Before and After
I have this story (well, it’s more like a series of novels) called XIII, which my boyfriend and I have been working on for close to eight years. We have an early draft of it that reminds me of the “before” picture on one of those Proactiv acne treatment commercials. You know how it goes… the guy whose face is covered in zits, looking terribly unhappy because he thinks that his acne is all people see when they look at him. XIII was like that. Non sequiturs, run-on sentences, characters who made one appearance then got blown up in the next scene, random cameos from real-life actors and singers, etc.
Now that XIII is in what feels like it’s millionth draft, the worst of the “acne” problem has gone away. It doesn’t look quite like the “after” pictures in the Proactive commercials — it’s got a few zits left, some scars, and a hopeful smile — but it’s come a long way. It has a definite plot (and subplots) now, characters who (for the most part) realize that their actions have consequences, and villains who aren’t totally cartoonish.
What I’m trying to get at is that you may think your story’s first draft is so horrible that it will never get better, that there’s no amount of revision in the world that could fix it. But it’s all about the determination you have to make your story better. (Not sure how that fits into the acne treatment analogy.) Revision is long, hard work. There will be times when it’s going well, and times when you want to fling your pen and papers across the room (or throw your computer against the wall) and give up.
Some first drafts will never make it to revision, and that’s OK. But if you believe in a particular story, and it continues to inspire you for draft after draft, keep at it even if the going gets tough.