There is no way to see the two or seven or thirteen drafts of the novel (or essay or story or poem or epitaph). There is no way to see it because it isn't a THING. It's a process, like learning how to ride a bike or bake a cake or build an ark. You can't eat burned spills on the bottom of an oven. Or, well, you can, but GROSS. But you can't because they are not a cake. And the twelfth draft with scribbles and tears and coffee rings on it are not the finished novel that's in your hands.
The only person who can conceive of how much work it took is the person who did it. And even then she can only remember it in bits and pieces--seconds here or there. There is this awful (though true) saying that we all die alone (and gawd but does that make me want to forget ever being a maudlin teenager...but remembering being a maudlin teenager who wore lots of black lead to a story that still hasn't seen the light of public day...never mind). Well, here's what to do with that nugget of defeatist wisdom: we all draft alone. And there is this other saying that is way better (better for a t-shirt or a cross-stitched cushion or a tattoo or whatever you need to remember it): Don't compare your first draft to someone else's final draft.
I say all of this because right now I am lost in the fucking weeds in the middle of the PhD dissertation. This draft is due Friday, and the plan then is to 'use' NaNoWriMo to rewrite the novel, and then return to the dissertation in December. I keep adding paragraph after paragraph, some of it good but oh-so-much of it good enough for nothing but the fireplace. But I don't have a fireplace. So I keep on slogging through, keeping the faith that I WILL figure it out. But it takes going through the weeds to get there.
And so ends today's ridiculous stringing together of bullshit proverbs.
And that photo of cherries? From Audley End, taken this summer, just because.