A slightly tongue-in-cheek guide for your road to publication:
Step 1: You write the damn book. Yeah, this part is a lot of work. That's what seperates the wussies from the real writers. But that part you knew, right?
Step 2: You revise the damn book. And this doesn't mean running spell check or having your bff Sally proof read it. It means finding critique partners who you may never meet in real life, and trusting them to rip apart your book with a red pen. You'll wallow, you'll cry, and you'll emerge with a better book in the end.
Step 3: You query agents. With a kick-butt query letter that has also been ripped to shreds and reassembled, maybe with the help of the fine folks at verlakay or absolute write. Because there's nothing like the internet to make shy, introverted people become gleefully brutal. It's for your own good. I promise.
Step 4: You land a kick butt agent. S/he gets out an even bigger red pen, and you revise your book. You may also realize you should have listened to that one girl on that one message board who said your protagonist was kind of annoying.
Step 5: Your agent sends your baby out into the world. You refresh your inbox 945 times. Per Hour. You type up 32 emails every day, saying, "Have you heard anything?" only to delete them becuase you know that would be annoying, and also, your agent isn't going to forget to tell you about that six figure pre-emptive offer. But one or two of those emails will manage to get sent, and then your agent will swear s/he still loves you, and to sit tight. Which you'll do, cool as a cucumber. Not really. You pretend to be cool as a cucumber, but really, you just sent all your writing buddies an email titled Submissions Update #455, in which y'all analyze that one line in that one email to try and figure out if maybe there's good news coming.
Step 6: You may get to 'second reads" a time or two or "go to comittee" and your hopes will soar,but sometimes they'll crash, and you'll consider quitting this whole writing thing in favor of becoming a potato farmer. You'll dream of a world with no internet or books. But then you'll realize you'd probably just write your next novel in the dirt with a stick, so you may as well keep at it.
Step 7: You get the call, and after those first few sentences everything else gets sort of hazy. You know, as if those first few sentences she spoke were shots of Bacardi 151. She'll probably email you all this crap later, so you don't really have to pay attention. Just focus on the jumping up and down part. You trust her anyway, right? That's why she's your agent.
Step 8: Several days usually pass in which your agent rounds up answers from everyone else, and you stare at the wall in a daze, and the only answer you really want is to the question: "When can I blog about this?"
Step 9: You accept a deal. You finally tell your mom you wrote a book, becuase chances are you didn't consider yourself a "real writer" until now. You wait for a parade, but then realize the parade probably comes on release day. Which, come to think of it, is like two years away.
Step 10: TWO YEARS, ARE YOU EFFIN KIDDING ME? HOW WILL I SUR
Step 11: The euphoria of selling your novel wears off, and the real work starts. Your editor sends you a revision letter that is about 12 pages long, and you contemplate putitng every other page through the shredder so that you don't die right now, curled up in a ball under your desk. But then you eat that entire apple pie and get to work, and realize it's not so bad and hey, your editor might just be the smartest friggin person you've ever met. The panic will come back about 3 days before your book is due. It won't go away until she has read all your revisions and told you you're awesome.
Step 12: Line edits. These don't suck too bad. Well, except that one line on page 99 that you were sure was the best line you've ever written, and your editor just crossed it out.
Step 13: Copy Edits. These don't suck too bad either, but HOLY CRAP, do you use commas wrong. And WTF, you really thought it was "towards." There's no S on the end of that? You google it just to be sure, but turns out this person who does copy editing for a living actually knows what she's talking about.
Step 14: First Pass Pages, or FPP: You're supposed to be proofreading this- your LAST proofread, but you can't stop petting those cool swirls they use for chapter headings.
Step 15: ARCs. For four and a half seconds, you're squealing like a little kid on christmas morning. Then you realize: If you're holding an ARC, other people are too. And reviews will arrive soon. Oh, snap, you really should have paid more attention to those FPPs, becuase right there on page 7 is a typo. Every reader in the whole world is going to stop reading on page 7, you're sure of it.
Step 6: Finished Books. You don't expect them unitl release date, but they almost always arrive a week or two early. One day you arrive home, and there's a whole box... just sitting on your porch, all innocent like.
You've made it.
Oh, except.... Book #2 is due in three weeks.