My journey to completing that first book is somewhat different from my blogmates.
I started out writing short stories--back when there was still a marginal short story market besides scifi-fantasy. And the first short story I submitted to Redbook advanced. That was back in 1984--I only know because I was a newlywed.
My rejection came a couple of months later with a handwritten note along the bottom of the form letter--This ulitmately did not seem right for us.
Seeing as it was the story of a man, a wife, and the mermaid who tries to come between them, I wasn't surprised. I think I was more surprised that it got moved up the chain. Just for the record, my mermaid story predates Splash or Ariel.
But, that handwritten note was enough to bolster my confidence. Someone thought I was good writer.
The first book I completed was a few years later and my daughter was like one, so 1988ish. It was YA romance about a journalist on the school paper. I entered that in Delacorte's yearly contest and again got a scribbled note on my rejection--While this is well-written, we don't publish romance.
My second book, Yesterday's Sins, a long--probably should be split into two books--was a mainstream novel about a woman who loses her chance to have children because of a drunk driver and exacts her brand of revenge. It includes the seduction of a younger man--pre-couger popularity. Maybe I should face that I am just ahead of my time--a plotted murder and blackmail. It's very dark without a discernible hero or heroine.
And until I met Bix, this was the story of my heart. I worked on it on and off for about ten years, but two years of solid dedication. It was with an agent for months and months. By the time I received the rejection, I had moved onto my third novel, returning again to writing for children or young adults. Since then I've finished two YA, a middle grade, and a early-reader.
Most of them are well-written and polished but have inherent plot problems that I haven't found a way to fix. For example, the early reader is about a little girl who wants to grow a dinosaur in her tummy. When she goes into surgery for an appendicitis she's sure she's going to have that dinosaur. Under anesthesia, she enters a land inspired by a Simon and Garfunkel CD that's playing in the background. She's meets a sassy swan named Cecelia, and Silvergirl who speaks backwards, visits Scarborough Fair. I even obtained permission from Paul Simon to use the images--okay, his attorneys. He probably never even read it, but a writer can dream, can't she?
The problem? After reading the first ten pages or so at a conference---and laughing or smiling in the right places--lit agent Andrea Brown told me that no publisher would publish a book about an 8yo girl who wanted to be pregnant, even if was a dinosaur. I have to admit she's right and I've never figured out a way around that. One day it may come to me and I'll rework it, but for now it's in a notebook and if anyone wants to read it, I let them.
All of the books that I've completed have gone through the critique process and are pretty polished. Over the years I've let friends and coworkers read them. Why not? They aren't doing me any good just sitting on a shelf. They may never be good enough to be published, but they're better than not ever finishing a book.