Jewish-American author Isaac Bashevis Singer once said that the waste basket is the writer’s best friend. But these are more enlightened times, and writers these days don’t throw unnecessary words away; we recycle them. A block of text that might be superfluous in one novel might just be the seed that germinates and grows into another.
Several years ago, when preparing a workshop on writing the historical novel, I wrote a scene, hoping to show attendees how historical detail could be incorporated into a scene without creating an “information dump.” The scene I wrote showed a man on his deathbed, dividing his estate between his two sons. One son would inherit his title and estate; the other son, who was illegitimate, could not legally inherit the title or the entailed property, and so was bequeathed a certain amount of money instead. The purpose of the scene was to show how I could give readers a working knowledge of British inheritance law without interrupting the flow of the story.
I liked that scene enough that I kept it long after the writer’s conference was over, thinking I might expand it into a novel—part regency romance, part “buddy story” as the two half-brothers were forced to work together after the old man died. That book was never written, but years later, that scene provided the “bones” for the Kirkbride family in my work in progress, a third John Pickett mystery with the working title Family Plot.
As for that regency romance/buddy story, who knows? I may still write it someday. After all, I’ve already got the first scene written.