You write your first novel in a whirlwind of creative abandon. You celebrate, you take your time off–a couple of weeks to a couple of months being the recommended length. You do this so that you can come back to your novel with new writerly perspective, to see it with new eyes. Some of the passages that seemed awesome in the first pass might now surprise you with their ultimate cheesiness. Some parts that you threw in just to take up space might not actually be too bad.
Now you’re working on your revision. As many fine books on the topic of revision will tell you, the first thing you want to do is a quick read through. Treat your book as though you’ve just picked it up from your local bookstore or library, and read it from beginning to end, only making the most basic notes. Let’s call this your reader perspective.
Next you’re going to chart out your work. Cathy Yardley says to use a notecard for each scene. Alan Watt says to make a three part outline. Each gives specifics to look for. Deconstructing your work will allow you a nonlinear perspective, to see the pieces as the building blocks they are–which ones don’t match, which ones fit better in a different spot. You may end up collapsing two similar characters into one. You may end up rearranging key scenes to amp up the tension.
Now you’re ready to go through your work more slowly. This pass you’re going to be deleting, changing, updating, making edits that will effect other edits, and even writing new scenes. You may try writing in different tenses and with different points of view. You’re honing your perspective of your work as you go, like a sculptor uncovering the art, getting your work closer and closer to its best self.
Finally you edit for style and the finishing touches, the little changes. New writers sometimes mistakenly believe this is all there is to revision, but now that you’re an experienced writer, you’ve got a whole new perspective on revision.
I hope this helps. Feel free to ask questions. From beginning to end, perspective makes all the difference. So be patient with yourself, and know that this is a process.