Turns out if I want to publish this manuscript it has to make sense. What a blow! Here I was going along with absolutely no doubt in my storytelling powers: here is a book, I told myself happily plunking at the keys, that tells itself! Thankfully I've had some savvy readers who punctured this particular word balloon in my head. The seventh draft is otherwise coming along nicely and I remain confident that it will be the last.
Seven drafts. It isn't an exaggeration that the pile of writing not being used far outweighs the stuff staying in. The temptation to follow a digression or random plot development to see where it lead repeatedly got the better of me in earlier drafts, because I didn't have enough of a feel for what worked and didn't work within the story as a whole. A lot of blind alleys were followed, and the words piled up. Who knows, there could be a sequel in that pile... but I doubt it.
The beauty being this far along is having a definite feel for what belongs. I'm able to dive deeper into character and plot development -and hey, why not embellish a theme or two? It's a big improvement over the months of floundering and fretting, doubting that I had any knack for telling a story. Trying times, indeed, and recent developments are a welcome sign of progress.