I began my debut novel in mid-2014. It took me about 7 or 8 months to finish the first draft. I then spent THREE YEARS redrafting and editing and killing many many darlings. In that time, I was also sending out queries to agents in the US and the UK and getting many many rejections.
It was hard. Harder than I thought it was going to be, if I'm honest. I wanted to give up, not on writing (I can't quit that) but certainly on this particular novel. I was ready to bury it in my own slush pile and just work on other things.
.... Then, Trump happened.
In January of 2017 an #opencall went out on twitter in response to the stale Cheeto's Muslim travel ban. A bunch of literary agents joined the call, asking for Muslim voices from around the world. So, with the help of friends (both online and IRL) I dusted off the manuscript, punched up my query letter (those are both impossible and hugely important--perhaps my least favorite coupling of adjectives,) and did a round of querying.
I got about five or six responses from agents who wanted to read the full MS. This was the first time I'd ever gotten such a response, and I can only attribute it to the query letter since the start of my MS hadn't changed substantially.
One of these agents was the awesome Melissa Edwards at Stonesong Literary Agency in New York. As soon as I saw her twitter bio and realized our shared love of all things The West Wing, I knew this was it. She has been a fantastic cheerleader who helped me tighten the MS even further, making it better than I could have imagined.
I signed with her in March 2017, and by the end of April my novel was out on subs (industry jargon for "out to editors at publishing houses that will make you scream in shock and delight")
By July/August, there were some very serious nibbles, and there is some great, big chomping news to follow ;)