I wrote a book.
I edited that book like crazy.
I had a friend read that book and point out areas that did/didn't work.
I refined the book.
I edited the book again.
The above steps were rinsed and repeated ad nauseam until I had a book I was really happy with. Despite the crippling self-doubt I had, part of me really believed the book was great. Not quite stellar, but something to be proud of (NB: despite the following, I still believe this--writing a novel is something to be proud of regardless of how many later edits it needs).
I submitted it, waited with baited breath for a response. Then came the request for the full. Then the confirmation came: I had a contract. Proof that my book was da bomb!
My publishers loved the book, but...
When the 'but' came, I took a deep breath and waited. On initially hearing some of the feedback that they offered, part of me went..."Wait, I thought you liked the book?"
This is not a statement against the team at my publishers in any way, they handled the conversation so well and I really did understand all of their incredibly valid points. They loved the idea for the book and could get behind the characters, but felt certain things were lacking based on their experience actually publishing books (and reading reviews, reading other books and all of the other things that go along with publishing books).
The issue was the book in my head wasn't entirely the book on the page, which is often the case. In my head, the justifications for everything that happened between the pages was clear (I won't go into specifics because I'm assuming you would actually like to read the book at some point and don't want to be totally spoiled). In my head, the characters lives had been lived in full and I knew why A. ended up at B. and that C. happened because of X. The issue was that during the process of translating it from my head onto the page some of those details were not as clear as I'd thought they were. As well as that, there were sections of the book that had decent dialogue and some character growth but that ultimately didn't add much to the plot. "But how can you know that?" I hear you ask. Because, on the publishers advice and based on our lengthy discussions about what worked and what didn't work, I cut them out of the story and in all honesty it didn't hurt the story at all, in fact losing them had very little effect on the story at all. It wasn't suddenly weaker for not having these sections.
Then, based on those same discussions, I trialed a new starting point adding in thousands of words that didn't exist in the first book, but which were in keeping with the overall theme and tone of the story. Suddenly, the story was stronger. It was closer to the story in my head, even though there were extra scenes. I sent the revised story off to the publisher and so far they seem to have liked the changes. Only time will tell whether there are more revisions or not, but either way I will be happy because that little bit of outside feedback from a couple of different sources can really make the differences between the story in your head and that one that is actually out and on paper that much more obvious.
Then something else happened, it no longer made sense for the ending to be where it was or what it was because of so much new information and a couple of new major plot points. So spawned a new book 2 (I already had a book 2, but that's now book 3) and I've just finished the first complete draft of that. There's still a few more revisions and edits before it's even ready to be submitted to the publisher, but it's a book that might not have existed otherwise.