After you’ve written a draft ask yourself: is every word and phrase absolutely essential to the story?
Here are some tips:
Eliminate passive voice – underline all of the ‘was, were, had beens’ and ask yourself how you can translate them into action. Pay attention as you do this and you will find that your story develops a ‘pace’, feels more immediate, and becomes more engaging.
Eliminate adverbs – underline all of the ‘ly’ words – how many can you eliminate? Watch what happens when you force yourself to find other ways of expressing thoughts and feelings that don’t ‘tell’ your reader how to think or feel, because basically, that’s what adverbs do. When you eliminate adverbs you make room for your reader to enter your story and engage in their own thought processes and thus they are more likely to ‘feel’ the story than to simply read it.
Give yourself a word limit – watch what happens to the story when you are forced to make every word count. You may decide in the end to put some words and phrases back, but the process of elimination and then selective inclusion will help you to become more appreciative of the words and phrases that you choose.