Which bit of the writing process causes the most angst? This bit. This bit right here today. Which is another way of saying all of it. Except the bits in [ ... ]
The beginning of the first draft is hell. I write and write and can't let go of the side.
The middle of the first draft is a special kind of hell where I know that the story is hopeless, the characters are flat, the setting is thin, the plot is stupid and there's no way to end it. The worst thing about this hell is no one believes me and some people (usually married to me) laugh.
The end of the first draft is a new hell. That's when I see that the story could have worked out because it's got a great shape after all but there's no time to fix it and so I'll just have to embroider this sow's ear and forget the silk I could have been working on if I had a brain.
[I quite like printing out the first draft and dancing around to ELO]
Then comes the second draft and what fresh hell is this? It's gets bigger and bigger, so unwieldy and paceless - as I cram in notes, half-pages, post-its, markers, cross-references, a lot of blue Bic and highlighter and start to dream about it at night and face the impossibility of wrestling it back into shape again.
[I don't mind turning the big mess into a third draft, because it's grunt work and hard to get wrong.]
But - I usually have some remaining questions so I leave some post-its in there:
Turning the third draft into a fourth draft isn't painful because I'm beyond pain. I'm resigned to the failure and humiliation about rain down on me and, frankly, if it means I never have to write again it's fine with me.
Then I get really disaffected. The fifth draft is the last one before it leaves my hands and at that stage I go in for a lot of cutting. The manuscript - it's never that bad. I hate every word of it and could happily carve it down to a haiku without thinking I'd lost anything much. It's now that I know I have to hand it over. My editors - Editrix Lestrange at Hodder and Dimples Bischoff at Midnight Ink - are pretty understanding but haikus might stretch them.
[I love putting away all my research materials and drafts and dusting my desk]
Waiting to hear what they think is hell. But at least it's not writing.
And that's the end of it. Except for the editing which is sheer hell.
The strange thing is that I love my job and I wouldn't do anything else but be a writer no matter how much you paid me. Go figure.
Addendum! I forgot - writing this yesterday - that today was going to be a good day. My new book comes out today. [Don't hate this.]