I find this to be the toughest part of editing because it often involves cutting huge chunks and rewriting. Rewrites are necessary to the process of crafting a good book, so grumble if you must, but find a way to get over it and do the work.
Now is the time to ask yourself questions like this:
What if instead of accomplishing his/her goal, my main character fails. Can I find any kind of happiness in this ending? A problem with many books is that the endings are too predictable. Failure must be an option if you want to keep your readers guessing.
Is life too easy for my main character? Can you make your character's journey worse? If so - do it. Take away friends, health, money, any kind of advantage.
Can my main character face additional problems? Your character might not have enough to do. If the overall problem is solving a mystery, great. They need other things pressing on their time. Maybe they have an ailing parent or friend who they're helping. Maybe they're doing a community service project. Maybe they have a car that's giving them troubles. Don't be afraid to create extra plot lines and weave them in.
Can I make unexpected connections? I talked about this in May's newsletter (click here to sign up for the Go Teen Writers monthly(ish) newsletter). One of the best experiences when you're reading is a plot twist that throws you for a loop. One of the ways you can create this in your manuscripts is to create an unexpected connection between two characters, or a character and a setting, or a setting and a situation. Here's a way to achieve this:
Get some index cards. Write down 10 or so characters from your novel, a handful of settings, and a few situations or plot lines from your novel. One per index card. For example, one card might say "Jamie" another card "Jamie's work" and a situation "Rose's birthday party."
Mix them all up, then lay them writing-side down on the floor, like you're playing a memory game. Then pick up two or three cards. They will likely have very little or possibly nothing to do with each other ... but ask yourself if there's a way to connect these things. Can you connect Jamie's old boyfriend to Rose's party somehow? Maybe she meets someone who once dated him. Or maybe when she's there, she finds out he's getting married. When I do this exercise, I always walk away with a handful of plot twists to implement. (This is adapted from Donald Maass's fabulous book, Writing the Breakout Novel workbook.)
During first drafts, we tend to make obvious choices. Or at least I do. That's fine, but don't let yourself settle for an okay story when you could instead write a great story.
Have a wonderful weekend everyone!