In revising your work, there are common basic steps you can take no matter whether you are working on a fiction book or non-fiction essay. First of all, take a break from the creative process and clear your mind. Editing takes a different mindset: you need to be fresh, focused and ready to cast a critical eye over your own work.
Read through your whole work, focusing on how the information is presented. Do the ideas presented follow a logical order, with one idea following on from the next, or are their gaps or bumps in the flow of information? Will someone unfamiliar with the subject or characters really understand what you are trying to say? Do one of your characters lose their motivation or desire to chase their goal anywhere, in any chapter? (This is a common problem that often occurs unconsciously when authors write while tired or feeling bored and unmotivated with their project).
While you are scanning the overall flow of the text, keep your mind sharp and repair any obvious grammar or spelling errors you notice along the way. If you see a mistake repeated more than once, run a “search and replace” to correct similar errors throughout your manuscript. Chances are, if you have made a particular error two or three times, you have probably made it a number more times elsewhere in your book. You may not even have noticed it before you were in editing mode.
Run a spell check, but be very careful with this tool as sometimes it can create more of a mess than it cleans up. Spell-check software picks up any typos or punctuation errors that show up as words unknown to the spellchecker, but it won’t catch many other types of errors. For example, if the incorrect word spells something that might have been correct in another context, the spellchecker will ignore it. Likewise, be careful you don’t select “change all” and accidentally modify words that didn’t need to be changed. You could unintentionally introduce hundreds of errors into the manuscript, none of which the spellchecker will flag for your attention. Spell-checking software is a handy tool to help you find easy errors or grammar issues, but it is by no means perfect.
Finally, after you have finished your revisions (and used the experience to learn about your own writing habits and develop your craft), the next step is to send your work to a professional editor who will review your book with a fresh set of eyes and catch anything you missed. A professional editor is not only experienced at spotting typos and grammar mistakes but can also offer advice on how to smooth out any remaining bumps or wrinkles in the story and improve the overall structure. This could be the essential final step in your journey to finding an agent or publisher.