I'm finding that approaching revisions systematically really helps take a lot of pain out of revising. Here's the general order I follow. I adapted this from Revision & Self-Editing by James Scott Bell, which I've found to be really useful.
1. Major plot edit. Instead of focusing on how many instances of "that" I could find and eradicate, I look at the story. The theme. The structure. I spend time making sure there's a clear beginning, middle, and end. I take time to work each section, make sure the climatic event is climatic, and the midpoint isn't saggy.
2. Character edit. All the characters get a careful look for story arc, motivation, goals. This is all part of what I think of as the broad revision stage. Some of the questions I ask myself are:
- Is there a definite arc for my main character? Does she learn a lesson or change by the end, and is it clear?
- Are my main character's goals resolved by the end of the book?
- Are minor characters interesting? Do they act consistently throughout the book?
- Have any minor characters taken over the story?
- Do I care about what happens to the main character? (Realizing that I might not be able to ask this question because I'm too close.)
- Do characters act in a cliched way?
One of the ways in which to check and make sure my characters are interesting, have an arc, and most importantly--are memorable--is to compare with other great characters I've read. Author Alexandra Sokoloff has a good post about making lists of such things in order to check yourself. I highly recommend it.
3. Sentence structure edit. This is a step above actual typo and word choice. It's about doing spot checks and making sure whole swaths of paragraphs don't suck.
4. Fine edit. This is typos, punctuation, and capitalization. This is grammar.
How about you? What do you do?