I've studied the craft, I've got the book, what's next?
Great! You have spent the time it takes to read how-to books on writing. (For those who want a list of suggested titles, see below.) Now that you've applied those techniques to your book and rewritten it until it shines, what next? Now would be a great time to find a critique group or a freelance editor. This is true whether you choose to seek traditional publishing or go the self-publishing route. Everyone needs a good editor. Everyone. And it also helps to have some great critique partners too.
Why do I say that?
Because we are too close to our own work. Before the world sees our prose, we need fresh eyes and fresh perspective on our stories.
This might also be a good time to join a writers support group. For fiction writers who are Christians I recommend American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW). This would be a good group to join long before you've even written that first draft.
Writers groups can be a good place to find critique partners. I have been in several groups through ACFW - long before my work saw print. The last group I was in was made up of ACFW writers, some of whom had been published in the past and some who were very close to it. I was the last in that group to land a contract, which made hanging out with them online all the better as they were great encouragers and we were all rooting for each other. In fact, this past year at a retreat I attended, four of us from that original group met again, this time in person. Two of those gals have remained lifelong friends.
I also recommend the help of a freelance editor because they are professionals. A critique group may not be. Freelance editors have the grammar skills along with the writing skills to know what needs to go into a story. But do your research and make sure you find one that understands fiction. Their input can be invaluable.
After you have the book read and/or edited, and you have polished it yet again, you may be ready for the next step. More on that next time.
Here is that list of book suggestions* to help you get started in doing your own editing:
Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict by Debra Dixon
45 Master Characters - by Victoria Schmidt
On Writing: A Memoir Of The Craft by Stephen King
Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Anne Lamott
The Elements of Style, Fourth Edition by William Strunk
Easy Grammar: Plus Student Workbook by Wanda Phillips (for those who want to brush up on the basics)
Writing Fiction For Dummies by Randy Ingermanson
*I have not read all of these books. They are simply suggestions.