It is a great feeling to come to the end of a rough draft. Knowing that you can do it, that you have created a complete novel is something that does not get old, even after writing many novels. It does not matter how good you get at the writing process, every new rough draft will need to be edited. If you have mastered the basics such as good grammar, formatting and punctuation, some of the editing steps will easier than the others.
We can compare editing to the process of cleaving, cutting and polishing a rough diamond. Diamonds take a long time to form, and when they are mined from the earth, they are rough yet beautiful. Each stage in the process is important and important for getting the most potential out of the tough gem.
Cleaving is the part of editing that can be started just after you have typed the end. This is where you step back and take a look at the large picture. This is what is called macro editing. Do you feel satisfied with your ending at that very moment? Are there scenes that you will need to insert to make more sense out of your ending? Do you have a character that you need to develop more or one that you need to get rid of all together?
I would hold off on making any of those changes right away. The diamond cleaver turns the rough gem in his hand and makes observations, sets the diamond in cement and walks away from it to let it cool. Write your observations and a to do list down in notes, backup your draft one last time and put it away for at least thirty days.
During that waiting period, relax and celebrate, but also start working on a new project. Work on rough notes and an outline for a new book or if you do not have an idea for a new story, find writing prompts and exercises that will challenge you and possibly give you some ideas. A week before you start editing, spend some time reading advice from others on the editing process.
Once the waiting period is over, read your manuscript from front to back. You will have a fresh perspective on it, and you will be able to work on those notes that you made earlier with confidence and precision. Tweak your ending, change your beginning, remove those characters or scenes that don’t advance the plot and add those small foreshadowing details that bring depth to the story and give more meaning to the ending. When you are done, put the manuscript away again. For a day, a week or longer if you need to and come back to it, ready to do the micro editing.