I enjoy Sir Ian McKellen's Gandalf, and that quote quite aptly sums up my feelings about the days before diving in to the revision process.
It's the beginning of 2011, which means my one-month cooling-off period after finishing my 2010 NaNoWriMo novel has finished, and I'm officially allowed to look at it again. I spent the last month torturing myself by wanting to open it and just tweak that or fix this, based on feedback from my reviewers or my own thoughts, but I held back.
Now I've passed my self-imposed wait date, but I'm hanging back for a few days until I hear back from some of my first-draft reviewers. One of them gave me updates as he went, but the others are going to send me lump feedback once they finish. Once I get them back, I'll go through them, see if any of them agreed upon a particular problem, and weigh the rest: immediately agree, waffle, or immediately disagree. If it's the second, I'll let it sit, but if it's the third, then it's time to think about why I'm knee-jerking so badly. Is it because they've managed to offend me? ("Your main character sucks!") Is it because they've missed the point? (I had someone in a critique group convinced that my spaceship was a metaphor for the womb, and read the entire story through that lens. Those edits weren't very helpful, to say the least.) After I've looked at why, the I'll decide whether to listen.
I've talked before about too many cooks spoiling the broth (or, in Japanese, too many ship captains driving the boat into the mountains), and I don't plan on taking every suggestion. But I still want to see them, to find the ones that I've missed, because I forget that the story in my head isn't necessarily the one that makes it onto paper. Sometimes I forget to put in a vital plot point because I know about it, so it slips my mind to write it down, and that's the hardest one to pin down for myself because I'll be convinced I must have written it somewhere.
At the moment, I'm chewing my nails waiting for them to get back to me, half in anticipation and half in terror and agony. There are things I know I did horribly — one or two much too convenient skills for my characters to have, rationalized awfully because it was three a.m., and it was NaNoWriMo, and I'd fix it later, for example. There's a giant character and plot resolution that I forgot to mention. But I know there are going to be ones I had no idea I'd done, character motivations that don't mesh, world-building that isn't clear, and goodness knows what else.
I plan on having this baby edited and ready to go by June, and actually expect it will be done sooner. I don't plan on writing a full third, tenth, or seventeenth draft. This offends some people, who think you need to slave over a novel for a decade in order to have any sort of writer cred. If that's what works for you — and you produce finished, salable novels — then fine, but for most people I think that's silly, and what's more, that's a good way to ensure you will never, ever finish your novel. Your writing style will change, so the longer you take on revision, the more unrecognizable the discrete parts of your book will be. As Holly Lisle said, this will not be the best book you've ever written; it just needs to be the best you can write right now.
I'm terrified and exhilarated, and I can't wait.