A few weeks ago Chuck Wendig published a guest post on 25 Steps to Being a Traditionally Published Author. It's a good read, go check it out.
OK, the thing that the article doesn't tell you, and it doesn't tell you it for a very good reason, is this: how long each step takes. Because for every writer, every step is a different process, and every step takes a different length of time for everyone involved. I read somewhere that Stephanie Myers wrote Twilight in three weeks. This might be apocryphal, I don't know, but if it isn't, regardless of what you think about Twilight, writing something novel-length and coherent enough that you can edit it into a best-seller three weeks is pretty impressive.
Anyhow, Steps One Through Eight are pretty much about actually writing a manuscript and getting it to the point where you can query/submit/publish it. And that can be a grueling process that can take years. I mean, I spent three years working on Crown of Druthal and that's a horrid trunk novel that deserves to sit in a drawer forever. I don't regret having done it, it was a necessary learning process, and I couldn't have written Thorn/Holver Alley/Constabulary/Shield without having done it. But that doesn't mean it isn't a marathon of a process that people drop out from before they finish Step Eight.
Then Steps Nine through Seventeen are about getting an agent, and keeping your head above water while you go through this process.*
And then you're on Step 18.
Step 18 is a place you can live for a long time, and it's a very strange place to live. On one hand, it's excellent, because you've conquered gatekeepers, and you've received acknowledgement that, yes, this is good work that you've done. And that's real, professional-grade acknowledgement, not just your mom or college friend telling you that it's really cool you wrote a book. That means something.
And yet, it also doesn't mean much of anything, because you have nothing tangible. Wow, you wrote a book, that's awesome! Can I read it? Oh, no, because it's not sold yet. I imagine it's not unlike, say, an actor who got their SAG card for a pilot that didn't get picked up. Yes, you're a professional; yes, you've received acknowledgement of your talent; no, no one's seen your work.
Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled-- thrilled-- to have gotten this far. I do feel like I've accomplished a lot. And Step 18 not rest-on-laurels time: you go back and do Steps One through Eight again, this time knowing a bit more, and knowing that Steps Nine through Seventeen are already done. I just sent a fourth manuscript to my agent, and I'm getting a new rough draft underway.
Step Nineteen is just over the horizon. I just have to keep pedaling until I reach it.
*- Because the whole process of getting a book published isn't a marathon, it's an Iron Man. Querying is the swimming portion.