I had several books under my belt when I watched Romancing the Stone, sitting in the theater next to my mother. Great opening—dramatization of book’s romantic ending, then the author typing “The End”. She sits back, sighs, opens a bottle of wine and a can of cat food. Author and author’s cat celebrate, each in their own fashion. Then the wine glass and the cat dish are flung into the fireplace, Russian toasting-fashion. And my mother turns to me and says…”Do you do that?” My reply? “No, I usually just turn off the typewriter and go to bed, because it’s two in the morning.”
So that’s the grand finish to a novel, if you will. Because writing is a process, you may celebrate the completion of your first draft—and you should—but you should know there is still more process to come. Now you edit.
Content Edit, Copy Edit, Proofread. Perform these essential steps repeatedly. Get some distance, allow some time. Question everything. Develop fresh eyes, as if you were reading someone else’s book. Because although you should love your creation with all your heart and all your soul as you write that first draft, afterwards you must have eyes and heart of steel—because your work is to ensure that the book in your head becomes the one your reader eventually sees, and shares with you. You can celebrate at every step, because this necessary work is an achievement. Your cat’s not going to complain—she’s going to accept that extra can of food as her due.
As you maybe can tell, I enjoy editing. I look at it as an opportunity to spend quality time with my characters. I won’t pretend it’s always a breeze—in fact, if you do it too long at a stretch and find you’re enjoying yourself, you might just be reading in an uncritical way, and it’s time to take a break! Come back when you have fresh eyes. If that means you throw your book in a box and shove it under the bed for a month, so be it! Bet you find all sorts of illogic, inconsistency, areas to expand and overdone description that you skimmed over on an earlier read. That’s why editing is best accomplished over time, with breaks. There’s no publisher breathing down your neck. Take the time you need. Do the job right. Don’t see it as drudgery—it’s just one more important part of the process of writing!