So what do you do?
Obviously, you write your story. But how? Writing a book, while it can be fairly simple, is not an easy task. It takes a lot of hard work, self-discipline, and an ego made of steel--because you're going to face a lot of criticism, and most of it will come from yourself. And now you're thinking, okay Miss Mandi Grace, that's a whole lot of vague and nothing to work with. You're right. So let's get into the details. Fair warning though, this is a list of things that you need to do to write a novel but this is not a list of the specific steps (outline, first draft, etc).
The first thing you need to do is simply write. Spew words. They don't have to be pretty, just get it down on paper--or in a word document--so you aren't losing your mind.
Second, you need to understand words and how they fit together. If you have a basic understanding of grammar, great. Take some classes to learn more. If you're an expert, great. Find resources to expand your knowledge and grow your writing expertise. There's always room for improvement. I'm still learning, too. This is a vital step for you to write a book of any nature, because if you don't know the rules then you can't successfully bend them to make something beautiful. You'll just make a mess. So learn about words, and grammar, and all the nitty-gritty details that sound boring. It's important. Hand-in-hand with learning the grammar, learn how to craft stories. I regularly find resources--books, classes, articles, you name it--to stretch myself because I want to be an expert at what I do. So learn how to write a story, how to create vivid characters, how to showcase powerful dialogue, and utilize descriptions for emotional impact. Writing is a job, and if you want to succeed you need to know how your job works and what it entails.
Third, you have to write every single day. Five minutes. Five hours. Whatever fits into your schedule. If your schedule is too full for writing, make time. You won't write a book any other way. This is not the sort of thing that happens overnight. It takes months, sometimes years. You have to stay on top of it. But don't get overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of your project. If you love it, it will come easy--and on days that it is hard, keep writing anyway. One paragraph a day will get you a whole lot closer to a finished manuscript than zero words written.
Fourth, surround yourself with peers. Find other writers, be they published authors or newbies like yourself. Connect in person or online--whatever works for you--but build yourself a network of individuals who can encourage you in your writing, offer advice when needed, critique your stories to help you grow to be the best writer you possibly can be. You can't do this alone, so find people who can help you achieve your dream to the best of your ability. Don't settle for whatever you can manage on your own. Trust me, it will be that much more brilliant with a group of people pushing you to improve rather than letting you stagnate.
Fifth, do your research. Whatever subject you are writing about, whatever genre you have chosen to align yourself with...become the expert. I write historical fiction more often than anything else, so there's a whole lot of research involved in getting dates, settings, foods, and people of the time correct. But research is necessary in all genres. Are you writing romance? Take some psychology classes or read some articles and become fluent in the language of how the mind works and how people connect with one another. Knowing your material is vital to writing a credible, believable story. And having a credible, believable story is vital if you want people to enjoy your book because your audience is not stupid. They'll know when you don't have a clue what you're talking about.
So that's five things that you have to be doing if you want to write the best book you possibly can. Write, and write every day. Learn how this whole writing business works anyway. Create a network of people who can challenge and encourage you to be a better writer. And be the expert in your field.
Sometime in the future I might go over the more specific things to be doing to write a novel, but for now...
Happy Writing, everybody!