As my regular readers now know (and most everyone else, since I won't shut up about it), my second novel, Small-Town Monster, was finally published (also available on Amazon). It's been a big production to finally get it wrapped up, but now that it's all finalized, I have had a little time to sit back and take in the lessons from the entire process from the idea phase to finalizing my copy. In doing so, I think it's only fair that I share a few of those insights in the name of allaying the frustrations of other writers walking the same path.
The first edit of that draft will be painful. All those errors I listed will come out in full view, along with spelling, grammar, passive voice, etc. It will at times be embarrassing to look at, and a feeling of shame is perfectly natural. However, all that red ink serves a purpose - to guide you to the final draft. Let it do its thing and you do your thing - be a writer.
Never run a spellcheck before the final draft. Why check the spelling on pages you are probably going to rewrite anyway? If you are tired of Word calling you out on the alternative name usage you chose, just add it to the dictionary and move on. You have bigger fish to fry.
Warning: Not every character will survive. It's tough to realize that a character you thought was a fun addition to the story is little more than a speed bump to the pacing, and they have to go. Erasing characters happens, and do not be afraid - they don't take it personally. Every character we delete merely goes back into our brain and waits for a story where they can flourish. Their loss is for the greater good of the story, so do not feel bad. Let the axe fall and move on.
Beta-readers are really trying to help you. If you use beta-readers or workshop different stories (which I strongly recommend), you will get feedback such as, "I didn't understand this character's motive" or "How does this affect things?" At this point, it is not your job to explain the motive or the effect to the reader, but to ask what would resolve that problem. Most problems are when the reader does not understand what the writer is trying to communicate, and it is in the best interest of the writer to find out why that message isn't coming through. If you can, engage the reader's questions and offer suggestions to them to see what would resolve the situation. This is called progress, and seriously, you will benefit from it.
Finish the damn thing! There will always be more work to do, always another read-through to take. At some point, however, you need to tell yourself, "This is where I feel good about it. Maybe not 100% great, but I feel this is the message I want to send." Then do a spell-check and get ready for the manuscript-shopping/publication process. There will be little errors in it - nobody's perfect. However, you have created your story and put your top effort into it. Be proud of this moment.
My goal in offering these points is simple: Writing a story is more than just writing, but all these other points build up to the price-tag on a quality product. They are frustrating, aggravating, and often quite disheartening, but they lead up to that moment when you can hold your own book in your hand as see your name on the cover. Believe me, the effort is worth it.