Writers have to do many things to get their work into publishable condition. Some writers try to do many of these tasks simultaneously. Others break up each task into a distinct draft. Either method is fine, if it works for you.
But there’s also a lot of confusion regarding what these tasks are and what they must accomplish. You may call these tasks by different names, but each task is distinct, with a different purpose.
Drafting involves saying what you want to say—that is, saying it so you know what you want it to be and so you have something to work with, not so that you’ve said it as well as you can.
Crafting is where you go back over what you have said, first to make sure you’ve said everything you need to say, and then so you are sure you are saying it clearly, so that others can understand it. This is where you work your draft, so that you’re saying what you want to say as well as you can.
Polishing involves go through your manuscript to make sure that you have actually said what you meant to say, and have said it in a way that others can understand. This is where you make one last effort to ensure your spelling and grammar choices are appropriate.
Editing is a task that is started by someone else; sometimes you follow through, sometimes the follow through is done for you. Editing is a distinct skill from writing, but it is the editor’s equivalent to crafting.
Copyediting is also a task that is started by someone else; and, once again, you or they may be responsible for follow through. Copyediting is a distinct skill from writing, but it is the editor’s or copyeditor’s equivalent to polishing.
Revising is what the writer does after a manuscript has been marked up for editing or copyediting. You can’t revise without feedback. Whether you receive that feedback from a trusted reader, an agent, or an editor, before you can revise, you need feedback. Many times, you may rely first on a trusted reader, and then revise, re-craft, and re-polish. Then you may rely on an agent, who may require you to revise, re-craft, and re-polish again. Finally, you may rely on an editor, who may also require you to revise, re-craft, and re-polish. If you seek traditional publication, this process is often laid out for you.
However, with the increasingly attraction self-publication opportunities currently available, the gatekeepers to readers are gone, and so is the structured process of publishing your work. Many writers are skimping on the editing and copyediting phases of their work. Some are even skimping on the crafting and polishing phases.
Most writers’ work can benefit from crafting and polishing before they receive any form of feedback. Almost all writers’ work requires editing and copyediting before it’s truly publishable. In this age of self-publication, a writer who chooses not to skimp, and therefore produces a higher quality product, will stand out and get noticed. They will have a longer, more rewarding career for their efforts.