I recently stumbled across a post titled 4 Levels of Editing Explained: Which Service Does Your Book Need? on The Book Designer's blog. Since I'm currently in what I'm hoping will be one of the last rounds of editing my manuscript, I found this breakdown of the different kinds of edits interesting.
In this post, Joel Friedlander explains that there are
1. Big-Picture Edits, which address the structure of the book (f.e. plot, character arcs, etc.)
2. Paragraph-Level Edits, which work to focus sentence clarity and flow,
3. Sentence-Level Edits, which checks grammar, usage and consistency/continuity issues,
4. Word-Level Edits, aka proofreading, which adresses spelling, punctutation and formatting issues.
With my WIP, I've hit all four levels, and am currently working on levels three through four. I find those can be tackled together, once the big-picture edits are finalized. Those, for me, are the greater challenge by far, also evident in the time-frame each edit has taken me:
Writing the first draft took me six months. I was fairly satisfied with it, and happy I'd managed to 'spit it out' in such a (for me) record time.
The first big-picture edit took three months. It made the story better in some parts, but terrible as a whole. I was satisfied no longer.
Ergo, on to round two of big-picture edits, where I did what I should have done in the first place: I made some tough decisions regarding changes in world-building, which fundamentally altered large portions of the plot. I tore the entire manuscript apart, chapter by chapter, rearranged, deleted, added and rewrote. And here I'd thought I'd done a good job outlining beforehand... This round of edits took me five months, which means I spent eight months on big-picture edits for a six-month-first-draft. Hallelujah. Writing is rewriting, indeed.
Then I went through the entire manuscript with paragraph-level edits, with bits and pieces of sentence-level edits thrown into the mix. This version I finally proclaimed good enough to go to my beta readers - only five weeks after finishing the big-picture edits!
Now, with the first feedback trickling in from beta-readers, I'm tackling the 'small' edits of levels three and four. If I keep up the current pace, I'll be done by the end of June, meaning I'll have gone through those in about five more weeks.
To sum up: it took me eight months to work my way through the big-picture edits, versus two-and-a-half months for the other levels of editing combined.
I'm not home-free, yet. My book-baby is still in the hands of my beta-readers. They promised they wouldn't be gentle with it. I just hope they don't find anything wrong with its major organs or arteries, or it's back to the big-picture board for me...