But somewhere between then and now, I got into a better relationship with revision. For one, I became more able to do it on my own instead of relying so much on outside opinions of what needed to be changed. I could see more of the flaws with my own eyes. I could also better appreciate which parts needed to stay raw and filled with emotion. The sections that basically spilled out of my soul. So, now, I am writing in scenes as I feel drawn to them and tying everything together later while also revising what I have already. This leaves me with something more resembling a second draft than a first by the time I end each chapter.
Of course, I will need to go over everything again once I finish writing, and I already have noted some scenes that will probably need more additional editing than others, but I feel I'm delivering more polished new chapters by this method. In some ways, I am hoping that streamlining my process will keep me from taking five years to write one book, but it's mostly just the natural progression my writing process has taken.
I've been reading Anne Lamott's Bird by Bird, and mostly enjoying it so far in spite of my hesitation to read more writing tips for fear of feeling even more alienated. Anne's writing is witty and relatable. At least when she's simply talking about the many feelings writers go through and not trying to teach something. Which is to say, I still cannot relate to the "shitty first draft" concept.
I always prickle when writers proclaim that all first drafts are garbage. While I've certainly created work that was flawed and in need of excessive editing, I have not (at least for many years) written what I would consider garbage. Maybe it's because I usually spend years writing a story in my head before I even start the first draft. Maybe it's because I only write when I'm inspired, and therefore, haven't forced whole chapters out of myself before I was ready. Maybe I'm just really bad at writing, and have been doing it wrong all along. I mean, that's always a possibility, I suppose. But I think my process just different from the norm.
I spent some time recently on Miss Masquerade, which has gotten very little attention from me since the release of Magic Inc. Book One. It surprised me how I'd forgotten the ease of working on a real second draft, where the plot had been laid out and all I had to do was make everything flow better. I got to just play with words. Be a writer over a storyteller, because the story was already told. Being a storyteller has always been my priority, but it is nice to have the freedom to not worry about that part. This is why I put so much into my first drafts. So that all I have to do later is polish. It baffles me that writers often say the second draft is the hard part. But I guess that makes sense if what you threw together the first time was "garbage" and you have to change the structure of everything drastically.
I'm certainly no stranger to having structural issues to fix in second drafts, though. Part of the reason I'd forgotten how nice it could be to write a second draft was because my other second draft, Dreaming in Shadow, had a major issue. There was a scene I had meant to include in the first draft that had the potential to break the flow of the entire second half of the book if I put it in now. Okay, it probably was not going to do that. But I am an anxious person, so I agonized over how I was going to fix this issue most of last year. And in the end, when I finally came to the part in the second draft where the scene needed to go, it went. Perfectly. There was a pointless scene sitting there, holding a place for it this entire time. Ugh. So much wasted time and energy. But I'm grateful it all worked out. Now, I just hope the second draft will start to flow again.
So, maybe I can't quite relate to the "shitty first draft". But the feelings of self-doubt that often facilitate the need for them - oh, can I ever relate to those! Doubt is really is my biggest threat to staying productive, besides low energy. Part of the fight actually is against the worry that I'm somehow doing all of it wrong because my process is so different from most writers. That's why I don't like to read writer's tips. They all seem to be the same. And there are so many different ways to be a creative writer.
What matters most is the finished book. So, if part of your process is to write a bad first draft where you let yourself write freely, go for it! But I actually enjoy my planning and "perfectionism"... most of the time. I have a fairly good relationship with it when it comes to writing, at least. The combination of planning ahead but waiting for the right inspiration to hit before actually getting the words down is a good balance for me. Part of the reason I pay so much attention to my first drafts is that I don't want to edit heavily later. I want the emotions to stay raw, while fixing the flow of everything else.
I would encourage new(ish) writers to let your work be raw and imperfect. Don't let your fears keep you in an editing loop, if it means you'll never finish. Know that you can fix issues later. But don't be afraid to take your time, either. And instead of considering first drafts as being "shitty", think of them as an unpolished gemstone. It is still beautiful. It still deserves your respect. And with more work, it will shine.