I write quick paced fantasy books with a sprinkling of humor. With that being said, here’s what I edit for on the first pass through:
Long sentences. I love commas. I love them so much that on the first editing run, I can sometimes break one sentence into three. Long sentences slow down the pace of the book. My beloved commas must go to keep the pace I want.
Tense confusion/verb confusion: When I’m type, type, typing along I sometimes
used uses use the wrong tense. This is particularly true when I’ve rewritten a scene.
Where was I going with that?:
Sometimes I’ve rewritten a scene later in the book and when I go back and re-read I find a snippet of dialogue or description left over from the earlier draft. I rewrite or delete these (no matter how brilliantly written they may be).
Long paragraphs: I keep my paragraphs short in general, but every once in a while I read through a monster paragraph where I must have been on a roll and was too excited to hit the return key. I break these down,
sometimes and delete whole, redundant sentences (thank goodness).
Stating the obvious: I have an annoying quirk of writing out the conclusion I want the reader to draw in my first draft. I delete these when I find them, and then I re-read the scene to make sure I really did lay the ground work for the reader to draw that conclusion.
Frequent words and indecisive words: Sometimes, almost, practically, a little, smiled…there are so many words that I find over and over again in my stories. I delete the indecisive ones (sometimes, practically, etc.) and find new ones for the common words that are more descriptive (smiled becomes smirked or grinned, etc.). I also read each paragraph to make sure I haven’t used the same word multiple times in one paragraph, or used it again in the next paragraph. For instance: I closed the car door and looked back at my partner. Coyote stood with his elbows on the roof of the car and stared at me. I sighed and walked back to the car, a little reluctant to leave without finding any clues. If I were reading this book I would close it, roll my eyes and give up. Unfortunately, not everyone reads their own material for over used, unnecessary words. **Sigh**
Back story: I have to give back story now and then, but I keep it to one or two sentences. If it’s a paragraph of details about my character’s past, it gets cut to one or two sentences. Back story pulls a reader right out of the present action. I also delete multiple tid-bits of back story, and I try to keep those in the first few chapters. Sometimes, I find I have explained some critical bit of the character’s history in the second half of the book. When this happens, I go back to the first half and work it in to the story earlier.
Because I do so many back and forth edits, I only look for a few things per editing pass. The ones I’ve listed above are the easy edits for me to do…the second pass is sometimes more challenging. I hope I’ve given a few good hints here. Good luck and happy writing!