Late last year I dug out my 2002 National Novel Writing Month attempt, still called The Idiot Plot*. I re-read it, electronically crossing out words I'd decided I didn't need, and started to get familiar with the story again. I then moved the text to a new document, deleted the crossed-out words, and reached the current state: a 40,897-word (so far) story that I WANT TO FINISH. If I do that, it'd be my longest fiction work ever. It'll likely beat in length my Honors College thesis, which is analysis, not fiction.
Now to make it a) finished, b) sense-making, and c) better. Because it's bad. Except when it isn't. (I kind of sounded like popfiend there.) Because there are at least moments, and sometimes longer stretches than that, in my admittedly biased opinion, are really good. But the pacing feels off, with some events seemingly happening too quickly while other scenes are possibly redundant and might need to be condensed into other scenes, maybe. And I've yet to explain some of the weird science-fiction-y stuff (of course, I'm me) that's happening around the edges of a 1990s relationship story, and I have ideas about how to explain them but I have to actually, y'know, write 'em. And hope the ideas and explanations aren't too dumb. (At least one idea is. As is one other idea that I hadn't yet written into the story but which I quickly decided, while doing this read-through, needed NOT TO BE USED OR EVEN MENTIONED IN THE FINAL STORY. I dodged a bullet. Trust me.)
I have increased respect for those I know who story-tell professionally. I already did, but now it's increased.
By the way, the manuscript when I started deleting stuff was 43,119 words. So far I've deleted 2,222 of them -- just over 5% of all the words in it when I'd last tailed off. I like the elegance of that number 2,222. What I'll do now is go through another time, take some more notes to be sure I have the characters straight again (maybe delete some more words), then start towards THE END...however far along that is.
Maybe I'll share The Idiot Plot then, maybe I won't. I will delete more, because a good rule-of-thumb (Stephen King stresses this) is that second drafts should be at least 10% shorter than first drafts. I really should've been able to delete 4,300 words in this run-through, not 2,222.
I'll also try not to bore y'all with updates, but you're free to ask how I'm doing. Might keep me more honest as I get out more story.
* "Idiot Plot" is a term from science fiction author James Blish, and it means "a plot which is kept in motion solely by virtue of the fact that everybody involved is an idiot." I actually have decent, in-story reasons to reference this, but maybe I'll figure out a better title later; I've toyed with calling it Foursquare for Chaos. I could point you to the TV Tropes page for Idiot Plots, but I'm not cruel. Wait.