Claire Delacroix has written one of the best analogies for a career in writing I've ever seen over on her blog, Alive and Knitting. She likens selling your first book to setting out to sea in a dingy. I also like how she contrasts that with the prevalent notion of a writing career she calls the Escalator Theory.
I'm going to play a little with her comparison and liken being unpublished to standing on the shore. You see the sea, and you think, "Yes, I'd like to go for a sail. I can build a boat."
So you start building a boat. First, you have to decide what kind of craft -- kayak? Whaler? Man o' war? Then you need some plans (like an outline, or synopsis). And then you start to build. Some days, everything fits together beautifully, other days, nothing works.
Sometimes people get so hung up on the color of the sails, they don't see the leak in the hull. Sometimes, people start planning a fleet before they've even finished one vessel.
But let's say you build your boat and whoo hoo! You get to launch it. As Claire makes so very clear, you're only at the beginning at the voyage, and there's a lot that can happen.
No wonder there are days I feel like somebody should start calling me Lovey....