There’s a stage of publishing that’s not often talked about. It’s the stage at which you’ve completed what you believe to be your final draft. Critique groups, writing instructors and published authors rave about your writing. You feel justified. Ready. You’re eager to move on.

Yet deep down you know something’s still missing. It’s the elusive point at which your work is garnering positive feedback, but still not securing the agent or contract you’re after. It’s what I refer to as the last 10 percent. It feels like the grueling end to a marathon for which you’ve been training for years.

—by Lisa Rector

The thought of doing more work at this late stage is often met with resistance. After all, no one can tell you what to do to make your novel a success. It’s easy for editors, agents and critique groups to spot something that’s gone wrong in your manuscript. But it’s much harder to tell you what’s missing.

What’s needed is not more polishing or superficial revisions but rather a deepening of craft. This breaks down into two broad categories: what’s missing in your manuscript and, paradoxically, what’s already working beautifully. Why the latter? Because you need to do more of it.

As an independent editor, I’ve worked with many writers facing this frustrating stage of the process—and I’ve found that certain issues come up over and over again in my work with them. Here’s how to tap into that magical last 10 percent and uncover your story in its fullest, richest form.

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