I'm reading a lot about revising right now. My inner critic is nice enough to say "This part needs to go" without turning that into "The whole thing is crud."
Inner critics are so helpful. And so are outside gurus. Here are a few of the many insights into revising that I've encountered.
1) Are there evasions of conflict? In real life, most people avoid conflict (except of course the ones that you don't want in your discussion class because they want to fight with anyone's comment even if it be about peanut butter). I avoid conflict. You avoid conflict. Writer's sometimes want to avoid conflict too, but they shouldn't. Not only because it isn't interesting, but it doesn't move the story towards change. "Take a look back in the story where explosives scenes should happen--places where characters ought to confront or defend." --Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French in Writing Fiction.
2) "What is the pattern of change?" --Janet Burroway and Elizabeth Stuckey-French in Writing Fiction. The authors hold that "discovery and decision" are the forces behind action. Everything else is just a list of events. When a character discovers something, the toast is burning, his wife's a harlot, his truck is ablaze, he makes a decision that develops his character and moves the story forward. What are the discoveries that lead to decisions? What moves the story forward and changes the character? Those are the scenes that matter and need the most attention, all else can be improved to be just as important, summarized, or removed.
3) What is my intent? This one I thought of while reading Nathan Brandsford's post The One Thing Writer's Should Never Ask Themselves When Reading. The important thing when reading is to discern the author's intent and base criticism accordingly. What is the author trying to do? Did he/she do it? For everything I read in creative writing classes, I always had to answer those two questions. Authors can keep these questions in mind when reading their own work. What is your intent? Does this scene fulfill it? Does that line?