Friday, January 17, 2014

Reuse! Recyle!

Carol Cox

By Carol Cox 

Hi there! I’m delighted to be joining you on Seekerville today, and many thanks to Mary for inviting me here. What a great way to kick off the new year!

Speaking of which, I love the chance to feel like I’m making a new start every January. It always inspires me to become more organized, so I’ve been going through the house, looking for things I no longer need. When I got to my closet, I didn’t have to look hard. There are several items there that just aren’t as cute as I thought  they were when I bought them. Others have mysteriously shrunk over the past year (an odd occurrence I notice from time to time).  And that creates a dilemma, since I hate the idea of throwing perfectly usable clothes away. But just because I can’t wear them right now, it doesn’t mean they can’t be used elsewhere, so they’re packed and ready to make the trip to our local clothing recycling bin. It’s easier to let go when I know these former favorites can still be put to use.

I’ve faced the same dilemma when it comes to writing. Remember the tip: “Kill your darlings”? No, that does not give authors license to run about spreading mayhem. It speaks to the difficulty of being objective about our writing, something almost impossible to do when we’re so deeply connected with all those scenes, characters, and carefully-honed paragraphs. But often, some of those will need to be pared back—or cut entirely—for the good of the story as a whole.

Sometimes an editor will spot the problem and request those cuts. Other times, the author realizes that surgical removal is necessary, however painful it will be. And it’s a painful process, no doubt about it. (Do I hear any “amens” out there?)

So what do you do when a favorite part of a scene…or a whole scene…or an entire subplot winds up on the cutting room floor?

First of all, you do NOT highlight the offending passage and press Delete. Not only will you feel like you’ve just ripped your own heart out, those ideas will be gone forever, and there’s a very good chance you’ll be able to put them to good use somewhere else. Instead, why not create your own “recycling bin” for ideas that aren’t working right now?

The seeds of this concept were planted years ago, when I was trying to sell a novella. I’d already published a couple by then and knew I enjoyed working with this shorter form. When a different publisher started a line of novella collections, it seemed like a great opportunity to branch out a bit. So I worked hard on making that story a perfect fit for them. I researched the publisher’s guidelines, read and analyzed as many of their novellas as I could get my hands on, polished the story until it gleamed, and carried it to the Post Office to send it on its way (this was in the days of snail mail submissions). Then I waited. But not for very long, because a rejection came zipping back at roughly the speed of light.

I looked down at the poor, rejected novella in my hands. I’d given it my absolute best shot, but it wasn’t good enough. Heartbroken, I was sorely tempted to run the pages through the shredder (paper submissions, remember?) and try to put the painful incident out of my mind. But then I heard the company that had already published my novellas planned to put together another collection. The stories would be centered around a theme that was a perfect match for the novella I’d just written. Oh, happy day!

I packaged up a fresh copy and sent it off, secure in the knowledge that this was the home intended for that story all long. I relaxed and waited for the acceptance letter…which never came. What did show up in my mailbox was another rejection letter. Grabbing a bar—okay, maybe two—of chocolate, I holed up in my office, ready to head for the shredder again.

Instead, I decided to set the story aside for a while. I loved that story, I really did. Everything about it: the hero and heroine, the quirky secondary characters, the setting, and the plot. What a shame to have to say goodbye to something that held such a special place in my heart!

The more I dwelt on those characters and their situation, the more I realized I wanted to tell more of their story. Sometimes adding extra words only amounts to…extra words. But in this case, writing it in a longer format would let me add details and nuances that would enrich the story, not just pad it with fluff.

So that’s what I did. I had a ball rewriting and shaping it into a full-length book. When I finished it and sent it out yet again, the second publisher who rejected it as a novella snapped it up. The book, Season of Hope, did fairly well on its own, then it was picked up for a collection of stories by several authors. Then it was used again in an omnibus with three of my other books, which did quite well sales-wise. If I had “succeeded” with that first submission, that story would have lived a brief life as a novella then faded away once the collection went out of print. But by being kept around and “recycled,” it has reached far more readers than it would have in its original form.

That lesson—not letting go of an idea, but finding a way to repurpose it—has served me well throughout my writing career.  I’ve set up a Recycle file on my laptop just for passages and scenes that need to be cut along the way. It’s far easier to remove them from the story when I know aren’t gone forever, but are waiting for chance to be used to best advantage.

I had a chance to put the idea into practice again recently when I was working on “No Match for Love,” my novella in the compilation A Match Made in Texas, along with fellow authors Mary Connealy, Karen Witemeyer, and Regina Jennings. I wrote a scene that brought the story to a rousing climax—a scene involving a desperate search, a deadly storm, and a heroic rescue.

It was vivid, it was exciting, and I loved it…maybe a little too much. Remember what I said about being too close to your story to be able to see it clearly? When the revision letter came, my editor tactfully pointed out that while the storm scene provided good action, it didn’t tie in well with the rest of the events in the story.

And she was right. After reading the story again, I could see exactly what she meant. That’s one of the many reasons good editors are worth their weight in gold. They have a gift for seeing a story from an objective point of view and discerning what works and what doesn’t.

Ah, well…back to the drawing board! I wrote another climactic scene, one that carried the story along more effectively, and one I believe provides even more emotional impact.

What happened to that storm scene? It’s tucked away in the Recycle file on my laptop, ready to be used in some future work. And it was far less painful cutting it from my novella knowing I hadn’t thrown it out into the great void of cyberspace.

So when you have to part company with a secondary character who’s trying to take over the protagonist’s story, or say goodbye to a delightful subplot that does nothing to move your story ahead, or trim a heartbreaking amount of prose because you’ve exceeded your word count, take heart! Instead of losing those gems forever, keep them tucked away in a safe place, just waiting for the moment when you find a place to let them shine in their own right.
Now, because we've given away several copies of A Match Made in Texas here on Seekerville, Carol is going to change things up today and, if you leave a comment, you'll get your name in the drawing for a copy of her book Trouble in Store.
Historical Suspense and Romance
in the Wild West

Fired from her most recent governess position, Melanie Ross must embrace her last resort: the Arizona mercantile she inherited from her cousin. But Caleb Nelson is positive he inherited the mercantile, and he's not about to let some obstinate woman with newfangled ideas mess up all he's worked for. He's determined to get Melanie married off as soon as possible, and luckily there are plenty of single men in town quite interested in taking her off his hands.
The problem is, Caleb soon realizes he doesn't want her to marry up with any of them. He's drawn to Melanie more every day, and he has to admit some of her ideas for the store unexpectedly offer positive results.

But someone doesn't want the store to succeed, and what used to be just threatening words has escalated into deliberate destruction and lurkers in the night. When a body shows up on the mercantile steps--and the man obviously didn't die from natural causes--things really get dangerous. Can Melanie and Caleb's business--and romance--survive the trouble that's about to come their way?
Native Arizonan Carol Cox has an abiding love for history, mystery, and romance. The author of more than 25 books, she believes in the power of story to convey spiritual truths. Carol lives with her husband and daughter in northern Arizona, where deer and antelope really do play--within view of the family's front porch. Visit her website at


  1. Hi, Carol. I love your novels/novellas books you've written. I would be honored to be able to review this one for you. I'm sure it must be difficult to know whether to reuse or to recycle a character or plot or even a novel. But whatever is the current answer, be sure your readers will be thrilled to have he chance to learn to love your characters! Thanks for a look at the process.

  2. I just had to cut out my story's dog. The editor actually liked the dog and it actually enhanced the story, but well, to accomplish other cuts he had to go. It was like I euthanized him, poor thing.

    He's residing in my cut file. I don't think he'll ever be resurrected because he was very much this hero's dog but at least he lives and prances around on my hard drive, I couldn't put him in the shredder! :)

  3. Great advice! I think it's so cool when authors are able to create a story out of things they cut from other books!
    I really want to read Trouble in Store so thanks for the chance to win!

  4. Carol, love your idea of creating a Recycle File.

    Great tip!

    Melissa, feeling your pain about having to delete the pup. Maybe he can star in his own story.

    I'm sure K-9 May could give you advice! :)

    I baked...well, actually, I bought...homemade (almost) cinnamon rolls from a local bakery. Enjoy.

  5. Hi Carol,

    I have a recycle bin for my deleted characters/scenes also.

    I love the cover of Trouble in Store. People are going to see that and pick the book up to read the back. It makes me smile. Way to go.

    Please add my name to the drawing.

    Thanks for sharing with us today.

  6. Hello, Carol!! I hope you're enjoying a break from northern Arizona's wintry weather! I'm running around like crazy trying to get things done in these mild weeks before winter moves back in! And I have NO DOUBT it will! :)

    Like you, I've always kept an individual Word doc for each book I write--anything that gets pulled out of my story during the writing of it goes into my "Clips" file. Sometimes it's 'back story' that I can later weave in elsewhere, other times it's a paragraph or a scene that's too premature for where I originally put it and I know I can still use it in that same story. Other times it's something I really, really like but it just doesn't fit in the current book so I save it for possible use in another story--and other times it goes into the "Clips" file never to be seen again! And, as you mentioned, it's MUCH less painful to cut out when you know it's "still there" and available if necessary!

  7. That's a great idea, Carol. My 'cuts' are stuck in odd files here and there...I'll start a 'Recycle File' today.

    I feel the same about January, it signals a fresh start. Going through my 'stuffed' closet is on my agenda for tomorrow!

    There's gotta' be a better way to spend a Saturday! :-)

  8. Good morning Seekerville,

    This idea of repurposing and recycling is great! Thank you for it. It's better than giving up on a story completely. I see that you have published a number of these novellas, Carol and it is evident that you put these characters to good use. I love the cover of your new book and I read the sample. It's very hooky stuff. I'll be glad to be in the drawing, but if I don't win, I'm buying it!

    Have a great day!

  9. Hi, Carol! Thanks for coming to Seekerville.

    I have a file of cut scenes, too. I hate to remove them from a WIP, but sometimes it's just plain necessary. I have enough to fill an entire book, I'm sure! Whether I use a scene again or not, I feel better keeping it. At least then it doesn't seem a wasted effort.

    Melissa, sorry about your dog! I'm planning to use my springer spaniel in a book but I'm afraid she was such a big personality she'd take over the story!

  10. Hey, back-to-back stories of the benefits of recycling into novellas!!!!

    WE HAVE A THEME!!!!!

    Carol, this is a great idea. In all honesty, most of what I cut, I cut forever. I tend to work better fresh out of the gate, but sometimes I'll have a situation or a character that needs a story, short or long....

    So I hear ya!

    Hey, it's Friday in Seekerville, I declare all diets null and void for the day!

    FRESH COFFEE!!!!! We've got Missy over in THE CAFE

    We'll make youse a cuppa and chat with Carol about these delightful books!

  11. Morning CAROL, Thanks for joining us here in Seekerville and sharing your pain. smile. I agree that making a file works. I used to be like Ruthy and just delete, but too many times I've needed a tidbit of info and am thinking "Now what did I write?" So a file is a great idea. And congrats on using yours for a novella.

  12. MELISSA, that is so funny about your dog. I have a whole book with my dog in it. Still collecting dust and that is literally because I wrote it before PC's were in. But hubby loved that story so it will never get tossed. Well maybe when I'm dead and gone. LOL

  13. I so have to remember to put things in recycle and not totally trash them!

    Thanks so much for the advice. Put me in for the drawing!

    Peace, Julie

  14. Carol, I too, have a file where I put deleted scenes and lines that I really like. :) I've not written enough stories yet to have any in storage, but I'm definitely holding onto the one I've written and set aside, and praying/waiting to see if God has another purpose for it. :)

    Loved your post today, Carol, and your book looks and sounds like a great read.

  15. WELCOME, Carol!

    I didn't know you live in Arizona. I moved here a year ago myself, and fellow Seekers Glynna Kaye are here (high country) and Sandra Leesmith is south of me. I live in Glendale.

    Terrific post!!! And a great plan for putting all those extra scenes in a file. I keep them, and forget them. You got me thinking about saving them all in one big file so I can actually use them.

    Repurpose!!! Love it.

  16. Welcome, CAROL! I'm really enjoying the posts this week on novellas! Thanks for sharing your experience.

    MELISSA--you had to "delete" your dog??? Ouch!!!

    My answer to the recycle file is that whenever I have to make major changes to a story, I always do a "save as," keep the old file, and edit the new file. Which means, of course, that my computer hard drive is cluttered with dozens of versions of books just because I don't have the heart to part with them!

  17. Seekerville goes green. Recycle, repurpose... being good stewards of the stuff (creativity) God has given us. LOVE IT!

    I will definitely remember this. If something cool doesn't fit for one story, revise and reuse for a different story. Yep. I like that idea, especially since I won't have to kill any of my "children", so to speak. Much nicer than saying goodbye forever.

    Novella week has been awesome around here. Thanks Carol for sharing your process with us. I would love a chance at winning your latest. So many good books, so little time...*sigh*

  18. Wow, y'all are fast! I started reading the comments, and new ones keep popping up before I can get an answer written. LOL

    Melissa, so glad your dog is still scampering around in your hard drive. He definitely wasn't shredder material. ;-)

  19. Glynna, I just stoked up the woodstove, so I should be staying warm for a while. I'm not even going to complain (much) about our recent low temps after seeing what that Polar Vortex did to other parts of the country. Wow!

  20. Piper and Jackie, thanks for the comments on Trouble in Store! I love that cover, too. (Wish I could take credit for it! LOL)

  21. Ruthy, thanks for the warm welcome! I'm more of a tea drinker than a coffee lover. You aren't going to throw me out of the cafe, are you? ;-)

  22. Tina, I grew up not too far from Glendale. My dad had a dairy farm out on El Mirage Road, when the area was all dairies, cotton fields, and feed lots. Mom, a born and bred city gal, felt nervous about living "way out on the middle of nothing", so we lived in town, making Dad the only farmer I knew who commuted. :-) I spent a lot of time working out under that hot Phoenix sun during the summers, which is one reason I appreciate living up in northern AZ!

  23. I have a folder labeled CUTS that contains files of deleted scenes from various books. Makes me feel like I'm in tune with you. :)

    Fresh coffee brewing.

  24. In my current wip I had a kidnapping scene that wouldn't wouldn't go w/LIH. I had so much fun because the girl tries to get away by making the bad guys thinks she crazy. I had so much fun writing it.

    If LIH turns is down, I may add it back in before turning it into another publisher.

    I save all my deleted scenes, but I'd have to dig to find where I put 'em.

  25. Last year was my FIRST year here, Carol. Summers are a bear here.

  26. Welcome sweet Carol!! I am so happy you're in Seekerville today.
    Your post will be going into my Keeper Files, because too often I've hit the DELETE key when I should've been recycling--so re-reading this post will be a good reminder.
    I am LOVING A Match Made in Texas (reading it right now) and as you know, I also loved your book Trouble In Store (actually, I've enjoyed everything you've written that I've read!).
    Thanks again for sharing with us, and as I've told you before, meeting you last year in person was a highlight of 2013 for me (REALLY!!). You're as kind as I knew you'd be.
    Hugs from Georgia, Patti Jo

  27. Helen, it sounds like we're on the same page! Great minds and all that. ;-)

    Connie, I LOVE the idea of the kidnapping victim trying to make the bad guys think she's crazy. That one is definitely worth hanging on to for future use!

  28. Tina, I can only imagine what it must be like to try to adapt to those Phoenix summers. When I was growing up, I didn't think much about working outdoors when the temps were 110 and higher. After being away from that intense heat for a number of years, it's a whole different story these days!

  29. Patti Jo, it's so good to see you here! I'm glad the Recycle suggestion was helpful. I know I'll never use everything I have in that file, but just knowing it's all there IF I need it saves me a ton of stress. And I'm all for that!

    PS - I may print out that comment about me being kind, just to show my family on the days they might need a little convincing. ;-)

  30. Tina Radcliffe says, Summers are a bear here in Arizona...HAH, as if she went outside.

  31. HI CAROL!!!! Welcome to Seekerville!
    I loved how A Match Made in Texas came out, so fun.
    And it was so fun working with Carol, Karen and Regina. I got to know them all better.

  32. I survived the POLAR VORTEX!!!
    I'm thinking of getting a t-shirt that says that. I found them.

  33. Did Connealy just MOCK THE TEENSTER????

    OUT LOUD???


    (Ruthy runs and charts day and time and laughs wickedly under her breath!!!!)

    Or she grabs two cookies and plays Duck-Duck-Goose with 3 year olds.

    Or BOTH.... :)

  34. Carol, my darling, we have a wide variety of tea for wimps...



    guests like you!!!!

    Forgive this Yank for assuming that all brilliant folk do, indeed, drink coffee. How silly of me! :)

    Name your pleasure, dear? Mary brought some wonderful Earl Grey but I'm a Mandarin Orange gal myself... Or chai, when the mood strikes!

  35. Jagears "axed" a dog.


    Yes, honey, we need to revive him.

    I have saved animals, too, come to think of it.


    Does that count?

  36. Ruthy, this wimpy guest appreciates the tea stash! Not to mention your use of the term "brilliant." : ) I started the morning with a nice mug of mint tea, but chai sounds delightful for a midday pick-me-up.

    And yes, saving whole books absolutely counts!

  37. Hi Carol!

    I'm a pack rat at heart, so my computer is filled with cut scenes...nothing is ever deleted. What a great idea to put them all in one recycle file!

    And I'm in the process of redoing a rejected novella. It's a lot of fun to go back and visit those characters again!

  38. Jan, I totally get the pack rat mentality. I have a tendency to leave files all over the place on my computer. When it came to writing projects, it was great to know all those snippets were still available, but finding them again? Not fun. Not fun at all. Being able to sort through the contents of ONE file has made my life simpler. And I'm all for making things easier. : )

  39. This comment has been removed by the author.

  40. Hi Carol! Some great ideas in here--I'm in the process of cutting scenes, characters, subplots, etc., from my first novel which went WAY too long. I'd love for the book to be a series someday, so I'm definitely keeping those moments for future reference. I'll haev to keep them in a central place.

    Your book looks and sounds wonderful. Count me in the drawing!

  41. Hi Carol.

    I know what you mean when you say that you get to attached to your story or characters or the like.

    I am working on a full length book, that I have realized probably wouldn't pass an editors inspection.... I have tried changing the book to where it had more conflict that most books have but my heart just aint in it...

    I like the way the book is now.... Oh man... This aint good is it..... (Smiles)

    I would love to be entered in the drawing for you book....


  42. Stephanie, setting up a Recycle folder would be PERFECT for reusing those ideas in a series! What a great way to be able to maintain continuity with those characters and settings!

  43. Cortney, I've faced that situation before, and it's tough! Sometimes it's best just to set the story aside for a while so you can come back and look at it again with a fresh eye. After some time has passed, it's easier for me to get a clearer picture as to what works and what doesn't.

  44. First of I have to say I survived the heatwave the change hit last night. the house is still hot but the breeze is so good. No news on a specialist appointment so I guess it will be Feb before I see him now.

    I have to say I love novellas, Right now they are so much easier for me to read as they are shorter and I dont need to concentrate as long.

    I finally finished a book yesterday took me over 2 months and it is a non fiction but I felt good finishing (and I am sure my dr will be so happy!) Yes its a non fiction.

  45. Jenny, congratulations on finishing that book! I hope your appointment goes well.

  46. Just a quick heads-up--I have to run into town to take care of some errands. Since "running into town" in my case means a 100-mile round trip, I'll be gone for a while, but I'll check back in when I'm home again to catch up on all the comments. It has been SO much fun chatting with all of you today!!

  47. "Trouble in Store" sounds wonderful, Carol. And what a clever title. Given your familiarity with the locale, I'm thinking there will be a strong sense of place. Would love to have a chance to win a copy.

    Usually a scene I've edited out and saved turns out to have been too early in the story. And then there are scenes or bits of dialogue that are actually backstory for that story or another story -- a valuable resource. I am in awe of writers who can delete and be done with it! I don't have that kind of courage.

    Nancy C

  48. Carol, thanks for the idea to keep my beloved, but have to go, scenes in a recycle file. If this makes it easier to let them go, I'll try your idea. I have a scene I love, but it needs to live in the recycle file...for awhile.

    Trouble In Store sounds great! Please enter my name.

    Thanks for visiting Seekerville!

  49. I have a keeper file for each book and I agree it's not too difficult to pop darlings in there for another day.

    I'd love to be in the drawing for your book, Carol.

    Happy Friday!!!

  50. Trouble in Store sounds like my kind of book! Love the cover! Please count me in the giveaway!
    I have LID on my Kindle and plan to read it soon!

  51. Carol, great ideas for saving and repurposing those scenes that needed to be cut. Except for the cold here in the Northeast, I like January for the same reasons. I've been on a roll since the beginning of the month. I enjoy your novels, Carol.

  52. Oh, I actually do like the idea of the "Recycle" file.

    I might actually go to it if it wasn't listed as "snippet Chapter 7 Winter's End"...




    I might have to jump in on this popsicle stand!!!!


    And, WOW, I am sooooo proud of you, not letting go of those rejected ideas. I hear authors say that ALL the time that the first three manuscripts are under their bed, never to see the light of day and I think -- WHAT??? Why would anyone put that much thought, time, and effort ... not to mention blood and heart ... into a ms. and then toss it forever??? I'm sorry, but I don't get it because in my opinion, ANYTHING can be rewritten or revised to make it good, so GOOD FOR YOU in doing that!!


  54. Whew! It took longer than I hoped to get all the errands done, so I was late getting home. It's been a delight to spend time at Seekerville today, and thanks for all the great comments!

  55. Like most things why discard when you can re-use & re-cycle.

  56. What a happy ending to that multi-rejected novella! The recycle file is a great place to pull from to stock a novel's webpage after the book's been published. Readers love all those "behind the scenes" tidbits!

    Every time I see the cover of Made in Texas, I smile. :)