Response to the project has been pretty positive so far. There's still some work that needs to be done, as I expected, but the reaction has been better than I expected and I might not have to redo as much as I had thought.
My relationship with my first drafts is complicated. On the one hand, they hold a special place in my heart. They represent my first steps into a world. They're the way I really get to know my characters. I'm able to experiment a little more in a first draft, since I know that there's plenty of time to go back and figure out what works and what doesn't.
On the other hand, I have to be a little detached from these first drafts. I mentioned in my post about beta reading that I don't assume that anything that shows up in the first draft will make it to the second. The cutting process between draft one and draft two is not unlike a George R.R. Martin novel--literally anything, anyone can go.
Normally, I don't mind this so much. Dropping passages may sting, but I'm usually able to find some way to keep a nugget of the passage. The original prologue for Evin got cut in the first round of revisions, but I was able to work parts of it back in in ways that served the story better. Characters might have lost some lines, but they still got to be present, even if only in passing.
Project 2016 is already a little different from Evin. It's been cooking longer, so I've had more time to work through the story and to pin down the characters. That's probably part of why the first draft is more cohesive on the whole than Evin's was. It's also going to be why making cuts will hurt more this time.
Reaction to project 2016 has been great. But there's one thing that the readers seem to keep pointing out. And if it's coming from multiple readers, it can't be a fluke.
It looks like one of my characters--one of these folks that I've lived with for years now--isn't going to make it to the next draft.
It's not the worst thing that could happen, I guess. The character in question is pretty easily merged with one of the existing characters, and meshing the two together will eliminate one character that's not pulling their weight while building up the one that remains. There doesn't seem (so far, at least) to be any major story issues with the draft, so the plot's not going to need a huge overhaul. As far as "back to the drawing boards" go, it's not a bad one.
But it's going to be strange. Like I said, project 2016 and its characters have been with me for a long time. It might be best for the story to say goodbye to one of them, but that doesn't mean that I'll like it.
I may find another place for the character to live. There's a lot in the world of the story that I haven't explored, and while I hadn't initially planned on spending more than one novel in this particular setting, the more I think about it, the more I think I'd like to come back. Maybe he can be fleshed out in another narrative. Who knows?
Cutting from a story is never easy, and I can't say that I'm looking forward to it. But it is a necessary part of the process--and I am looking forward to having a final, polished draft of project 2016.