A friend I trust is now in the process of reading Always Outnumbered, Never Outgunned and providing me with last-stage feedback. This is on top of me doing one more slow-read pass on the text and catching a whole slew of little issues — grammar here, explanation there.
I'm still not happy that the story worked out to be the length it did — around 220,000 words. Some of that I've chalked up to simple happenstance; maybe this was a story that just needed to be that length, period. But I still endeavored to slice some 10,000 words from it in the first major editing pass, and to pare down things here and there as I went along. There may still be room for cutting down individual scenes, especially if feedback indicates a given scene is redundant or slow.
But on the whole, I don't want to take a machete to the story at this late in the process. I'll just end up with tatters. Removing speedbumps is fine, but trying to drain too much water out of the story may just desiccate it instead of reducing its weight. At this point, I just want to close the door on the book as elegantly as I can.
At some point in the editing process I realized that the length of the story was a function of its ambitions, and that I could only do so much to offset that. I'm not talking about the complexity of the plot, but the themes and scope of the story. The story wasn't just about what happened, but the context in which it happened, and who it happened to. All of that added length, but (I hope) length that had a good justification.
Did it work? In the end, that's not for me to say. After a certain point, you just have to call it a day and put the story out there, and we're getting close to that point at long last.