Edit. Edit. Edit. If anyone thinks their novel is ready to hit the shelves/agents/editors/Amazon after one or two drafts, I’d say they’re kidding themselves. Top notch writing (i.e. writing that at least stands a chance of getting noticed/taken seriously) needs to be exactly that: top notch. And this means editing.
For me, getting words on the page is only 30% of the task. The lion’s share, the other 70%, is all about the ‘re’s’: rereading, revising, rewriting. Then rereading, revising, rewriting some more. And some more. And then some more.
Personally, it’s the part of creating a novel that I love, but here are my top tips to make it fruitful:
1/ Re-read your text in different fonts/ugly fonts, which will help highlight any awkwardness or clunky phrasing.
2/ Read your text on different formats (laptop, iPad, Kindle, main computer, etc.), to keep your eye fresh.
3/ Try editing at the time of day you’d expect your target audience to be reading e.g. evening, in bed, on a train. Does the tone fit? Does it feel right?
4/ Dive in at any point in your text (e.g. mid-chapter, half way through) and start editing from there. Coming into your writing ‘cold’ really makes you think about how the words work.
5/ Read out loud, particularly dialogue, to assess the ‘flow’ of your text. Just imagine you are reading to a room full of opinionated editors…
6/ LEAVE IT. For a day, a week. a month. Preferably a year. Time away from your words gives you great perspective. When you re-read you will see it afresh.