Congrats! You’ve done most of the heavy lifting now as far as edits go! Your story’s not finished, though. While you can put away the chainsaw and sledge-hammer, you’re not done with the work. We still have one more step on this draft; we’re just breaking out a different toolset. Let’s roll up those sleeves and dig into the fine-tuning!

  1. Use the right word, not its second cousin. Starting again at the very beginning of your manuscript, comb through each sentence, each paragraph, and each page. Look at the words individually. Do you say “walked slowly” when you mean to say your character “trudged”? This isn’t an attack on adverbs–sometimes they’re exactly what you need. But make that choice intentionally. Say precisely what you mean.
  2. Reinforce your character’s voice. Are they saying exactly what you want? If not, take a moment to really find the right word to hammer in the image that you want your reader to take away from your work. If your detective is investigating the site of a mass-murder, are they going to call it “a slew of bodies”? How about “a heap of corpses”? Are they really more concerned about their brand-new Louis Vuittons getting blood on them? Be honest and let your character be honest (unless you have an unreliable narrator. But that’s another story).
  3. Enhance the meter of your words–have fun! You don’t have to write in iambic pentameter to play around with rhythm (though it is, on occasion, a blast). Fiddle with the placement of your words, sentence structure, cadence. Move sentences around to create a dynamic rise and fall. Vary length. Imagine how it would sound when read aloud–or, better, actually do it.


And it may take still more drafts to get your story to where it needs to be. You might find yourself doing lots of rinse and repeats until you’re finally satisfied. But that’s okay. Most of the best do! Just take your time and try to enjoy the process!

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