I’m currently working on the second draft of a new book, and I was struck with the realization that second drafts are harder than any other draft. First drafts have their problems. The writing might be horrible, or I might skip over fleshing out scenes, or an entire scene may not make any sense, but there’s a freedom in a first draft. Creativity is in full force. You get to shut your inner editor off and write.
Then there’s editing. Editing uses a different part of the brain than writing. More concentration, more analytical thinking. This is where you take the bad stuff you wrote and make it better. However many drafts this might take, every one improves on the story a little bit more.
But that second draft. That second draft is the one where you look at your first draft and think, My god, what have I done? So you rip out pages 42 through 200 and start over. Oh, maybe you keep that scene in chapter three, and that action sequence in chapter five still works somewhere else, and at least you can rip a paragraph here and a sentence there and that character can be combined with that other character.
And you find your writing is still horrible, and you’re still not fleshing out scenes, but you have to make it all better anyway. In other words, the second draft is the worst part of a first draft and the worst part of editing.
I still wouldn’t have it any other way, though.