I celebrated my 76th birthday in June, and that marked three years since my first stand alone novel contract that led to an additional three books in a second contract. It has been an amazing journey with nine books and two novellas released in that time and six more novels in the works. It's beyond my wildest imaginations.
I started actively seeking publication in the early 1990's just after I retired from teaching high school and began teaching at the college level. Looking back, I can see my books were not anywhere near what they needed to be to attract an editor.
No matter what age we are, if we are serious about publication, we have certain steps or things we must do to accomplish that feat. The road to publication may be long as mine has been or it may be just a few years.
The first step on that road is to write, write, write. From there progress to reading books about writing, learn all you can about the craft of writing, learn to edit, learn the guidelines from the publishers, and finish that first novel.
Step two is to get a critique partner or join a critique group or writing group that offers critiques. This will help get an outsider's view of the work. Also begin entering contests at this point to get additional feedback.
The next step is intertwined with the others. Attend as many writing conferences as can be afforded. There authors learn from other authors, make contact with editors, agents, and other writers. Those contacts are invaluable.
Once the work is ready, submit to agents or make contact with editors at conferences. Most houses do not accept unsolicted manuscripts without an agent or coming through an editor's request at a conference.
Submitting that manuscript is the only way to get it noticed whether the submission is through an agent or sent directly to an editor. After the first one is submitted, get to work on the second one.
Through all of this, a writer needs patience and preseverence. Getting a response from an editor may take a while, but don't waste that time. Keep writing.
Rejections will come, but remember that rejections are not failure but a step towad a better manuscript. Revise, edit, and polish then submit again.
The hardest part is waiting, but whether it takes one year or fifteen years, the wait will be worth it when that first book arrives and it has your name on it.
Websites about writing are in abundance. Check them out as well as take a few courses in writing and attend writing workshops. Join professional organizations like ACFW and have contact with more writers that you could ever dream of meeting.
Writing a novel is more than simply putting words on paper and selling them. Writing involves time, effort, patience, perseverence, and dedication as well as lots of prayer. Disappointments will come, but if it is God's will for your writing, acceptance and a contract will come.
I know other more experienced writers can add to these suggestions. Even with twelve books written and either published or in the final stages before publication, I find that going back over the steps and applying them to my own writing life encourages me to keep going.
No matter where you are in your writing journey, remember to seek God first and all these other things will be added for you.