Ok, so here's a step away from the elements of a novel. This one is more focused on the editorial process.
I'm talking about taking your precious work that you've been slaving over for months (years for some of us) and sharing it with people whose opinions you trust and who can give you honest, constructive criticism for how to improve upon the clarity, structure and style of your work.
I know, it's a scary prospect. I have yet to show anyone more than the smallest taste of my own manuscript because I already know what the feedback will be.
Unfortunately, the main problem I see with manuscripts in the slush pile is lack of feedback. A manuscript that has been read and vetted by trusted critique partners and/or professionally edited has a lot better chance rising above the rest of the slush. A lot of authors would save themselves a giant helping of humble pie if they would only take the time to get feedback on their work and then put that feedback to work in a revision (or 10).
What's your process like? Do you have trusted critique partners that you go to?