For my MA we had to submit only 30,000 words of a novel to get the qualification. I remember walking with another student along to a reading the MA year group were doing as part of the Bath Lit Fest and asking how she was getting on with her book (that I greatly admired). 'Oh,' she said airily. 'I'm going to wait and see if anyone wants it before I write any more. I can't be bothered to do anything more on it unless it's going to be published.'
There were quite a few people on the course who felt the same way it turned out. I was amazed. And cheered, because at least I'd finished my first draft. It meant I was in the race instead of polishing my shoes on the side lines. However, because I'd done enough work to enter the race, I relaxed a little. Okay, a lot. When I sent the first draft out I knew that there were things that weren't quite right, but I didn't do the work to fix them. Deep in my heart, I hoped someone else would do the work for me. An editor perhaps, or the publishing pixies. Fat chance.
I don't think people really appreciate how much work goes into that first novel. I'm sure it's not a cost effective enterprise for most people, although deeply, deeply satisfying. My first draft was turned down. It took me two years to take my first novel from idea to a publishing deal and I worked harder on it than I'd worked on anything before. I worked on it when I didn't want to. I worked on it when I was tired. I worked on it when I was angry that no one loved it. I re-wrote and re-wrote, ditching about 90% of the first draft before the book got published.
The truth is, there are no publishing pixies. If you don't do the work, no one else will.