In trauma medicine, we evaluate multiple injured patients during triage to prioritize the order of their care. If you've ever watched M*A*S*H on television, this is what Hawkeye, B.J. and the other doctors do before they go into surgery. In domestic situations, most patients are first evaluated by their ABCs, or airways, breathing and circulation.
As writers, we have to evaluate our work in progress after we write the first draft for any care and repair it might need. We call this form of self-torture editing, and we all have different ways to do it. Some writers prefer a one-pass edit, while others edit dozens of times. There is nothing wrong with multiple edits, but writers can develop a bad habit of backtracking so often that they get trapped in an editing loop, and never write more than a couple of chapters before they get bored, start a new project, and trap themselves again.
I thought a triage approach might help writers who have a hard time with editing. Imagine for a moment that your latest chapter or scene is a patient in need of evaluation (yes, you get to play doctor.) Instead of a stethescope and an exam room, you'll need a hard copy of what needs editing and a highlighter.
To begin your evaluation, read through the chapter or scene you'd like to edit, look for the following conditions, and flag them with your highlighter:
A: Arresting -- any words, phrases or sentences that for whatever reason stop you from reading past them or throw you out of the story.
Squilyp wished to argue with me, but he knew we did not have time to debate my prognosis. He did, however, insist I activate the transmitter in my vocollar and keep the channel open as I operated on the patient. I wondered what I was going to make for dinner tonight; Reever didn't care for much protein. A training monitor in the surgical suite would provide a visual feed for him to observe the entire procedure.
Note: it's nice that Cherijo thinks about preparing meals, but now is not a time she would be doing that. Cherijo's focus should be on the patient she's about to cut open.
B: Baffling -- any point in the story that is unclear, whether it needs more detailing or streamlining.
Squilyp stayed with the patient while I donned a surgical shroud and listened to an ongoing thermal/subdermal aspiration of a v'relkas miatas nearby, and then stopped me as the drone surgical assistance unit rolled its instrument tray past us and into the suite. "I cannot allow you to do this alone. I will stay and assist."
Note: Do you know what an ongoing thermal/subdermal aspiration of a v'relkas miatas is? Neither do I, but it sounds pretty cool. Anything you put in a story just because you thought it sounded cool? Needs to go.
C: Cluttering -- any portion of the story that has no purpose except to occupy space, such as filler or housekeeping dialogue.
"Color is normal, with some arterial pulsation. A considerable amount of distention in the valve, but the tissue appears viable. Thermal scanner." I used the non-invasive instrument to pinpoint the exact location of the mass. "The obstruction is approximately fourteen centimeters by eight centimeters length-width, possibly five centimeters deep, somewhat oblong in shape with rounded edges that remind me of any number of objects, like a small handheld container for personal items, the Jorenian version of Tupperware, or my author's last StarDoc manuscript, and is still partially lodged in the pyloric sphincter adjunct to the secondary chamber. That is causing the bulge."
Note: This sort of over-detailing is common SF TMI. It has nothing to do with the exact location of the mass, so it slows down the passage. I threw it in there deliberately to give Cherijo more to say, which is a filler tactic and doesn't serve the story.
While you're being a story doc, pay close attention to your pacing. Disruption of pacing is always a dead giveaway. When you pinpoint the things that speed, slow or stop the heartbeat of the story, then you've successfully diagnosed what you need to rewrite or remove to save the patient.