Rule #1: BELIEVE!
The first thing you need to know about writing a novel is this: you can do it.
No, really. You can. Lesser people than you have written a novel. I’m not saying they were all good, but they did it. You can, too! And if you read this book, and apply the rules and advice herein, it will probably be pretty good!
I spent eight years reading slush as a literary agent at a century-old agency, so I can say this with authority: you can’t possibly go and write the worst novel ever written. It’s already been done. Don’t even try.
You probably shouldn’t try to write the best novel ever written either, because the resulting paralysis will turn you into a miserable alcoholic.
Instead, write the novel you want to write. Strive for quality, write something you love, and don’t become a brooding, cafe-squatting malcontent that people avoid at parties. You will learn a lot from the writing journey, you will be thankful you have written a novel once you’re finished, and humanity may thank you for shutting yourself inside long enough to write something that brings meaning and entertainment to the world.
You can do this.
Proof: I did it! I once harbored major doubts about whether I could really write a novel. Then I went and wrote one, and it didn’t get published; then, I really doubted whether I could write a novel. But I had another idea, I wrote a new novel, I found an agent, and the end result was the Jacob Wonderbar series. What’s more, I wrote it while maintaining a more-than-full-time job. I didn’t even get fired.
If I can do it, you can do it. But you have to want it.
There will come a time in the course of writing a novel where you would rather rip off your toenails and light them on fire than write one more word. This is normal.
There will be days when scrubbing your floor with a toothbrush will start to sound like a good idea if it means you can avoid writing. There will be days when you will contemplate driving yourself to the nearest mental institution and hurling yourself onto the reception desk, because anyone who would devote so much time to writing a novel when the rewards are so uncertain is surely insane.
This is also normal.
This is because writing, when done correctly, is not always fun. If you think writing a novel will be completely fun, you should find another hobby, like playing laser tag on ice skates. Or something. I don’t know what non-writers do with their time.
Writing is not always fun. It shouldn’t always be fun. You’re not doing it because it’s always fun.
The only reason to write a novel is because you have some insane fire burning inside that years of therapy have been unable to extinguish, and you fear how disappointed you will be with yourself if you never do it. Or, you know, because you really, really want to do it.
You have to want it. You have to work at it. You have to be able to write when the weather is teasing you with its pleasantness and when your friends are merrily drinking bottomless mimosas without you because they are happy non-writing jerks.
It’s hard. It really is. But, again, you can do this.
You, the person who may not always have had the best work ethic. You, the person who wonders whether they’re really creative enough to think up enough ideas for a whole novel. You, the person who thinks the whole thing seems magical and impossible. You, the person with the nagging voice in your head that says, why do I want to do this again? You, the person who feels like they never have the time. You can write a novel.
And if you’ve already written a novel, you can learn to write an even better one.