Writing Tips

What to Do While Waiting to Revise

By May 31, 2016 22 Comments
Millie Ho Illustration Drawing Grinning Girl

A drawing done over the waiting period.

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

Millie Ho Oil Painting Brushes Medium Paints

Turpentine, so good yet so toxic.

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

Millie Ho Uncle Hank Lookalike

spotting the Breaking Bad characters walking among us or

Millie Ho Favourite Books

reading old favourites and

Millie Ho Full Moon

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.


Millie’s Note: Do you wait before revising?

Join the discussion 22 Comments

  • aetherhouse says:

    Your art in this post is gorgeous and delightfully surreal. I’d gladly wear the cover drawing on a T-Shirt or make it the cover to my writing journal.

    Waiting to revise is hard – it’s hard to suppress that urge to be “productive” on our major projects. But the distance is very necessary. I haven’t written on either of my novels in about 6 weeks now, mostly due to my vid biz taking off a little quicker than I anticipated and being inundated with video work, but I appreciate the time away from it. Especially Paradisa, which I have surely memorized every line of at this point.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks Michelle! Glad you like the drawings.

      I was listening to an interview with the lead singer of Incubus. He also juggles multiple artistic projects (musician/artist) and said that he finds it refreshing to switch gears once in a while. Sometimes you need that distance to regain your clarity. It’s definitely necessary.

      I’m happy your vid biz is taking off! For me, working on multiple projects is energizing. Progress in one endeavour often translates into progress in another. Maybe it’s an universal thing?

  • chrisbkm says:

    There’s a lot of good insight here Millie ~ thanks! So are you sharing/posting any of the short stories or flash fiction?

  • kvennarad says:

    Well worth the time to visit and read. as always.

    Lately I had been wondering whether I would ever write again, let alone revise. I tried to force my own hand by deliberately starting a series of poems. That didn’t really work. Someone else forced my hand by asking me to provide some text to be used at Burning Man.* But still I no longer ‘feel’ like a writer, and I am bathing in a pool of blessed release. 🙂

    *Read about it here: https://mairibheag.com/2016/05/28/a-script-to-finish-a-man-to-burn-a-drum-to-build/

  • Steve Myers says:

    This is massively helpful, as usual Millie. I feel such a massive relief when a story is completed or shelved until its time to revise. I can finally move on to that next story that’s been knocking on my mind, a kid tugging on parent’s shirt, wanting its turn.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Glad this was helpful, Steve! I’m also going through relief after finishing a short story I’ve been working on for the past week or two. Now it’s time to dig out other stories and revise them while waiting to revise the one I just finished. Looks like we all have similar ways of progressing. 🙂

      • Steve Myers says:

        maybe i’m repeating myself Millie, but it’s remarkable how lucid you are, so aware of the writing process, of what you are enduring and then to share it with all of us, well, it becomes compassionate as well. Am i being overly effusive? I don’t think so. Ya know, in baseball, announcers often say “we’re seeing history in the making.” They remind us and yet, it takes an elevated level of concentration or something to really tap into that feeling that it’s happening right now and we are a part of it. I do my best to not overlook a great moment or what we call a historic one and well, you’re doing it right here.

        • Millie Ho says:

          Wow, that’s such a huge compliment! Thanks so much, Steve. I can’t take all the credit. A lot of my learnings came from conversing with/reading the posts of other writers and poets here on WP and beyond. I’m glad we have this community to share, document, and learn from each other.

  • What do I do before revising? That’s a good question. I tend to outline or take long walks and think about the whole structure, the plot. With my novel I’m coming to the realization that a great deal of my chapters need to be shortened by a lot, but I’m not quite sure what’s relevant yet.

    Breaking Bad in real life…that’s a good way to pass the time! Incredible photo.

    • Millie Ho says:

      Thanks for sharing, Tina. I think outlining is good though maybe that’s something I would do after having gone through an initial read-through. Then I’ll get a better sense of what the novel is all about and then I could outline with greater confidence. Then again, maybe not. I’ll know when I get started. 🙂

  • You are multi-talented, Millie. I have been traveling and performing, and have returned now and am just starting a revision. You are so right that time and a little distance are needed. Best of luck!

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Millie! Per your earlier permission, I scheduled this article to be featured as a guest post this Wednesday. As usual, it includes your credit/bio/link. Thanks!

  • theryanlanz says:

    Hi Millie! Per your earlier permission, I scheduled this article to be featured as a guest post this Wed. As usual, it includes your credit/bio/link. Thanks!

  • sanberdooboy says:

    yes. i think that revising goes better if i can put the ms away for a while. this allows me to see my poem as if someone else had written it.

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