Novel Revision, Step Seven: Think Again
I had to step back and take one more look. It's worth doing that, I think, unless you're really sure you've got it as good as you can make it or that you've stared at it too long to know what might be wrong. After rewriting start to finish, if nothing else it is good to go back to the beginning of the story and make sure it matches the end.
There wasn't a lot of method in this step: I didn't do a full re-read, just went through the first few chapters and then skipped around, tightened up wording in a few places, and thought. Something niggled at me (two things, actually, but one of them never made sense until someone else pointed out the problem to me.)
It took me several days of thinking it over to come up with the answer to my problem; once I did, I had it fixed in less time than it took me to think it over.
The point of looking back was mostly to check out the big details, giving the story a final once-over to try and notice any serious mistakes. A lot of mistakes, even big ones, can be fixed with surprising ease if the story itself is strong. I did also look for voice issues, though--I wanted that reasonably polished before letting anyone read the tale.
That wrapped up my basic revision process. The manuscript hasn't reached pristine perfection, but why try to worry about every last sentence when no one has read it yet? A lot may yet change. My beta readers have the book now (tip: give it to one person with good strong opinions and have them read it through before printing manuscripts for your whole critique group. You might waste less paper re-printing half the book that way.) When I have the readers' thoughts, I'll take those into consideration and put the final polish on before seeking publication.
If you're revising: best wishes to you! Do let me know how the process goes for you, especially if you tried out anything that I've suggested. Every author works differently, of course; none of this is law. I learned a lot from a few who shared their expertise, and only hope this will help someone else. Happy rewriting!