Back in June, I finished the first draft of a novel. I sort of underplay this accomplishment, even to myself, though in the back of my mind I realize that it is is an accomplishment, since it's the first time I've ever done that.
I'm not sure if you could technically call it a manuscript, since it was never put into official manuscript form, but rather, just done up as a print-friendly PDF for my editor-reader-writer friends to peek at. I call it a manuscript, though, since that's a term that people understand, and it also sounds better than just saying, "I wrote a novel," when, as of this moment, I don't actually have an actual novel of which to speak (I am, of course, working on that, but everything in its due time).
After taking a couple of months away from said first draft (along with getting some very good feedback from a small but dedicated group of readers), I have begun, as of last week, to rework things into a second draft. The prospect is brutally daunting, and altogether very different from retooling and smoothing out revisions for a short story. I'm in good spirits about it, so far, but that doesn't exactly keep it from remaning the daunting task that I know it is (I'm tentatively giving myself until the end of September to complete this new draft, which seems like a reasonable goal, given a steady work pace).
There's a well-known bit of writers' advice about needing to "murder your darlings" (which comes from a saying that's been attributed to just about every writer known for his witicisms, but which seems to really be something said by Arthur Quiller-Couch). For those of you who might not know what this means, this is a bit of 'tough love' advice for a writer, urging him or her to suck it up and deal with the fact that, when redrafting a work like a novel, there are going to be things that they'll want, in their heart, to keep, but which, in the end, need to be taken out. That was always something that was lurking in the back of my mind, and as I look at this draft I already have, I can see how very, very true it is.
I have entire character arcs, actually, that I have lined up on the chopping block, ready to tear their spines out wholesale. What had once been important plot points in my mind as I initially developed the narrative are now, in retrospect, a tad bit unnecessary, and shall be either eliminated or transformed as necessary. On the whole, I'm only about four chapters in on a rough pass, but already, I can see where things are going to end up looking a lot more streamlined and a lot more coherent (and I haven't even begun the major work, yet).
So, daunting, yes, but still something to look forward to, overall, because I know I'll end up with something better for all the work.
Then we'll see about charging all my friends to read it.