My husband has been a painter for over forty years. Even when he still was a teacher, he painted in the summer and on the weekends. When he was younger and no one had GPS, vacationers would often stop and ask the painters how to get to Hershey Park. Though usually only a few miles from the park, my husband and friends would often joke with the lost travelers that they couldn't get there from where they were. They should go home and start over.
Sometimes I feel that way when I'm writing a first draft. Often I feel that manuscript is so terrible that it can never become a publishable novel. The characters are underdeveloped. There are holes in my plot or the science doesn't make sense. There's no tension in my romance novels. All these doubts assail me when I work on a first draft. There seems no way to fix it. It just can't get to publication from where it is and I need to start over or perhaps even forget the entire story.
That's why I always set it aside for a few weeks before I try to fix it. Once I get back into it, I find that many parts of it are not so bad after all. And the parts that aren't working can be fixed. Sometimes I need to move a part of the plot or a character's reactions in a different direction. Maybe I need to but part of it away and add something more in another section. Usually I can get it to where I want it to be.
So like those lost tourists, I can get my writing where I want it to go. I made need to change the route a little to make up for some wrong turns. I might even need to stop and ask for some advice from my critique partners to get back on track to my destination. Whenever I feel discouraged by a first draft, I remind myself of all the other times I felt the same way. I can get there from where I am.
Do you like your first drafts or do they require a lot of work? How soon do you dive into editing after you finish a first draft? Do you remember when you had to ask others for directions?