From Women Writers, Women’s Books:
I got a late start as a writer. I was an avid reader, sure, but write a book? Never crossed my mind until I was in my 50s and had a story to tell. I’d never so much as taken a writing class, but one frozen February morning in 2019 I just started writing. The words flowed. I lived and breathed to write this story. It was magical. Reminiscent of first love or maybe even an addiction – I was hooked. I woke up before dawn to write.
I’d write during my breaks at work. I was creating people who had lives and families and issues. They felt love and lust and had hard choices. And I was fixing their problems – never mind that I’d created the problems in the first place. I would stay up until the wee hours, get some sleep, and then get up and do it all over again. It was exhausting, but also exciting and exhilarating.
And finally, after three months of this, I’d written and re-written the story, and Between February and November was finished.
I planned to submit to agents, so I researched the heck out of querying. Jane Friedman’s blog was a constant open tab on my laptop as was Janet Reid’s Query Shark. I had my “hook” and a fair bit of naïve confidence.
I submitted my first manuscript to a handful of agents on May 21, 2019. Around that same time, I also submitted to my first writing contest. I didn’t realize just how naïve I was until I got my first agent rejection the next day. It was from Jessica Faust of Bookends Literary. This was probably the best first rejection I could have received.
After seeing my word count, it was clear I had no idea what I was doing as a writer, and I needed to learn about publishing. That’s not exactly what she said, but that was the gist of it. She was helpful though and shared some knowledge about word counts and genres. She ended her rejection with: Remember that the long road to publishing includes many bumps. Keep writing and persevering until they are forced to say yes. She likely included that passage in every rejection, but that was all I needed to hear to keep going.
Another rejection arrived a few days later from Julie Gwinn at the Seymour Agency. In a nutshell, she said my concept was good, but I needed to hone my craft and suggested I attend a writing conference.
A few requests for pages came, as did requests for fulls, along with more rejections. None had the effect on me those first two did, nor did they have the advice. Though I had researched the heck out of querying, I neglected to research genres, word counts, and how to find my storytelling voice.
I wasn’t in the position to attend a writing conference, so, I read about the craft of writing. From Writing Down the Bones to Stephen King’s On Writing to Save the Cat Writes a Novel. In the midst of all of this, a friend of mine told me about the Writers Workshop Hard Times Essay Contest and encouraged me to enter. It was due in two weeks, and the guidelines were to write about a difficult experience in your life, how you overcame it, and how you were changed. Sounds kind of like any writer’s life, doesn’t it? Like most people, I had a few difficult life experiences to choose from. I finally decided which one I’d focus on and submitted to my first essay contest on June 29, 2019.
In the meantime, I studied, and I wrote, and I edited. I resubmitted my novel to agents and this time to publishers as well. In September of 2019, I received an offer from a small independent publisher. To say I was ecstatic would be an understatement. A week later, I learned the essay I submitted back in June won first place.
I felt like a real writer!
Link to the rest at Women Writers, Women’s Books
The OP is an example of a common trope among some authors.
I wrote and was rejected, I went to a conference, I wrote and was rejected, I read a book about writing written by a famous author, I wrote and was rejected, I wrote and was rejected, then finally I got published by an itty-bitty press, then I wrote and did a bunch of stuff to get noticed and was rejected.
Self-publish and you can do all those things while making money and building a group of readers who like your book.
But, of course, that would mean missing all that character-building that occurred during your serial rejection period.