I'm just about eighty pages in, if you're curious. I started the book at the first of the year, so I've written about twenty percent of the novel in two months. This is a good pace. By summer I should have a first draft completed.
At this point in my process, I'm heavily dependent on my writers' group. As I write each succeeding chapter and turn it over to critiquers I trust and respect, I'm able to spot weaknesses early. Plot holes, two-dimensional characters, world-building discrepancies, all of these things a beta reader will often catch before I notice them.
My critiquers also give me confidence. I know writers who won't show anything to anyone until they consider the work finished, but I feel just the opposite: when I write a chapter I have doubts about, sometimes the encouragement of my first readers helps me to forge ahead. Occasionally I'm surprised by the comments, good or not so good, but more often my reaction is one of recognition. The comments help me to identify details my subconscious was already evaluating.
The crucial element of this part of the process is in the choice of critiquers. Writers groups vary in their approach to the work. Some, like my current one, submit their work by email so it can be read in advance and discussed at the meeting. Others bring their work to the meeting, and either read their own or read each others. Some operate at a high level of critique, dealing only with issues of plot, character, setting, theme, and pace. Others do actual line editing, although I can't recommend that; if the writer still needs line editing, she may not be ready for a functional critique group.
Even more important than settling on a method that works for the writer and her colleagues is the trust and respect they share. Some writers can be so kind in their criticisms that their input is almost useless; others--usually the least secure among us--are destructive in their comments. Ideally, I bring my work to my colleagues knowing that they will tell me the truth, tell it in a constructive way, suspend their own preferences about material (in other words, if they generally dislike historical fiction, they'll still be able to read my work objectively), and make substantive suggestions if they can. In other words, I'm showing my work-in-progress to writers I know will treat it with respect.
Years ago, a writer I knew--a good writer--went home and told her husband she had bombed totally in the critique group that night. He said, "Then why do you look so happy?" and she answered, "Because now I know what's wrong!" That's my customary reaction to less-than-positive critiques. Now I have an idea what needs fixing, and I'm eager to get to it.
The opposite can happen, though. A critiquer, occasionally, won't "get it." The only one who can decide whether the critiquer is wrong or not--and there can be lots of reasons why a piece strikes a reader negatively--is the author. Every critique, no matter its content, must be filtered through the writer's personal point of view. Otherwise, you're writing by committee.
Critique groups aren't too hard to find. A writing class is a great place to start; the public library is another good possibility. There are online critique groups, although since I've never used one I can't speak to how satisfactory they are. The relationships tend to become close, as I know because I now have deep friendships going back to a class I took twenty years ago.
One of the benefits of a regular critique group meeting is that it motivates us to keep moving forward--and that's what I'll do now. Another week, another chapter . . . it may not be speedy, but the book gets written.