I really need a better plan for letting a revision go, putting it away, and then coming back to it with enough time for polishing.
I’m sure there’s a good question in there somewhere, I just don’t know how to articulate it.Well, since I understand what you're asking I think you've articulated it just fine.
Our blog readers who write novels will have some opinions and advice on this, and I think they are the ones you should heed first.
My writing experience is limited to this blog, and pitch letters to editors. [And letters to queriers. It took me 10+ years to get the form letter I send to writers when I'm passing on their work. There were about 20 iterations.]
I know that the more days I have to tinker, the happier I am with the outcome.
Recently, a client and I went through 27+ drafts of a proposal over a year and half.
Another client and I did 19 rounds on his proposal, over the course of about six months.
The first couple revisions were getting all the furniture in the house, then we moved the furniture into the right rooms, then we got it in the right place in the rooms (that takes several passes as you well know if you've ever gotten a new couch)
Then we hung the pictures and plugged in the lamps.
In other words the big structural stuff first: all the pieces, in the right order.
You don't need as much lying fallow time here because the big structural stuff is more obvious.
To me, polishing is not getting the pieces in the right place, it's where to hang the pictures in the room, and where the lamps go.
I don't think there's a hard and fast rule for fallow time other than this: at least overnight. And two days is better than one.
Thus, you write and revise till you think it's done. Then you let it sit overnight. Then you go back and polish.
Using the flash fiction timeline: you write on Friday till you're done. Let it sit overnight. Revise on Saturday morning. Let it sit overnight. Polish on Sunday morning. Hit send before the deadline!
For a novel, I'd say let it sit one day for every five thousand words.
But again, pay more attention to the comments. That's where the voice of experience will be found.