Anyway, onto the good stuff. Jovielyna (@Jovielyna3 on Twitter) recently asked me, “How can you make your book more consistent?” and I thought that was a nice question to answer in this post.
For me, this comes down to one thing: edit until you’re sick of it. And then some more.
The way I approach the editing process is that, after I’ve set a first draft aside for a few weeks, I read it in one go, and I take notes. I focus on the big things: setting, pacing, character, voice. The big picture. That typo or grammar error? I don’t care. I don’t see the point in fixing things that might not end up staying. So I don’t bother.
Find the plot holes in your story. Find the places where your character isn’t acting true to their personality. Find the flow in your story—make sure it has a curve, that there’s tension when needed, and that a slow moment doesn’t get boring. Every sentence needs to move the plot forward. If it doesn’t, there’s no use keeping it.
If you’re talking consistency, it’s important to connect all those dots. It’s not just the voice, or the character’s personality, or the flow of your sentences, or the correct spelling and grammar. It’s the whole package.
And when you've fixed the Big Things, you move on to the Small Things. Grammar, spelling, line edits. Focus on the flow. Focus on every word. Is it really needed? If not, ditch it. Tighten your story.
Then send it to your critique partners (although mine see my work after the Big Things) and your beta readers. You'll probably have multiple rounds of revising and sending it to CPs/betas (whichever stage you're in).
The important thing to remember here is that you can’t do this on your own. There are only so many times you can read your story and really pay attention. It’s hard. It’s easy to miss things—heck, it’s easy to be objective about your own story!
I’ve had times where I was convinced I had everything under control, send it to a beta reader who hadn’t read it yet… and then *insert facepalm* when I read her feedback. Something simple, something I should’ve seen—but I didn’t. And that’s okay. You can’t do this on your own. You need people to help you, people with a fresh look when you’ve read your story countless times already.
So go edit the heck out of your story. Make sure everything is in line, that your characters act true to their personality, you spell everything the same way (because I use both American English and British English, I have to be extra careful when editing! I mix favorite/favourite, for example) and make sure it just really sings.