Well, I've taken the line that I don't want to submit just three-chapters-and-an-outline without having the rest of the novel on hand to submit if I get a show of interest. (I've gotten a couple of requests for the whole novel a couple of times.)
I'm usually worried because I'll sometimes write way into a novel, beyond three chapters but before the end, and then have it die on me and I don't finish it. I wouldn't want to disappoint somebody, even an editor, by not finishing something...
As for polishing...well, why not do that with the rest of the book, too? The rest should match up with the first three, in time and effort at least, if not quality...
Of course they'll notice the difference in quality. And there will be one; if it's a "long process", you won't have time to do it properly for the rest of the book when you get a "yes." Get it all done first.
But I'm curious . . . do you merely mean it's slow, taking a lot longer than you'd expected, or that it's actually distasteful? (The "ugh" definitely suggests the second, but I'm trying to make sure.) If it's distasteful, can you say why? A lot of people don't like editing and rewriting, and I can think of some reasons for that, but it's stated so often as a blunt fact that I've gotten more and more interested in the reasons behind it.
In her excellent EoFW book Beginnings, Middles, and Ends, Nacy Kress advocates a link between the beginning part of a story and its end. I love Nacy Kress's writing and find the pattern she recommends in many of my favorite novels by various authors.
This leads to a gestalt attitude toward writing. Revising just three chapters would be more of a modular attitude.
If you agree with Kress's idea, then you should keep the ending in mind as you revise the beginning.
My current WIP has exactly this problem. Yesterday I thought of a vastly superior opening scene, but including it will sever the tie to my ending. As a consequence, I must either integrate both beginnings or create a whole new ending with a new link.
the 'ugh' comes from the time it is taking to do. I have written nearly 100k worth of work, and it was fun to do. Going through and picking up typo's, grammar etc, isn't so hard. Its the serious re-writing that is time consuming. Re-writing something I've already created, it just isn't fun, yeah? Sounds like a lame excuse, but yeah, it just isn't as much fun.
I thought, if I had the first three polished up real good, then I could send them off to many publishers sooner, without the need for the whole book to be re-written.
We seem at very similar stages. I am also rewriting, but I have to say I'm having a ball most of the time. However, that might be because I wrote the first draft many years ago and the rewriting is like getting to play with my childhood friends again, getting back into their roots after watching them become adults.
My suggestion (and the plan I am currently following) is to try to work through the novel from start to finish, I am currently just past half way, but producing a polish chapter on almost a daily basis, and therefore I feel confident to send out query packages because I know that I am solidly heading towards a finished polished manuscript, rather than a finished, polished partial, attached to a sub-par manuscript.
I think you need to find the passion to rewrite, for me it was a fateful holiday on which I read Eragon. This worked for me because when I first wrote this story I was about the same age that Christopher Paloni was when he wrote Eragon and I realised that if someone had published what I had created then I would have been very excited, but now be writing under a different name out of shame. I didn't want my 19 year old manuscript published, I wanted a manuscript that showed all the skills I have gained in the eight years of practice, and as I loved my story and still wanted to tell it, it meant rewriting every single word.
So I am rewriting, bringing out the original ideas I have as an adult and cutting out the flashy stuff I 'borrowed' from things I was reading, and I love rereading my new draft and my Muse/Reader who knows how the story ends is still staying up to one in the morning to read it and begging for more.
Love the rewriting, and the rewritten will love you,
There's basically two things I do when I rewrite/edit. The first is, I add new scenes and delete old ones, and insert references or delete them, according to any notes I've made while writing in the first place. Any plot changes, anything I need to change for consistency, gets done here. This is creative work, very similar to writing in the first place--especially the bulk of the work, which is new scenes. It's just as much fun as writing originally was.
The next thing is, I go through and read it looking for any kind of error--logical, grammatical, structural, matters of clarity, whatever. I like this part too. Why? Because I like what I write. I think it's good stuff. I like to READ it. And when I see something that makes it less good than it ought to be, I enjoy fixing it and making it better.
This is why I'm always slightly puzzled by people who DON'T like the rewriting/editing process. It makes me wonder if they don't really like their own stuff. Because, if that's the case, writing MORE stuff that they won't like doesn't seem like the right way to get better.
That's why I asked. I still don't get it. But, in any case, you definitely want to get the whole thing in shape before you start to send it out.