The second draft is when you realize that what you’re writing will eventually be seen by other people. You can’t put off this realization any longer. If you were just writing for yourself, just experimenting, just “embarking on a creative journey to further solidify [your] point of view as a writer”, as I said on one application for something or rather, you would not be editing.
You wouldn’t. You know why? Because editing is a slog. A mechanistic, make-it-better, crank-it-out slog. All those emotions, the up and down mood swings, the brilliant flashes of creativity, the pain and dejection following a stint of really bad writing… that doesn’t happen so much, in the second draft.
The second draft is where you realize that most of what you wrote before was not so much English as it was happy fun pixie wing thoughts sprinkled around a cat turd. The second draft is not when you make the thing; it’s when you make that thing better.
Better is only subjective some of the time.
The second draft is where you have to stop telling yourself that you are an artiste. To survive the second draft, you have to have an artist’s skin. This skin is tough. It’s stained, probably, with ink from that last battle with the printer. It’s got scars from the second drafts of the past. Burns from the thirds. Chapping from all the outlines you’ve written and then tossed. It has only a few tender spots, and somehow the rejections you will inevitably get hit those spots and those spots alone.
The second draft is coffee, and tea, and hiding underneath your desk. It’s punching your manuscript in the face repeatedly until it agrees to be cooperative. It’s discovery and selective forgetfulness.
It’ll be okay. This is the hardest part – the shaping from the raw material, carving and adding. And eventually, even second drafts have to come to an end.