There seems to be some kind of mistake. No doubt about it, there's been a terrible mix up.
I'm looking at this manuscript for a book called Pilgrimage. I'm confused because I wrote a manuscript for a book called Pilgrimage. But this can't be MY manuscript? It has my name on it, it's telling my story scene for scene, it's on my computer. But this can't be MY manuscript because this appears to be written by somebody shit. I'm not shit, am I?
Oh wait, yes I am. That's the nature of the beast, right? First drafts are shit. They're supposed to be shit. Kill your darlings, remember?
It's funny. There's excitement to be had in the creative process. Writing a first draft is so much fun and so exciting and there's all these ideas being put down in words and taking shape. Cool, right? I know when I finished the first draft of Pilgrimage I thought to myself:
"I won't need to do much to this, I think. It's got a few big issues but once I solve them, I think editing will be pretty light."
Wow. Right? Who would be so stupid?
Fortunately, when it comes to it, I know better. The first draft is made of suck. It's hideous, deformed and bloated. IT MUST BLEED.
So we edit. And as I sit there editing I think "Oh man, this is so much better than it was before. I am fixing all the problems. Once I get to the end of this draft it will be damn near perfect!"
This kind of optimistic excitement is exactly why you don't get to the end of a draft, go back and start revising right away. It's too soon. There's still too much love and excitement. You're still on the honeymoon. You need to move into that stage or arguing over how to stack the dishwasher and who should stop to get bread on the way home.
Honeymoon is a weird word, by the way.
Editing is fun but it's a lot of work. There's lots to do, especially after the first and second draft. Second drafts are usually fatter than the first because you're filling in all those plot holes and gaps where logic and sense should be. You're more aware of the themes and characters so you add in more to define them.
The third draft is where you really start to cut the bullshit out of the writing and turn that fat cow into a super fine lady that the whole world just wants to stare at and write self-insertion fan erotica about. Oh yeah...
Ahem. Editing. Right.
In theory every draft should bring something new to the table. Every draft should have its own focus and improve in a special way that makes that draft a worthy effort.
1st Draft: The happy word vomit draft.
2nd Draft: The plot cement draft
3rd Draft: The Liposuction draft
4th Draft: The "I remember how to use a comma" draft
Now of course you can add and subtract and mix drafts as you need. You might fix all the grammar in the second draft. You might have a 5th draft called the "The editor just stomped all over my dreams but he's so right" draft. Or that might be all your drafts. It's different for everybody and that's how it should be. But there are definitely stages between your idea and the final production and even though some of those stages result in a lot of bad writing (especially the first draft) you should still be happy with them. It's a step forward.
Just remember you suck and so does your manuscript. Now do it again and make it BETTER! Pick your target, ready your weapons and make that manuscript BLEED!