Right now, I'm finishing up a read-through of an old manuscript that I want to revise. I haven't so much as opened this document in years, so it's been kind of a trip to reread it. Some parts surprised me, some parts made me grin madly, and a few parts made me cringe. But happily, once I got to The End I realized that I did, in fact, want to take a couple weeks and play around with it.
While I do a pre-revisions read-through, I have a rule: no edits, only comments. No matter how egregious the error or brilliant the brainstorm, I don't stop to change the text. If I let myself start tweaking, it will take weeks to get through the document. I do leave myself point-of-use notes with Track Changes, though. And sometimes, they get a little weird/mean:
It's like I'm channeling Regina George as my own beta reader.
So once I've read the manuscript and made notes, I write a very brief synopsis that I use to figure out structure or arc problems. And then I start revising, but I start out with chunks because working on more than 5-6 chapters at a time, in a fresh Word document, freaks me out.
So, writer friends: Do you read through old manuscripts to reevaluate them? Do you write yourself snarky editorial comments? How do you decide if, when, and how to revise?