The first draft is for you, the writer. You put in everything that comes into your head. Throw it in there. You never know where it might lead. Describe everything. Talk boringly about the weather. Have your characters move from point A to point B to point C in excruciating detail. All this helps you see in your mind what’s going on and helps you make sure that things are possible
When working on the second draft, it’s time to think about your reader. She doesn’t want to know every detail, every play-by-play, or read paragraphs about the weather. Or what roads your character took to get from home to his favorite restaurant (a favorite peeve of mine). Sure, leave in the weather if it pertains to the story–the bad weather is making it hard for your protag to do something she desperately wants to do. Sure, leave in some play-by-play to up the tension in an action scene and to enable the reader to “see” it happening. Leave in a main road in a major city that everyone’s heard of–it helps the reader “be” there with the character.
Yes, it’s a fine line. And some readers like more description than others. If you’re writing a historical romance, you can leave in more than if you’re writing a hardboiled detective story. But you may still have to take out some in that historical romance so the reader isn’t bogged down in the details. And you will want to leave some in that hardboiled story to ground the reader, to help him see what’s going on.
Be sure to save your first draft in several places such as a thumb drive, CD, “off-site,” and/or in the cloud away from where you write. Then save it as a second draft and whittle away. Then if you think you’ve cut something you should have kept, you still have it. Do the same for the next draft, and the next.
Nothing is more exciting or more excruciating sometimes than writing a first draft. But the sense of satisfaction when you type “the end” is always exhilarating, too. Go for it! Now, I’m off to work on my first draft for the second in my series about Tina, the professional organizer. She’s having a time of it, and so am I.