Cleaning and improving is the work of the second draft. You are ready because you just sat on the couch and read the first draft by yourself and saw where you got bored. Where the plot did not quite move. Where you repeated yourself. Where you forgot about a character. Where you brought the Russians into it and then dropped them. Why did you do that? you ask yourself. Do you need them at all?
You get the idea.
You made notes on the pages. “Add more here,” you wrote in the margin. “Lose this.” “Do I need a chapter here to develop the love affair more?”
You cut ruthlessly whereever you found yourself wondering as you were reading, “Did I buy coffee this morning? Should I go check my email?” You cut where you find yourself indulging your desire to get on a pulpit and lecture. Out.
Readers want to be in a story and follow the characters. They are not the least interested in what an author thinks.
This is the work of the second draft.
Once you have finished reading and notating the first draft, you will know specifically what you need to fix to make the story move better, to make the story calibrate and be believable. You will know where you need to add more information about a character. Give a character more time on the page. You might have short shrifted someone.
Now you sit down and make your changes. It’s quite fun because now you can see the novel coming together. It’s not as difficult as writing the first draft because you now know what the story is, what the characters are made up of. The second draft is where you begin to see the novel take shape and have urgency.
This is where you sort the plot out. This is where the story begins to really make sense. You have excised any unnecessary detours and built transitions for what explains story advancements.
This is where you literally cut out all the rough edges.