Written Spring 2008, reprised February 2010
I've wanted to be a novelist probably since the very first novel I remember reading (Andre Norton's fantastic Lord of Thunder). Back then, it seemed so easy; it still does, when I read accomplished authors such as P. C. Hodgell, Tad Williams, Wilkie Collins, and the more recent works of Stephen King (beginning with Bag of Bones in 1998). However, the contrary is actually true: novel writing is NOT easy. It's tough, it's very time-consuming, and it will eat up your life.
If you want to be a novelist, you had better get ready to put aside any pretense of real life, because you're not going to have any. That novel is going to consume your life, your time, your thoughts, your dreams and daydreams, your conversation and monologues. Soon you'll be walking, talking, driving, and sleeping in the world of your story-if you're as involved with it as you should be as its amanuensis. If you're NOT that involved, well, either you're not a novelist, or you're trying to write somebody else's story.
Now that we have the routine portion out of the way let's move on to the next stage: structure. You have to give up your preconceptions of just how easy this production is going to be. I speak from personal experience when I state that simply parking yourself at the keyboard and "channeling" the novel isn't going to work. You'll find yourself stalling out at 21,000 words, with characters who insist on traveling in their own chosen directions rather than yours and a plot that makes you scratch your head in wonderment. You're going to have to get down, grub in the metaphorical dirt, and knock out a plot, a character map, a theme, and a direction. If you don't, you're going to have a nice pile of building materials but no home.