Chapter numbers. Chapter numbers don’t go on until I’m sure all the chapters are there, in the right order (OK, MOSTLY sure.) Before that, chapters have a title, such as “Chapter: Kieri & Elves Talk History” (not actual title.) That way I can use a search on “Chapter” to find the beginnings of chapters, and the title tells me if I have the one I want. Chapter numbers change during the writing, as I may be off-chronology. Chapters are numbered now, all forty-one of them.
Other things: Spellchecking. Reading sections aloud, one chapter at a time (my voice wears out if I do too much at once) to catch typos spellcheck won’t and clumsy constructions. (Note–if I fix something, it needs another read through at least 12 hours later to be sure I didn’t leave a fossil of the original.) Continuity/consistency checks. Did someone pull out a sword from a scabbard, but clobber the attacker with a club? What happened to the sword? Where did the club come from? Clarity: I know the story well, but what I know about why someone did something is no help to the reader if it’s not actually in the words of the story.
And any fixes will require other fixes…as if the story were a mobile hanging by a thin wire from the reader’s mind. Take off that fish and put on a bison, and the mobile tilts. The bison won’t balance in place of the fish…so move the bison or add something else…which then tilts the mobile a different way. Not to mention that it’s really embarrassing when–after the thing is hung and apparently balancing, you notice the fish still on the table and know that the fish is essential to the design…and people start asking “But where’s the FISH?”
Then comes the last rub with the polishing cloth, to remove (the writer hopes) the smudgy marks from all the messing about. Editors will no doubt find more and point out where the writer should do more polishing. That’s their job. But I prefer them to say “It’s really clean but there’s this bit here,” rather than “I’m sorry, but there’s a lot more to be done.” (Among other things, the writer doesn’t get paid until the ms. is accepted, and accepted means there’s not much if anything more to be done before it goes to copy-editing. And on my publishing schedule, I need to be working on the next book, not spending more time fixing this one.)