When I was in grad school, a teacher told our workshop that if a published novel is 300 pages, the writer had to generate 1,200 along the way. I didn't buy it. Maybe it took this teacher 1,200 pages to find the right 300, but I would never have to produce such excess. I'd maybe need, say, 307. Then I'd move some commas around, get all thesaurus-y with the adjectives, maybe test-drive a new font. But 1,200 to end up with 300?
No way. Not me.
Now that I've published five novels, I know that she was spot on. But what I would have never been able to predict about my process was the importance of the 900 pages that an end-reader will never see. They aren't wasted. They are vital, just as important as the 300 that are bound and placed on the shelf.
Really, novelists are writing two books simultaneously.
The first book is that 1,200-page draft, though it's probably never actually 1,200 pages at once, but parceled out from remix to remix. This all-seeing draft is bulbous and overwritten, with nonessential scenes and flights of exposition ...