No, wait, that's not what revising is like at all.
I already have something elephant-shaped. It's just rough and maybe the proportions are off a bit, and also elephants only have four legs, right?
So far, no legs have been removed from the manuscript for AQATWA. As my betas go through each chapter, I continue polishing and refining - lines of dialog, sentences, paragraphs - making changes with every pass, like trying to polish and sand every word to perfection. Of course this can be a trap: I could enlist ten more betas, and every one would probably have something constructive to say about each chapter that is different from what everyone else said. This is the same trap many writers fall into with self-editing: you can always open your manuscript to any random page and find something that needs changing.
At the current pace of my betas, I am going to tentatively estimate that I'll be ready to start posting by the end of summer. That is assuming we don't hit any major issues that require a substantial rewrite. That hasn't happened yet, but right now they're still going through a chapter at a time (it takes a lot longer to read while making line edits than normal reading, which is why no one has actually gotten to the end yet). When they get to the end... well, that's when we'll see how well it all holds together because the ending is big. You might say, climactic.
Overall, word count has remained about the same. Unless there are some drastic cuts, this is still going to be a big book. Two betas have already commented on several chapters that seem a bit long and contain more "establishing" text than actual plot advancement, but they also generally like it and understand how it fits into the story, so... I am not sure how much excess there is to cut. Actually, if this were a commercial novel, I can think of a couple of subplots that a professional editor would cut entirely, and chop the book in size considerably. But... I don't want to do that. This is the blessing and the danger of fan fiction.... an author can indulge himself, and very easily overindulge himself. I will take seriously any advice from my beta-readers suggesting major cuts, but I probably won't cut just to slim down the word count. So AQATWA is still looking like the longest book yet in the series. I am pretty sure it is also introducing more new characters than any previous book, except maybe the first.
A while ago I posted a rough sketch of Julia. Here is the final commissioned version. This is the same artist who did the cover.
Commission: Julia King by Leventart on DeviantArt
Oh yes, besides revising AQATWA, I have also started writing book six. I just finished the prologue chapter.