What to Do While Waiting to Revise

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by Millie Ho

I didn’t do enough of waiting before revising in the past. Because I didn’t wait, I wasn’t entirely removed from the narrative. Characters and situations were still fresh in my mind, and my revisions suffered because I still had vivid and biased opinions about what’s what. The only way I can edit Draft One objectively is to put some time between me and the manuscript, so that’s what I’ve been doing for the past few weeks: waiting.

The next question is what to do during this waiting period. Here’s what I did, and maybe it will give you some ideas.

 

Writing New Stories

I quickly realized that the best way to take my mind off something I wrote is to start writing something else. Within a week of brainstorming ideas and writing flash fiction and short stories, these new narratives started to push the old narrative from my headspace. My focus shifted, and I started to forget.

The funny thing is that my short stories are getting written in the Draft One method—I start with a plot skeleton and then allow myself to deviate by chasing my instincts as I went along. Previously unforeseen or unplanned characteristics, situations, and themes got unearthed. It’s great, and I’m (still) amazed at how it hasn’t turned on its side and vomited in my face yet.

I’m also getting more comfortable with the idea that everything will come together in the revision process. For my flash fiction and short stories, it certainly has. This speaks again to the idea of not editing your work until you’ve seen the complete picture. When you’re feeling your way through a story, it’s pretty damn hard to get a sense of the whole. Just bow your head and keep writing and edit once you’ve had the benefit of hindsight.

 

Drawing and Painting

A few weeks ago, I picked up hog hair brushes, paints, canvases and masonite boards and have been upping my oil painting game. I’m a beginner with oils and used to be daunted by the prospect of working with solvents or accidentally smudging my colours, but my fears were unfounded. Like the “Whatever works” writing method, just paint something and revise once the layers are dry. It doesn’t matter if it takes a week or two to dry completely—you’ll get there eventually. The first step is just to have a go at it.

Youtube is a great free resource for painters and illustrators. If you’re interested in oil painting, a channel I’ve been obsessively combing through is Draw Mix Paint. The artist offers clear tips and demonstrates techniques that are helpful for both beginners and seasoned painters. If you’re into painting portraits and love ivory black paint as much as I do, you’ll get a kick out of the channel.

I’ve also been working on updating my art portfolio. Most of the art on my existing Art page were from when I was in high school/early university, plus a book cover I did for Marie Marshall a few years back. So now’s as good a time as any to be prolific. The new pieces aren’t ready to go up yet, but here’s a quick drawing I did.

 

Millie Ho Illustration Skull Drawing

I call her Skully.

I’ll share more artwork when they’re all polished and shiny with a bow on top.

 

Living in the Moment

Now that I’m no longer furiously typing all the time, I’ve been living more in the moment, which includes but is not limited to spotting the Breaking Bad characters walking among us or reading old favourites and admiring nature (albeit from afar).

It’s been good.

 

When to Start Revising

The contents of Draft One are fading each week, so I will likely start revising next week. In summary, the waiting period was a good reminder that I need to be patient. It’s an interesting switching of gears. I binge wrote Draft One, but it would’ve been unwise for me to quickly jump into the revision process. Believe me, I was definitely ready to—but then I took a good hard look at my past experiences and realized I could’ve done some things differently.

I’ll conclude with what Anne Lamott said in Bird by Bird:

“Try looking at your mind as a wayward puppy that you are trying to paper train. You don’t drop-kick a puppy into the neighbour’s yard every time it piddles on the floor. You just keep bringing it back to the newspaper.”

In other words, stick to the game plan. We’ll get there eventually.

 

 

Guest post contributed by Millie Ho. Millie is a writer and illustrator from Toronto, Canada. She uses her blog and YouTube channel to document what she’s learned about writing from both the writing process and from books, TV shows, and films.

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24 thoughts on “What to Do While Waiting to Revise”

  1. First, the concept of waiting before revising your work/draft makes a lot of sense and the idea is quite impressive. It gives you an objective view of your work.

    I also like your ideas on what to engage in during the waiting period. I think writing short stories would work well for me.

    Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you enjoyed the post, Carl! Good luck with writing the short stories. I’m sure you’ll find objectivity returning to your draft quicker with that method than most.

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  2. Great post. There can be nothing as frustrating as waiting to edit. I find video games, writing anything other than a new story, cooking adventures, gardening, swimming now that its summer and absolutely living in the moment help me put some distance between me and my work. But in the back of my mind is that little voice going ‘Is it time yet?’. Thanks for posting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great suggestions! It’s summer, so why not take advantage? I should’ve mentioned something about doing water sports or going camping as well, which I also found helpful. Living in the moment is a good way of building more distance between you and the work, and maybe even silencing that little voice. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I let at least a month go by before I look at my manuscript again. Like you, I do other things–many of which do not involve writing. It’s the only way to recharge myself after a long stint writing a novel.

    Thanks for the helpful post, Millie. Pinned & shared.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Glad you liked the post, Linda. It seems like a month or a month and a half is the sweet spot for many writers when it comes to waiting. It’s not enough to just have great writing stamina—we need to take care of ourselves and recharge, as well. Thanks for reading and sharing!

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  4. Thanks for sharing your process. I’m an editor and this usually helps me forget about my own work while it marinates. Let me tell you though – it’s hard to not think about it when I’m trying to sleep at night. Best of luck while you continue to resist the urge to tear into the manuscript until the appointed hour!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know what you mean about the urge to tear into the manuscript. I had more than a few urges during this waiting period! However, I did find that the urge faded as the weeks passed. Perhaps it’s like acquiring any new habit: eventually you adapt. The trick is staying with it for the long haul. Thanks for reading, and good luck to you as well!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Great ideas!! I also find reading or rereading a good book helps. It can “reset” your expectations so that, when you come back yo your own work, you’re encountering it more in “reader mode” than as a writer.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I completely agree, Andrea. I reread old favourites this time, but next time I’ll try reading new books. Maybe that’ll be a quicker way to reset expectations when you have to process a new story. Thanks for reading!

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  6. I do start a new project while letting my novel draft sit. It moves me out of the old narrative and creates the needed distance for revising. I also spend time researching agents and publishers. It has to be done eventually, unless the plan is to self-publish.

    Liked by 1 person

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