Revisiting, Rewriting, Reusing. One of the biggest parts of writing isn’t getting ideas down on paper in the first place. It’s all the times you have to come back to them, and there are lots of ways that can happen.
Rewriting and editing are two of the commonest, and indeed, something most writers will find themselves doing repeatedly before a book is quite right. Actually, I’m more of the school that only rewrites fundamentally flawed sections, but it’s still a major chore. A useful one though, because you can produce serious improvements in your writing. I particularly like coming back to things after a break from them, because then I’m less caught up in the piece and I can do more to rework it.
Revisiting an idea is what I do after one of those bouts of deletion that plague my writing. I know there’s a school of thought that says you should keep everything in case it turns out to be great, but for me, that has always been the mind-set of the hoarder. You wouldn’t do it with clothes you didn’t like, so why do it with ideas that are awful? It can take me two or three runs at an idea before I hit on a version of it that’s sufficiently close to the way I want it to be worth finishing.
Then there are the ideas that will just never be full stories but which contain little gems. They might be great characters, or jokes, or just sequences that work. You can always reuse those, taking them away and putting them in places where they might do better. You can even have recurring ideas if you like, such as Robert Rankin’s time travelling sprouts, or David Gemmell’s interchangeably archetypal heroes. There’s one I’m meaning to put into a few things just to see if it works.