I finished the first draft of my novel, now what?
Some of these may have a more- or less-intensive workload, depending on how you work. Do you draft like a maniac? Writing without stopping until you’ve typed “The End”? Depending on how much world-building and character-creation you did prior to starting that draft, you may have a lot of aligning to do with character traits and motivations, with traveling and scenes, or even names! Do you edit as you go? You may have already aligned the things I just mentioned, and you may have a different area that is more work-intensive.
However you work, here are some parts of the revision process, in very condensed form.
Step away. Take a break from your manuscript. The more time away, the more distance you get to read it with a fresh mind. Try working on something unrelated to the project you are stepping away from, maybe even something entirely separate from writing.
Re-read your draft. Make notes. Mark it up in red like you are your own editor. (A first draft is not editor-ready!)
Revise or rewrite as necessary. Check for your crutch words/phrases, try and identify and resolve passive voice and exposition dumps.
Step away. Get more distance.
Get another perspective. Critique partners and alpha/beta readers help you identify problem areas. (This may be a good time for your second “time away.”)
While of course it’s not likely that one person alone can find and fix ALL the problems, especially in their OWN first draft, the more they work at their process the more they learn about their own writing–identifying potential areas of improvement.
When the MS is the best you can make it on your own, when you start to go in circles with what changes you are making, that’s the time to seek out beta readers and editors to help make your work the best it can be. (Check out #4 on this list from Katie McCoach.)
For more author’s processes, check these out*:
Ellen Mulholland’s Tips for New Writers, “edit, revise, rinse, repeat“
The Write Life article, “Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book“
Susan Dennard’s “For Writers” page
*Listing here does not equal my endorsement