It's not like my process, but I've always liked to read about other people's process, because mine is constantly changing, in little increments; if I wrote a drafts post like this every year, or with every book, things would shift. And sometimes someone will say something about their current process which is like a little epiphany.
For instance, at the moment, the West novels require -- even demand -- a lot of starts. I will write chapter one between six and eight times, and write between 1500 and 4000 words before I abandon that attempt. My husband says that each iteration is necessary (which is his way of saying it isn't a waste of time). I generally look at the page count or word count and weep in frustration, because none of those words count, and it is very hard not to see them as a waste of time.
(For added punishment, I will hop off and read matociquala (I would pay money if she used 'ebear', and would probably quote her more often, because every single time I want to do so, I have to go and look up the spelling of her LJ handle. But I digress, which should come as a surprise to no one), kradical or mizkit, because at my very fastest and my most focused I will never be able to write as much as they do; I think the worst day was when mizkit was despairing over her paltry 2300 or 2700 words for the day. The very, very best I can do is 2700 words for a day, and that is only at the end of book, when everything is now racing downhill and I'm desperately trying to catch up.)
For House Name, there's a prologue section (yes, I know, people hate prologues. This one is called Angel). The prologue section, which is the beginning of the book, required eight false starts, one of which I liked enough to write 6k words on before I realized (where in this case realized=admitted) that it wasn't actually going to work =/.
But for me, when I hit a page one that does work (for me, or for the book), there's no guessing. I write it; I know that this is where the book actually starts. There's a lot of uncertainty up to that point; I should know by now that if there's any uncertainty, I should just give up, and start again. But, you know, hope springs eternal.
However, with this particular book, I not only had 8 Prologues, but when I sat down to start with Chapter One, I had six of those as well. I consider this excessive. And painful. My subconscious is not listening. So for the second volume of the House War series, I had almost 200 manuscript pages of Stuff That Goes Nowhere. And it really does go nowhere; I don't rework it, or try to fit it in later; I just shelve it permanently.
Once I have the right start, though, I don't have to draft the entire book in order to know it's the right story (thank god). At least, not so far; this may change, because everything does. At this point, my "first" draft is also my 2nd draft, because I'm a rolling reviser; I write, and the next day, I will reread and revise what I've written as a lead-in to new words. If something big has to be added, and it's a discrete scene, I'll add it; if not, I make a note, and I keep going forward.
So I have no set first/second/third draft. This doesn't mean I don't revise. I used to consider first draft to be the thing I sent my editor, but realized that this wasn't the common parlance. My big final edits (i.e. the things about which I make notes) are reserved for her comments; once I have her email, or her phone call, I put it together with the notes I've made while writing, and then I start on page 1, and do my line-edits, my scene revisions (this means: dump entire scenes which do not do what I thought they did, and rewrite them from the ground up) and structural changes. There are usually not many structural revisions, because if there were, they would generally require a total rewrite.
The Sagara Luna novels, on the other hand, don't suffer from this stop-and-start Chapter One. Partly, I think, it's because there's only one viewpoint (the various starts in the West novel are often from different viewpoints, moved backward and forward in the time line). Partly it's because the tone for the Sagara books is different, and is its own character. Oddly enough, although I didn't realize this until I was talking with kateelliott, they don't start with action or incident; they start with Kaylin's usual day (Kaylin being late for work; Kaylin looking at the duty roster and hating it, etc.).
But, at the end of the day, janni's last line is also mine (although she wrote it first and I'm shamelessly stealing it):
And for about the millionth time, I take that leap of faith: There is a book here. I'll get there yet.
ETA: closing bracket, because I always forget those the first time out.