I started writing my first novel, The Day I Became a $py in January 2012, the day after my second child slept through the night and gave me back (most of) my late evenings.
On those long winter nights, I whipped up a minimum of several thousand words per day, and in four short months the first draft of my novel was born. It was raw, that initial copy, full of rookie errors (adverbs overuse, anyone?) and emotional telling of characters' feelings ("he looked into her eyes and felt the universe existed for their love only"). Still, it was an amazing feeling to scroll through four hundred pages of my masterpiece.
A few months and a few rounds of editing later, I was ready for a professional beta reader. I chose a paid one, because you know, those have got to know what they are doing, and since I was a newbie, I needed an expert. More editing followed, this time fixing much deeper problems ("we can do better here; make her scratch his face raw for what he's done, dammit!"), and finally we agreed that the novel was ready to face the world ... or at least select agents I chose to submit it to.
Early on, I decided that I wouldn't self-publish. I was new to the industry, and I needed an agent as a reassurance that my work was good enough.
I was lucky, getting positive response from one of the first agents I submitted the novel to, and I signed up. I thought, whoa, that wasn't so bad. My expectation was way too inflated once I received that offer for representation, and I was already starting to imagine my novel on the bookshelves of my local Barnes and Noble. I had a dress picked out for my first signing; that was my gift to myself when I signed the contract.
Nine month later, my baby is in the back of my agent's 'going nowhere manuscripts' pile, as none of the editors she submitted it to decided to publish it. There was plenty of positive feedback, of the type "it's me, not you", also known as "your manuscript doesn't fit with our publisher" response, enough to tempt me to crawl into a dark bar and condemn the publishing industry to anyone willing to listen.
But then, I received one rejection that stood out from the rest. It was very detailed and explained point by point what was wrong with my manuscript. And just like that, it clicked in my head and I understood all of my mistakes, and when I did, the rejection started to sound as a blessing in disguise. I realized what I had to change in my writing, and how to take my next manuscript to the next level.
Now, a few months later, I have another manuscript with my agent, the one I worked so hard to make perfect, and my agent is optimistic. Maybe it will sell, maybe it won't, but one thing is certain: my publishing journey wouldn't be the same without my first novel and without the rejections that opened my eyes on what needed fixing.
I am not ready to give up on my first novel just yet. Another major rewrite is in progress, and this time even if big publishers won't be interested, I won't be afraid of hitting that big and scary "self-publish" button.