Speak up: Read your work out loud to yourself. Even better, read it aloud to someone else. You will be amazed by what sounds right, and what doesn’t. People can serve as an audience only, with no feedback required. It will still help.
Don’t keep to yourself: Read to other people for feedback. Choose people whose opinions you trust. Ask for specific advice: What works? What really grabbed them? What would they like more of/less of? What left them confused? What intrigued them? You don’t have to agree, just listen and return to their feedback a day or more after they give it to you, so you can reflect on it.
Only pack the essentials: When editing, keep focused on choosing the most essential details from all you wrote: The most critical, the most alive/active, the most felt-with-the-senses moments. Remember, you can tell as well as show, but keep the emphasis on show. If you notice “head verb” sentences—“I thought,” “I felt,” “I saw,” etc.—cut them and see how you can say it differently, with active verbs.
Cut, cut, cut: If you wrote several scenes, pick your favorite and work on that one. Or, find connections between several, select key moments that weave together and combine these into one short piece. Perhaps you or your audience find a common theme, a recurring image or motif, or a series of moments that connect into a plot line.
Begin at the end: Start as close to the end of your story as possible—a great technique for “micro writing” and getting at the absolute essentials of your story.