Sometimes I discover (after all of that!) that I have written entirely the wrong book. This happens much more often when I’m reworking earlier books; I’ve gotten better at writing the right book in the first place over time. But there are several books that I have junked and started over from scratch, never looking back at the original manuscript. Why? Because there is no way to fix the problems in the book without redoing all the structural underpinnings and rewriting the characters.
Sometimes at this stage all that’s necessary is some fine tuning. I need to write some new scenes, perhaps, and fix continuity, and make line edits, but the story is there. These are easy revisions, but they’re unlikely at this stage.
Most of the time, what’s necessary is a heavy revision. This means I keep my second draft, and just dig into each paragraph (again!), chapter (again!), and plot arc (again!). I make changes, I reread. I’ve been doing this thing lately where I revise a chapter, then the next day I re-read that chapter and revise the next one. That way I go over the whole thing at least twice.
Often I’ll read the book out loud to my husband. Or make him read it again. Or read it again over his shoulder.
I’m listing this step as one, but really it’s many. I do whatever revision I’ve assessed to be necessary, and then it’s back to the workshopping, the beta reads, the agent reads, and more revision. Some books go through one round. Some books I’ve put through the rounds of revision and feedback probably a dozen times, and they still aren’t done. This is a long, long process, folks, because novels are monstrous beasts.