There are two reactions that a writer will usually have upon reading their own work. For some pieces, its love at first sight. Other pages leave a sour taste in your mouth. And while it can be easy to point out what you love about the things you love, it's just as important to identify why you hate the bits you hate. This can be one of the hardest tasks for a writer. You know something's wrong with a manuscript, but you don't know quite why. After all, it seemed so great as you were doing it.
As I mentioned in a post last week, I'm currently trying to rework something I wrote several months ago. As I started to think how I could change this or that element, I decided the only way to figure it all out was to make a list of all the things that weren't working. If I could see clearly what had to go, I could think about the replacements one at a time. I find this method always works well and often the solutions tend to run into each other, solving many problems at once.
I frequently tell young writers that it's not simply enough to know when something isn't working. You need to spend time with it and figure out why it isn't working. Even if it's months later, it's a key step to the writing process. It's the only way to learn to refine the craft and to hopefully avoid making the same mistakes down the road.