I've written several posts on editing (usually when I happen to be stuck doing it). Which, for the foreseeable future, is what I'm stuck doing. I'm in full-time editing mode this month and next. With two books under contract with two different publishers and a recently finished manuscript, I've got over a quarter million words to edit. Yay.
Though it really is a slog, it's such an important slog. Especially for discovery writers, like me. I've got characters whose story lines and arcs end up doing 180's, subplots that go by the wayside or pop up out of nowhere, people's names changing ... It all has to get smoothed out. I read a post in a writer's forum where another writer described the first draft as a "bum rush" just to get the words down. Others have called it "The Incredibly Sh**ty First Draft." I'm somewhere between those two. But because I figure out the story as I write, editing takes up a lot more bandwidth and time than for those who take the time to plot out their stories ahead of time.
So how does play out practically? Multiple reads, multiple goals.
After I've finished "The End" I have to wait a few weeks. Then I do the first pass. The first pass is a read-through/rewrite from beginning to end. The only goal here is to get the plot lines smoothed out and the plot holes filled in. So in McJustice, my current work in progress, a character who started out as a short, shrewd redneck of a man turned into a tall, no-nonsense woman; a love interest that became critical in the last third of the book now has to get developed in the first two thirds; a whole bunch of names have been changed; etc., etc. This pass takes the longest. I'm not even through chapter 6 out of 32. It'll probably take me through the end of the year.
Then, the second pass. The second pass is where I'm (hopefully) happy with the plot. I might move some scenes around, might flesh some parts out a bit or cut others back. Mostly, though, I'm looking to make the prose and the flow of the story better.
Finally, the third pass. This is the final read-through. By this time I'm pretty tired of the story. In fact, I'm usually sick of it. But now I've got to look for grammar, misspellings, inconsistencies (did a character who had a pistol at the beginning of the scene somehow find himself unarmed by the end? Could so-and-so really run from one end of town to the other in the time it took for such-and-such to perform a certain act or deliver a certain line?). All three passes are vitally important and can't be short-changed.
But, judging from the photo above, I'm in esteemed company.