By Will Greenway
The most obvious element of polishing is ridding your work of the “nits,” such as passive voice, misspellings, grammar errors and poor syntax. All of them are important but they should be pushed to a later revision. For our first polishing pass we must focus on structure.
In a structural analysis, you must be ruthless. Scrutinize every paragraph. Is the work easy to follow, does it advance the story, and is it ESSENTIAL? No? Get it out.
Cut. Cut. Cut. Your material can retain its beauty and voice, simply trim to the core essence. The beauty is in the images depicted, not in the words themselves. The more you evoke, the more engaged and impressed your reader will be.
Readers should have no awareness of your words; they should perceive only your story. Too often, writers get in this mindset of writing “beautifully,” fancy prose that sounds pleasant to the ear and screams “Look at me! Don't I write dandy?” When the reader stops to admire your eloquence, then he/she is paying attention to the author and not the narrative.
Will Greenway, of Spring Valley, California, has written five novels, more than a dozen short stories, and a slew of articles on both the craft of writing and the writing lifestyle (used as source material in four university writing programs).