The best way to find the big picture flaws of your novel is to let people read it. Not everyone, but a small, subset of everyone. Try and find folks who are not familiar with your work and are not afraid to tell you when they find things they didn’t understand. Some of them should be writers and some of them should be just regular readers. Among them should be at least one person who is not a fan of your genre.
This small sampling of readers, should then be debriefed after they have read your manuscript. Sometimes this is in the form of a lengthy conversation – in which you take good notes. More frequently, you have them fill out a questionnaire. You can find some decent questionnaires out there on the web and then tailor them to your own needs.
After you have your feedback, it’s a pretty simple matter to compare and contrast the answers. When three or more readers tell you that your hero was not who you thought it was, you definitely have a problem that should be addressed. For my latest WIP, Starveyors, that is what has happened.
The problem arose while I was writing the novel. I realized halfway through it that the hero was not who I thought it was. That’s okay. I just plowed on through it and didn’t attempt to rethink what I had already written, because otherwise the first draft would have stalled. The end result is that my current draft bounces around between two possible protagonists and never really settles on making it clear which person actually is the protagonist. So the Beta Readers were split on who it actually was.
I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to fix this problem, but I’m sure it will involve some POV changes and possibly a few new scenes. If I hadn’t let a variety of readers read the manuscript, I might not have found this error before it got to my editor. That would have wasted her time in having to tell me to go back to the drawing board.
So that’s where I am with Starveyors. I still expect to get this novel to the e-presses in late November if not by December.