Monday, August 9, 2010

Sustainable Writing—Research, Redo and Reuse, Part One

Sustainable Writing is the way I describe writing for a living. Having a regular income as a freelance writer requires multiple streams of income. Managing those streams and keeping them afloat is where the sustainable part happens. Just like the environment, we have to be good stewards of our time and resources as writers and business owners.

As a matter of fact, there is a lot we, as writers, can learn from the environmental awareness movement. If you don't believe me, just substitute the word TIME for the word ENVIRONMENT and you’ll be surprised what becomes applicable.

When we think about sustainable writing, we need to have a recycling mindset. We should never waste anything. Say you’re doing research for an article titled, Remodel Your Kitchen. If you pay attention, you’ll find material to write several dozen articles. How about one called New Trends in Lighting Your Kitchen or Using Kitchen Cabinets in the Bathroom. Once you know where to look, the possibilities are endless.

This works with more than just research, you can repurpose articles—change them by 50 percent—and sell them as a new article to another source. Or, don’t change them at all and sell the reprint rights.

Here are some ways to apply this attitude to your writing.

  • Research - When you research a topic or person for an article or book, keep all your notes. I keep all mine in a single computer file. Within that file it’s important to have a document that lists all the websites you’ve visited to get your information. I’ve gotten in the habit of copying and pasting the web address into this document the first time I determine the importance of the webpage I visit. I also keep a transcript and/or notes from any interviews I conduct on the subject.
  • Rough Drafts - Many times when I’m writing an article it will start off way over the word count I need. I keep a copy of that first draft in my file before I start cutting it and revising it. Often I’ve come back to it and pulled parts out for a new article.
  • Related Subjects - I've also learned to make a list of possible related subjects while I'm working on an article. Frequently, when I’m writing an article, ideas for other articles will come to mind. When that happens I’ve learned to immediately make a note of my thought. If I wait, the idea disappears.
Over the years I've learned a lot about how to keep writing income alive, most of them from other writers. I'll be sharing my tips and I hope you'll share yours. We live in an exciting time for writers, with the advent of the Internet, we've never been more in demand.

So don't forget to join the conversation!


  1. This was a timely post for me - I'm transitioning from writing for fun to needing to make some income from my writing. Some of your ideas I already do (like making notes of new ideas so I don't forget it but can stay focused on the one at hand). Your other ideas will be a great help to me as I continue to pursue this.

  2. Thank you for taking time to teach others - there is so much to learn about the business side of writing!! I feel overwhelmed quite often, but in that moment, I take a deep breath and thank God for people like you, Vonda, Cec and the many other servants who have taught me. Then I pick up my pen and try to apply the new lesson. You are a blessing.

    With joy,
    Nan Jones

  3. Kathi, transitioning can be challenging, but it's VERY rewarding on a lot of different levels! I'm glad I can help.
    Nan, thanks for your kind words! There are so many who helped me make sense of this business - and to be truthful - are still helping me figure it out. It seems once I understand something, it's on to the next level!

  4. Great post, Edie. This is an area that I have not done well in. I've rewritten a few articles into new ones, but I haven't recycled many at all. Each time I do all that research and have only one article to show for it...not a wise use of my time and effort!

  5. Edie,

    Congratulations on the new book contract. I read your good news on The Writer's Den.


  6. Thank you Jean, and welcome to the blog!