The drafting of a book, for me, is like assembling Legos. The resulting construction can be recognized as, say, Godzilla or a tractor, but it has little in the way of personality. It is plastic blocks in primary colors. The first revision of a book involves making the blocks smaller and more refined, and taking off the antlers I stuck on the duck when I forgot I wasn’t writing about an elk.
Style comes in the final rewriting, when I discover how people talk, and when I refine the language so that it has wit, not just utility.
I just made a revision pass of one of my manuscripts that was a continuity pass, a story-making-sense pass. Things follow now. However, the next one is when I go back and make my characters coherent. Or rather, let them have their head. Give them their individual lunacy. Make them interestingly incoherent.
You’d think it would be the other way around, that I would start with the characters, but though I have characters in mind and I realize their individuality, much of the dialogue and internal speech I write is simply getting-from-here-to-there talk, designed to accomplish a task.
The last part is when I uncouple the gears and dance on the surface of the plot. And when I take what is a careful and somewhat predictable story and tip it over the edge.