Background: I've been writing fan fiction for five years now. I began when I didn't have a clue what I was doing, so my methods have evolved during those years. By now I have a solid process that I follow, and I feel I have a good grasp on what I'm doing. There is one small detail that has been bothering me for some time now though:
On this site and off, I've heard writers everywhere refer to first, second, third, and sometimes even fourth or fifth drafts. You write your story out as the first draft, wait a while, start over with the second draft, and so on. It's a solid principle that I try to use. I say 'try' because, to this day, I have never written a second draft. Everything I have ever written, every piece of fan fiction, I have written only one draft of. I've done editing for sure, but I've never rewritten the whole thing. The most I've done is maybe rewrite half of a chapter a few times.
Most people say that your first draft is usually terrible. Some even go so far as to say that it has little use beyond getting your idea down. Most agree that you largely dispose of your first draft and simply start over. (These observations are based on what I've heard.) Here's the problem though: starting even with my very first fan fiction, my ratings have consistently been high. My readers have liked what I wrote. Even to me, my writing hasn't looked like the disorganized mess I think a first draft is supposed to be.
I think I know what is going on. As I mentioned above, I have a solid process that I follow. That process is more for outlining and development than writing. I go through every aspect of the fiction that I need (character, plot, stakes, etc.) in detail. I work out exactly what I need, how I'll get it, and where it will be. In fact, by the time I get to the plot section, the fiction has already begun to take shape just from all the other parts I know it will need to have. By the time I'm done with my process and ready to begin the first draft, my fiction is detailed down to the individual scenes. Not much editing of the outline takes place; I generally leave that up to when I am writing, as I feel is necessary. Sometimes, during writing, I change, delete, or add a few scenes to make it work, and I often have to detail things better than I have in the outline, but for the most part, my outline remains in the same general shape as when I started. The closest I've ever come to writing a second draft is scraping chapter one several times in quick succession until I come up with the right opening.
I think because my outlining and development is so detailed, it is taking the place of the first and possibly even the second draft. Could this be? I'm hesitant to accept this, because multiple drafts seems like one of those universal things that all writers go through, with very little exception.
Question: Is my detailed outlining and development taking the place of first and possibly second drafts?