Revising on the Road

Definition: Revision (n): Condition sparking procrastination among writers.

Anushka Dhanapala, Devin JoubertThe last two years has seen my current WIP travel with me to nine different countries. With each country, there is a beautiful memory of a scene that came to life and of chapters that have been born and revised. Like every writer, I have also experienced my equal share of procrastination.

However, there comes a time in a writer’s life when one discovers there is no more room for excuses. Especially when nearing the final stages of revision on a story that has captured your soul. Since my love for travel is not going to go away anytime soon, the beautiful Devin has asked me to share some tips I have found useful while revising on the road.

I hope you enjoy the following sneak peek into my process from my latest trip to Bangkok last month.

My Revision Process: One week in Thailand.
Revision Status: Final Revision

Before Your Trip: Set Goals

This is important. It is easy to pack everything related to your WIP, but being specific is the key, especially when on the road. It is more manageable and far less frightening to approach a manuscript in need of your attention knowing you have to deal with bite sized pieces.

Since I knew this was a short work trip, I took with me a maximum of 5 printed chapters to work on ranging from minor fixes to the more complex and placed them in a separate folder. Because lets face it, trying to convince yourself you have do twenty chapters in a week is difficult even in the best of times so setting realistic goals is the key here, especially when on the road.

My travel binder consisted of the following:

1. 3 x Chapters requiring minor fixes
2. 1 x Chapter requiring complex fix
3. 1 x Chapter of my choice. This ended up being a chapter I have always loved requiring a moderate fix.
4. Relevant scene cards to chosen chapters
5. Story timeline
6. Scene outlines

On Route: Productivity
It doesn’t matter what mode of transport you take to get to get to your destination, there are actually many opportunities for you to get ahead in your revision before you even arrive at your final stop. Unless you are on an elephant, then enjoy the elephant ride and take everything in!

Airports for example, are a great opportunity for people to pull out laptops and notes and get to work. Does that work for me? No. I love people watching too much while sipping on an overpriced beverage. However, the magic for me happens on the plane and I’ll tell you how.

1. Ignore the movies.
– Have your laptop and travel binder ready for easy access. You are far less likely to make excuses once the plane takes off.
2. Envision your future.
– When the plane is preparing to take off, I get out my notebook and remind myself why I want to be a writer and go through my goals. Just reminding myself I want to be published one day and have contracted books waiting to be written sends shivers down my spin. I no longer care about the lack of movies in my life.
3. Refer to travel binder.
– I flick through my carefully put together folder, choose a chapter and do the required edits by hand (sometimes this happens on my laptop, but it varies from scene to scene). I also ask for hot water and make myself a tea to make this more fun.
4. Polish chapter on Scrivener.
– I refer to my scene card and double check all changes have been made before declaring said chapter officially complete. I also use this time to go through my timeline and make sure my characters don’t suddenly know something they shouldn’t.
5. Reward yourself.
– If your brain doesn’t feel like looking over another chapter, that’s okay. Reward yourself with a movie or a good book. On this occasion I fell asleep. The beauty of eliminating distractions from the start is, I’m already ahead.

Arrival at Destination: Finding Routine

There aren’t many things you can control when traveling to a place you have never been to before. There are so many things to do and see it’s hard to find the balance between excited, intrepid traveller and ‘serious writer.’

There have been trips where I have made any excuse under the sun not to work on my WIP and others where I have made incredible breakthroughs. This trip I was committed to make progress no mater what.

Here were some of the options I considered when thinking of a flexible routine:

1. Wake up half an hour early to work on revisions
2. Revise last thing at night
3. Go to the hotel lobby to work
4. Explore a local restaurant or roadside stall and dedicate 30minutes towards chosen chapter

When traveling on my own options 1 and 2 have been great. However, I was traveling with a bunch of work friends and my husband. The last think I wanted was to wake up early or stay up late.

If this happens to you, don’t stress. Each trip is different, respect the journey. Keep in mind there is always something that will work, so make sure you find that perfect fit no matter what. No excuses. Opportunities are right there in front of you, seize them with both hands. Always.

For me, what happened on this trip was quite unexpected. I went to the pool bar, ordered an amazing Cookie Monster Cocktail and zoned out the world without feeling like I was missing out. Looking back, that was one of my favourite experiences of the trip so far. Did I mention the Cookie Monster Cocktail?


Choosing a range of scenes was the best decision I made and I wish I knew to do this on previous trips. It was liberating not working in chronological order and every chapter felt like a mini project I was excited to dive into and complete. Having a selection of chapters ranging from minor-complex in difficulty really helped me revise when the opportunity presented itself because it didn’t matter how I was feeling mentally at the time.

I ended up completing 3/5 chapters I selected. I even managed to iron out some kinks with scenes I have been avoiding. 3 of the 7 days I was away was work related, so in future I need to learn to take factors such as all day conferences into consideration as well.

I hope my process has inspired you to be productive no matter where you are in the world and has sparked ideas on what might work for you.

If anyone has any travel tips feel free to share.

Thank you so much for having me Devin!

Love and light,

Anushka xx

Anushka Dhanapala

is inspired by all things macabre and dark. Lover of everyday moments, old graveyards, black wings and endless cups of tea. She may or may not be afraid of the dark. You can follow her at her blog: