Every book has been a different experience, but I'm finding that my drafting process has developed a predictable pattern. Let me illustrate.
0 - 10,000 words:
My characters are vivid and interesting. Everything I write is vivid and interesting. I can't wait to see where this story is going! And this novel writing thing?...pure magic.
10,000 - 35,000 words:
I can kind of see where this story is headed, but I have no idea how I'm getting there. That end point seems really, really far away. My characters are being tempestuous. I was a fool to think I could make a novel out of this crazy premise. It's hot out here. I'm thirsty. I'm going to send this to my critique partners so they can tell me if it's awful. This novel writing thing?...the hardest.
35,000 - 55,000:
I understand my characters now; they're starting to tell me when I've got them wrong. In fact, they're keeping me up at night trying to dictate their stories. All of these plot possibilities seem worth exploring, but I'm angsting over which ones are the right ones. Let's go left!:
...maybe I shouldn't have taken a left...maybe I shouldn't have written this, period...
...wait, this is nice, but I think the creepy woods were more interesting...
...and here we are again. I remind myself that my crit partners assured me that this story isn't awful. I force loving friends to read pages and promise me that isn't awful.
55,000 - 75,000:
So this isn't awful; I'm liking this. I know where I'm going! My characters are starting to make big decisions as they stumble towards the finish line. My plot is revealing new twists. Or maybe they're not new: hey, look, I planted the seeds for them in chapter three! This is scary! This is exciting! Someone pass me my oxygen tank!
75,000 - 80,000:
I'm in love with this story. I hope others will also be in love with this story. In a few weeks, I'll probably reread this draft and moan about how much work it needs but right now, for me, it is perfect.
Five minutes after typing THE END:
Current Writing Soundtrack: "Stubborn Love" by The Lumineers