Revision is my friend.
I know this. In an intellectual sense, I am well aware that my style of writing is suited to multiple revisions, and I'm certainly much more happy with a well-edited, heavily revised story than I am with the floundering first draft. I even enjoy some parts of it -- finding the plot holes that need to be fixed, the sudden realization that of course this character would do this instead of that, and all I need to do to show it is cut this section here.
But revision's not a comfortable kind of friend. If the first rush of composing a new story is like the glamourous, bubbly friend who shows up with tickets to That Thing You Love and buys you tea and little chocolate pastries and gives you sparkling advice about your relationship problems, then revision is the kind of friend who will help you move, but will at the same time point out that maybe the last few life choices you've made have not been very good ones. Revision will tell you that no, the bandage dress doesn't work on you, then remind you to file your taxes.
Revision's also the kind of friend who'd tell me that my metaphor has gotten horribly tangled and shouldn't I do something about that?
This is all at the top of my mind right now because I'm trying to wrangle several chapters in line, and it's been difficult. First I wrote three long overblown introductory chapters with action, derring-do, and very little connection to the plot. Then I swapped them for a great little independent story that was set far too early to be any good as a first chapter. Then I put the first three chapters back, only chopped down to size . . . and none of it was working.
At about this point in a draft, I usually go nuts. New projects start popping up, short story ideas clamor to be written, the internet becomes even more shiny, and it'd be so easy to just set this all aside for a little while . . . except I know if I do that, it'll be ten times harder to start again. (Totally not speaking from experience here. Uh-uh. No way.)
But the thing about revision -- and about the imaginary friends that I've conjured up to anthropomorphize it -- is that it has the same goal I do, at heart: to make this story the best it can possibly be. The friend who tells you the bandage dress doesn't work will, ideally, point out the other ways you can play to your strengths. The chapters that looked so pretty first time through aren't helping you tell the story. So after a week of fruitless cutting, rewriting, re-cutting, and so on, I finally sat back and said okay, this isn't working. What do I want to do with these chapters?
The answer was easy: introduce the characters, introduce the world, begin the conflict. And my inner editor or revision fairy or however you want to look at it said you have two chapters that do just that already. Start with those, and don't worry about the rest.
It's a little annoying to know that those lovely overwrought chapters have been chopped off and left to wither in the sun. But knowing that I have the beginning makes up for a lot, and more than that, the story's strength now comes through.
I think part of being a writer (warning: gross generalization ahead) is learning this balance, taking what inspiration gives you and what revision tells you won't work and learning to weave the two together. We're the weaver in the middle, between the spinner of stories on one shoulder and the wielder of the scissors on the other. (And now I've got the image of shoulder-angel Fates in my head. That's not going away any time soon.)
So I've got some work to do on that front. But revision is my friend, we've got the same goal, and I've already written enough to keep me going. Onward!
...and yes, metaphors like the ones above will be the first things to get cut in the next draft.