I am talking about chapterbooks/novels right now, for picture books are a different kettle of revision fish for me. Anyway, this is kind of how my process goes:
Step 1: Write a first draft. (Not the easiest step, but my favorite. Usually, there is no time limit or deadline unless it is self-imposed. It can take a while to finish. For example, The Seven Tales of Trinket took 5-6 months to write--even though I started to try and write it in 2003 but the computer crashed and I figured the story must be cursed* so I did not attempt it again for several years)
Step 2: Revise for clarity of story. (This is my first revision and it is just for me. This is when I try to decide if the story even makes sense, and if it doesn't, I've got my work cut out for me. I usually try to finish a revision like this in a few weeks. It is far more intense than a first draft, but easier in some ways, since the ground work is laid.)
Step 3: Revise for Chapter Breaks. (I usually write the book as one giant lump, except in cases where there are natural breaks, as in Trinket where there were 7 tales which were already broken up. This is the revisions where I am deciding where to break the chapters and how to frame them, and if framing the chapters is even necessary.)
Step 4: Revise based on Agent's Feedback. (This might happen three times. My agent, Jo, first works on the Big Ideas of the plot with me. Then she might do a round of line edits or two, depending on how much sense I make as I revise. For Trinket, we did three rounds. None of the rounds were incredibly difficult, but each time we went a bit deeper until the story held together the way we envisioned it. I am on my second revision for Jo for my book, Keelie of the Lake.)
Step 5: Revise based on Editor's Feedback. (This also might happen several times. My editor, Beth, approaches revision in a similar manner to Jo, wherein they both look at Big Ideas of the plot first, then work they way down to sentence fluency/story consistency and the picky word choice edit is saved for last. For Trinket, we did about 3 rounds. The book is in copyediting right now, so I suppose when I get it back that will be the 4th round.)
If you count all of those up-- 2 for me, 3 for Jo, 4 for Beth, that gives us 9 revisions. Sheesh! That seems like a lot of versions of the same story. The funny thing is, it doesn't really FEEL like a lot of revision.
It feels like getting closer and closer to the way the story is supposed to be.
How many revisions do you do?
*Truly, it was a good thing that those 80 pages were lost. I can still see a few of them in my mind. I was not a patient enough person to write the story back then and I think I would have botched it. I know I did not have the strength of heart to revise 9 times back then, I can tell you that much!