Writing a novel is a goal for many people, professional and amateur writers alike. Sometimes, the idea of writing a book hundreds of pages long can seem dire and impossible, but it is far from the case. Having a clear plan, doing excellent research, and remaining dedicated to your goals can greatly increase the chances of producing a finished novel.
Probably the most important early research that can be done for novel writing is reading. Reading a wide variety of novels can help new writers understand the limitations, explorations, style, and structure of the novel genre. It is important to remember that writing a novel does not mean copying a famous author's style, but spending time reading a lot of novels can teach a novice writer what he or she likes or dislikes about the style, what kind of characters are interesting, and even what genres the writer favors. Reading can serve as a self-education for novel writing, and many experts believe it should be maintained on a daily basis.
Outlining is one of the best ways to ensure that novel writing is not just an exercise but will result in a finished book. An outline is the blueprint of a novel; the major plot points, characters, and themes are all written down and carefully reviewed before a word of the novel is even written. Many authors write step outlines, where each important moment or beat of the plot is written down as a list. Step outlines help an author get a feel for the exact actions of the plot, and can highlight any weak spots or characters that need additional development.
Some writers can write an outline in a day, while others need weeks. While an outline is an important step to novel writing, it should not distract an author from the business of actually writing the novel for too long. Writing schedules are an intensely individual thing, and must be discovered rather than learned. Some people work best throughout the night, or in the early morning before the kids are up. Many suggest writing every day, but some writers work in caffeine-filled bursts of several days at a time before collapsing for weeks or even months while staying away from the novel. Discovering a personal writing schedule will help focus creativity and ease the process of novel writing.
While writing, it is important to keep an eye on spelling, grammar, and structural rules. It is unwise to believe that all that will be fixed by an editor, as the book will have to get published in order for that to happen. Finishing a first draft with 2000 errors will only result in a lengthy revision process that can quickly become discouraging. Running spelling and grammar checks or proofreading at the end of each writing session can save an enormous amount of time.
Novel writing is almost never completed entirely alone. It is natural to turn to trusted friends and mentors for help with confounded plot points or even general advice. Having a small circle of readers for novel writing can give a writer fresh ideas and new perspectives. Just remember: a reading friend wants to offer his opinion, not write the book himself. People who get furious when their notes are not incorporated or magically produces his own novel with an eerily similar plot are not good readers.