"To fall in love with a first draft to the point where one cannot change it is to greatly enhance the prospects of never publishing." ~Richard North Patterson
I believe a first draft of a book must be akin to a wedding cake without the icing. I can only imagine baking such an important cake, stacking the various layers, icing the entire monstrosity then placing the perfect little bride and groom on top. If we glob on too much icing and fail to make it smooth and creaseless, if we don't place the toothpicks in strategic places, our cake might topple over or appear unbalanced. It seems so much like taking that first draft and adding sensory detail, description, emotion, all those perfect, final touches that make it a book, a story that will grab hold of someone's heart (and head) and not let go until they turn the last page. We have to have just the right mix of all those final touches.
Oh my goodness, rewriting is horrible and wonderful and exciting and scary... . How do we know when the end is really the end? Is there anyone knowledgeable enough to tell us we've done all we can do, that it's time to send it on to an agent or editor? Unfortunately no, there's no one who can offer that kind of assurance. A critique group can only do so much. An agent can only offer his or her expert opinion and some may not be experts at all. The editor has the last word within the guidelines of her publishing company. Her last word may be an acceptance or a rejection. And if it's a rejection . . .
"Success is a finished book, a stack of pages each of which is filled with words. If you reach that point, you have won a victory over yourself no less impressive than sailing single-handed around the world." ~Tom Clancy
To keep our sanity, we have to look at those stack of pages and believe that we've truly done our best, and because we've succeeded in finishing a book, in some small insignificant way that's significant. Make sense? :)
Realistically, the reader has the last word. S/he might throw our finished product against the wall and vow never to read us again. Thankfully, we never know it unless we get a nasty letter or read about it on Amazon.com
Sailing single-handed around the world sounds easier than writing and selling a book, and satisfying thousands of faceless readers.