Sometimes we have to step back to look at the shape of the whole thing. Does our plot structure serve our story? Are the scenes in the right place? Is there a build both to the plot and to the character arcs? Is there a strong, clear climax and turning point? What about the pacing? Are some scenes too long or too short? Is there a mix of rapid action with occasional moments to breathe? To spot these things, you have to zoom out.
How do you zoom out? An outline or synopsis can help. For me, I always reach a point where I have to print out the whole manuscript, let it rest, then read through it all and have others read through it. I've also found that the Scrivener program is a great tool for looking at the big picture shape of a longer manuscript.
Still, you can't keep your distance all the time. Attention to the details is what brings the story to life, what makes the world you've created and the characters in it feel real. For that, you have to zoom in. Look at the shape of each individual scene. Think intently about word choice. Clear out some of those verbs of awareness. Find strong language to use instead of placeholders (those words or phrases that come most quickly to us, do the job and hold the spot but are ultimately weak or overused). Pay attention to the rhythm and pacing of individual words, sentences and paragraphs. Does the language slow things down when the action should be galloping forward?
This dance between big picture and details is all about balance. Zoom in. Polish. Zoom out. Assess. Zoom in again.
What tricks or tools do you find useful in shifting perspective on your story?