If a draft is written in a coffee shop, and nobody is around to read it, does it really exist?
I have been working on a chapter book since February 2015. Since that first 3500 word, 8 chapter draft, there have been dozens more. I'm not even sure where the first one is (that's frightening), but I do know that I am now on "New Revisions 14." I don't know how many "Old Revisions" there were, but I do know that the "New Revisions" started after I had named a file "August Adelaide's How to Make a Friend FINAL FINAL." Clearly it was not.
Most of those drafts have never been read by anyone other than me. I don't like people seeing my work until I've read through it 3 or 4 times without making any edits. Then they mark it up in red and I start over. It sounds crazy and endless. When I do school visits teachers always strategically ask how many drafts I write before something is finished. I hate to say 20 or 30 because I can see most of the kiddos' eyes gloss over, but it's true. It's write and rewrite and think about it in the shower and in the car, and then start it all over again.
So back to the question I started this post with. Of course they exist! Each draft lives on in its successor, getting better as they go (with the occasional exception). Anybody who works persistently at something knows this. Olympians come to mind--diving is on at the moment. They have a million drafts before they get to FINAL FINAL FINAL. That's an extreme example, but you get my point.
New Revisions 14 is now 9300 words and somewhere around 18 chapters. And you know what? It's better. Hopefully the editor that read FINAL FINAL and asked for a revised version agrees.