Maximize Your Income by Recycling Your Work

By Columnist Penny Fletcher

July 2017

Stop, Think, RecycleHaving worked for newspapers for almost 40 years while moonlighting for national magazines as varied as True Story, Today’s RecycleChristian Woman, and Gulf Coast Fisherman, I amassed a stack of clips even though I only saved award-winners or those on subjects I like best. Gradually the magazines I wrote for went belly-up, and in 2007, I gave up working in a newsroom for Media General Corp. and The Tampa Tribune, but kept a hand-in locally by freelancing for several small publications. Then in 2016, after a horrendous automobile accident, I changed my website to feature my editing services and listed myself on a writer’s “jobsite.” After all, we all must continue to earn cash somehow until our books make the New York Times Bestseller List, right?

“It was while cleaning out my small home office in a kitchen corner I realized I had saved a lot more clips than I remembered.” —FLETCHER

It was while cleaning out my small home office in a kitchen corner I realized I had saved a lot more clips than I remembered. There were features on Navy personnel and children (now adults) who detailed their stories of the Pearl Harbor bombing, and beekeepers, artists, musicians, and hundreds who worked for – or received help from– various causes and nonprofit charities. Oh, I had thrown many hundreds away.

In the beginning of my writing career, I kept quite a few pieces, but as time went on, it got where most everything was trashed right after I read it. Now, I looked down into the box that would soon be headed for recycling. It was so full of memories. Years of research and interviews with experts, politicians, pastors, billionaires, and homeless families; people from all walks of life.

I could still picture many of the faces of those who were speaking, and the many different settings in which we had completed our interviews.

I started taking some of the most memorable out of the recycling box and putting them back on the desk. I remembered the beekeeper I had interviewed many years ago who had taken me through the process of smoking his hives with a bellows as he removed the honeycombs; members of a swing dance band featuring music from the 1930s and ‘40s that had shown me the instruments they used to pour out the music made famous by Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington, Tommy Dorsey and more. Why, the history of many miles of Florida’s Gulf Coast lay before me as I realized I’d seen two-lane gravel roads grow to six-lane highways and towns that began with a General Store with gas pumps become cities of more than thirty miles square. It was all there. Written. Remembered.

“I had never thought about recycling any of the material I’d written . . . .”

I had never thought about recycling any of the material I’d written, or using ideas that hadn’t made it into the stories but had stayed in my head. Yet here was a treasure trove of material that could be rewritten with a fresh approach.

A good example is my beekeeper feature. Today, there aren’t enough bees to pollenate all our plants. In fact, I recently read that beekeepers in the United States lost 44 percent of their populations in 2015 and 2016, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture was interviewing thousands of “backyard beekeepers” to find out why.

The experience of watching “my” beekeeper pump his worn, gray bellows to keep the bees off us while he collected the honeycomb became so real I could smell the smoke and taste the piece of comb he gave me to eat right there by the hive. My story, written almost twenty-five years ago, could provide details and flavor to a brand-new story about bees. All I had to do was make one call to someone at the Department of Agriculture and I’d have a new story to pitch. Perhaps I could even narrow it down and talk to the Florida Department of Agriculture and do a localized version.

You may have published two stories or two thousand. Or one. Or twenty thousand. (I know that sounds like a lot, but if you’ve ever been a journalist, turning in two to three stories a week, just figure how many you might have after ten or twenty years!)

If you decide you have information you can reuse, I would recommend a new title and a brand-new lead. Reusing some of your own information (even whole graphs) isn’t plagiarism, but exact wording may be copyrighted by the first publication, so I’d be sure and change the wording around, especially if it hasn’t been too long since it was first printed.

“Perhaps some of your nonfiction could lead to a short fiction piece.”

Perhaps some of your nonfiction could lead to a short fiction piece. The woman who teaches kindergartners to paint flowers on glass may have a heart-wrenching tale to tell about her wish to become a gallery artist, or the homeless man you talked with might have told you about his days as a stockbroker before the 2008 Wall Street dive.

Recycling your paper, cardboard, plastic and glass is good for the Earth. Recycling your words is good for your clip file, bank account, resume, and heart.  

About Regular Contributor
Penny Fletcher
Author, Editor & Coach
Penny Fletcher is the author of both traditionally published and self-published books; has been a journalist and bureau editor for several large companies including Media General Communications Inc., Sunbelt Newspapers and The Tampa Tribune. She has also taught at a local college and through her Florida county library system, as well as worked as an outsource editor for Amazon’s first publishing division, BookSurge. For more information visit:, or on Facebook, Twitter, or Linked-In. Her suspense-fiction book, The Sumerian Secret, is based on fact and can be found on Amazon in paperback and Kindle.