Recycling Ideas

I try to recycle. I bring my paper, bottles & cans down to the recycling bins in the basement of my building. I attend clothing swaps—shedding what I’m not wearing and getting the rejects from other women’s closets. (Swaps are a great clothing recycling idea.) I even bring my lemon peels, apple cores & egg shells to the composting stall at the Union Square Farmers Market.

But the recycling that is dearest to my writer’s heart is the recycling of story ideas. I’m not referring to “borrowing” a gambit or a mysterious red herring from other writers, or simply riffing on the classics—a favorite preoccupation of mine in my Monsters series—no I’m talking about recycling my own ideas. Reading an old, and less than satisfying, short story I wrote years ago and reworking the essence into something completely different and, I hope, better.

I’ve done this a few times and always with some level of success. It’s as if the idea was good, but not ripe enough OR it was ripe and I tackled it too soon. In a sense, I was simply not old enough, or wise enough, or experienced enough to give the idea its due.

There’s a novel that I have written and rewritten a few times over a period of years. I may try again—one more time. Of course, the last two times I said, “this is it and no more,” but I think the basic story has merit. It’s the voice that isn’t quite there. Will I ever be old, wise and experienced, enough to bring it to life? For now, I’ll be happy about the success I’ve had recycling short story ideas.

Have you had similar experience? I’m curious about other writers doing what many of us call “shopping in our closets” only we’re on the hunt for stories and not something to wear to a party.

Recycling in the basement of my building in NYC.

Recycling in the basement of my building in NYC.


  1. I had a eureka moment the other day with Lost Girl Road. It’s been two years since I even looked at it, but a big part of its many problems was POV. That tendency to want to get everything in can be such a killer.

    • Candy Korman

      Trying to do it all, to tell the entire story, or to cram everything into the introductory pages… That’s a novel killer, right there.

      The POV is always key and it’s the thing that inspired me to keep trying with the novel in question. Will I try again? That’s the question now.

  2. Loved this post. 🙂 I have a folder full of story ‘ideas’, and in fact, one of the short stories in the Vintage Egg was an offshoot from the first novel I never came near to finishing. Then Innerscape grew out of that short story.

    I have to say that neither the short, nor the novel are anything like what I had originally, but the world I created way back then did provide a jumping off place for both.

    Maybe the novel you aren’t happy with needs to be approached from a different angle/perspective?

    • Candy Korman

      No doubt about it, the NOVEL needs a new angle. But after multiple tries, when do you give up?

      In the meantime, I recycle, rewrite and find inspiration in far-from-perfect stories I’ve written along the way…