Tip number one is that you can’t really see your manuscript problems without distance. So after you have a solid first draft it’s helpful to get some perspective. Put it away. Take at least a week off but a few weeks or a month might be better. You need the time so when you come back you have distance.
Tip two is a tip I read in Rachel Aaron’s 2K-10K. It’s about approach and it’s really been a big help to me. Work through the manuscript focusing on different problems. Start with the big problems. Like, for example, the motivation of a character is weak or the progression of a plot point isn’t clear or maybe not fully developed or an element of setting isn’t believable. You identify these big problem. THEN---and this is the R. Aaron idea that was really helpful to me—you work on each problem separately. You don’t work through the manuscript in a linear way. You try to really focus on one problem at a time. Say you work on the motivation of one character. You work through chapter 1, 8, 19, 22 etc.… if that is where the character’s POV is or where the characters main scenes are. You just focus on this problem and then you go onto the next one. Like mentioned in an earlier post, I suggest you write out a bit of thinking (freewriting) on the scene you’re working on before you start it. This will really help you hit the main problems in a way that will keep you focused and engaged.
Tip three—focus on other aspects of the manuscript that you know need work but didn’t address in the previous big picture work. Maybe tightening dialogue or some aspect of setting you know isn’t quite right or description that needs more or less. Some writers overwrite. If you’re this kind of writer, maybe you go through one time just looking for places where you can cut. Some writers underwrite. If you’re this kind of writer maybe you go through one time just looking for windows—places where you can add to a scene or description. AGAIN –don’t force yourself to revise in a linear way. Work on whatever interests and excites you that day.
Tip four---change font. Print out a copy. This will help you keep a fresh look at the work. Now work through the manuscript in a linear way..
Tip five—Go through at least once looking for ways to improve language and whatever you can catch. This will probably be several passes. In the last one try to work on grammar.
Tip six--Give it to someone else—maybe several people---to get feedback. You’ll need it. Rework after considering feedback.
Revision is a gift. We can’t revise our lives in this way, but luckily we can revise our stories.