Stage 1: Plot RevisionsRead the whole thing. The bullet-pointed lists of questions Whipple provides beneath each stage are the post's most valuable bits since they contain killer questions such as "Are all my characters necessary? Are there some that can be combined or cut?" and "Does every scene work overtime? (i.e. You don't write one chapter just to explain a character's back story -- there should be more than one reason for every scene.)" I also find her hierarchy of moving from macro- to micro-edits useful, although it goes against my natural inclination. To me, the world holds few joys greater that polishing a sentence until it gleams brighter than chrome in the noonday sun. But so many of those spiffy interludes have ended up on the dustheap because they didn’t serve the overall story. In the end, everything must converge.
If I have plot issues -- which I often do -- I like to tackle these first. Mostly because they are usually the Big Problems, the ones that cause cuts and moving and additions and rewriting. Really, why spend time refining prose when a whole section could go? Why spend time bringing out a character's emotional arc when the events could change? And thus their reactions to it? ...
Stage 2: Character Revisions
After I feel like I have a fairly tight plot, I turn my focus to characters. Often when you mess with plot, your characters' reactions might have to change as well. Or maybe you haven't quite represented them properly.
It might be hard to "change" your characters, but I've learned it's not really changing. It's more like "representing" them more accurately. ...
Stage 3: Prose Revisions
After I feel like I have a decent grasp on the plot and characters, I face the dreaded prose editing. The nitty gritty stuff -- the stuff that takes your story from good to great. While plot and character revising can be overwhelming, prose revision can be just plain tedious.
(Picture: CC 2008 by amysgster; Hat Tip: Nathan Bransford - Literary Agent)