Editing is not my favorite part of the writing process. Other than formatting, it’s probably my least favorite. How can one stay focused while doing something one dislikes? You have to have a plan and work through each step. I tend to get finished with one step and get really excited and jump ahead to ordering a proof and then remember that I have a few more steps before I should actually be ordering a proof.
Ordering a proof before you are actually ready, is pretty much a waste of time and money. If you know there are more steps that you need to take, then ordering before you finish ensures that you will have to order a second or third proof copy.
So slow your roll and work through the process before you move to the next step in your publishing journey. Self editing is a lot of work. Once you have the first draft of your novel, you are going to want to put it aside and then read your book.
did you loose track of a minor character somewhere? are descriptions the same throughout? are names the same throughout? do you use a skill in the first half and then never use it again? Are you trying to solve problems in the second half without any mention of the possible solution in the first half? Does your character have an arc? Is there a logical progression to all aspects of your story? Do your characters stay in character throughout the novel?
These are big questions and you will need to go through your novel slowly and methodically to get to the answers. This is similar to a first round of a developmental edit.
Second, really focus on your sentence structure. Use a program such as Grammarly or ProWritingAid to find mistakes in grammar, repeated words, passive voice where you didn’t mean to use it. Sentences that are difficult to understand or follow.
Put your novel aside for a week. Read your novel from start to finish. How is the pacing of the story, fast where you want it to be and slow where you want it? does it sag in the middle? did you rush your ending? does it start in the right place and with the right question? is the question in the beginning answered in the end?
Finally, go through with the ProWritingAid or Grammarly again to fix what you messed up with the last round. You can hold off until the end to do all of this but for me it is distracting to try to read it with messed up grammar and such.
Find beta readers. Order Proofs of the book. Even if you don’t have a final cover yet, you can create a simple dummy cover for the proofs. Hand them out to 4 or 5 people and have them read it and make notes in the margins. If they are really good friends ask them to read it twice. First time for just the enjoyment of the story and the second time looking for problems. After the first read through, they can write up some thoughts about the overall story and any questions or praise they have. For the second read through, tell them to rip it apart and not to hold back.
When you do ask others to provide feedback and critic your writing you have to be accepting of the feedback and not get defensive. Just hear what they say. You don’t have to change a thing. It’s your book after all.