-publish. Maybe you’ve written lots of articles or blog posts on a particular topic, or personal experience pieces, that you could collect into book form.

The hours we spend creating are precious. Make them count. We’ve put in our blood, sweat, and tears. Let’s resurrect our works and market them to our advantage for multiple paychecks whenever possible.



Guest post contributed by ARHuelsenbeck. Former elementary general music teacher ARHuelsenbeck blogs about the arts and the creative process at ARHtistic License. She is currently writing a YA mystical fantasy and a Bible study guide, and submitting a poetry chapbook, with mystery and MG drafts waiting in the wings. You can follow her on Twitter, and see some of her artwork, photography, and quilts on Instagram.

8 thoughts on “Recycling for Writers

  1. Recycling for writer is the process of taking waste paper, or paper that would otherwise be thrown out and remaking it into new paper products. Paper that can be used to make recycled paper is broken down into three categories- mill broke, pre-consumer waste, and post-consumer waste. Mill broke paper is paper that becomes scrap during the manufacturing of paper and it is recycled right in the paper mill. Pre-consumer paper waste is papers that were discarded before consumer use. Post-consumer paper waste is papers that were discarded by the consumer after use. Paper that is used in recycling is called scrap paper.


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