By now you have finished your first draft, edited it for content, cleaned up some little errors, and sent it off to an editor or critique readers. So what the hell do you do now?

First off, if you sent it to an editor, he or she should have a deadline you both agreed to. You're paying for it, so if they worth your money and time, they will stick to it. So you know the schedule and you don't need to follow up with them until the return date.

If you alternatively sent out copies to critique readers you might have set a date...and it is usually a theory. No matter how much your friends have promised they can finish by then, they are human, they have lives and jobs, and may need to push it back. So you'll need to keep on top of it. Halfway to the deadline check up, see if they need more time. Adjust as necessary. Now do this again and the new 3/4 mark. Lastly do this again 1 week before deadline. Keep on it and nag if you have to, but be nice. These people are doing you a huge favor so never jerk them around, always be polite, and remember you will owe them.

Now that you understand scheduling, if you went with an editor you have nothing to do. Go read books in your genre, start paying attention to the covers on best sellers from authors similar to you, and pay attention to the original covers of the books that were the author's first on the bestseller list. Start thinking about your cover.

For the rest of us who are using critique readers, remember, you can ask your critique readers to find any spelling/grammar errors they find, but it takes time. They should focus more on content. Which means the editing is up to you, and you have an extra step (or three) that those who pay for professional editing do not have to worry over.

You need to take a break. Revisit how to and watch a few movies. Do something passive to relax your mind. If reading is passive enough for you,. do that, but actually try NOT to stick to genre. Writing mystery? Read a historical romance. Writing futuristic sci-fi? Read some classic horror. But if reading is not passive enough, watch some movies, talk to friends, relax your mind. That's important, editing requires fresh eyes.

Now, no matter what you did to relax, you need to make sure you have grammar cold. Maybe you didn't major in English and you don't have all the rules memorized. If so, relax, you're normal, and we normal people have cheats. This is a good one you should look over, and try to have these rules down cold. Why memorize it? Because you can't depend on the built-in grammar editor of your writing software. Why? Because in narration you should NEVER use improper grammar, but your characters may do so in dialogue.

In short, one struggle writers always have is to make their characters speak differently and show they are different people. Do all your friends speak the same? No, they don't. Sometimes the more time you spend with them your own speech can change. After time with my hippie friends I say "dude" and "man" more often.  After time with my black friends I throw more street into my speech. After time with the nerds my grammar becomes near-perfect. Left alone I use weird metaphors all the time. The good news is you don;t have to get that detailed with a character's speech, but you do have to show two people are different. If they grew up in very similar households attending the same schools, they may speak similarly. But a character from Allentown, PA and Bristol, UK shouldn't talk the same way.

You can use grammar to differentiate. ONLY IN DIALOGUE can you break rules. A blue collar character is more likely to say "Mama serves us lasagna on the good china all the time" while your Harvard grad would know to say "Mama likes to serve her lasagna on good china to her family often."

Now, outside of dialogue your grammar should be good. You will never catch 100% of the errors, so concentrate on the most common ones and any you are prone to. After your break go chapter by chapter over your project, go slowly, but don't obsess. Print it out and seek errors on hard copy if you can, it's easier as your mind interprets it as a new source and you pay more attention.

At the same time, go for spelling errors. However, use the spell check here. There should be no errors. Let the computer do the bulk of the work. As you edit for grammar (this will be far from your last edit) remember to just look for the most common grammar errors, and try to spot spelling errors the spell check didn't catch. Maybe you typed "though" but you meant "through." Spell check won't get that, but you should. 

For an average fiction novel your critique readers or editor should have usually 6 weeks to edit. That means you have 6 weeks to do this. Take your time and don't kill yourself. The fine-tooth comb comes out son enough. 

Through it all remember to check in with critique readers, see how they're doing, give them more time if they need. Be sure to take breaks as needed, and before starting this take a big break. The important thing to remember is that you will not catch all errors or have it perfectly edited, and nor should you. Critique edits may force you to remove whole scenes, write new ones, or do massive re-writes on sections. So don't kill yourself editing what may be soon lost. Instead just do a thorough light sweep to make future edits simpler. And of course, stay on top of the critiques!