Second, write what you like. If you’re not passionate about it I can almost guarantee your readers won’t be either. Some authors decide to write for the market and try to create something that might sell. Don’t fall into that trap. Write the novel you want to read and believe your future audience will feel the same way.
Third, learn about the publishing industry, both the traditional and self-publishing routes from the top to the bottom. No matter which path you take the market is changing and you’ll need to understand everything you can about the publishing world. It’s a complex web but there are great resources out there that can teach you how it works. Also, remember, this is a business and it’s not personal. If the publishing industry doesn’t feel like they can make money off your novel you won’t get that chance.
Fourth, embrace the suck. Say what? Know from the onset you’ll be rejected often and rejection sucks (no matter who you are). Nobody breaks into this business without having the door slammed in their face many, many times. If you don’t have it already you’ll need to grow a thicker skin. I haven’t met a single author that feels this is an easy business. It’s hard. Real hard. I’ve had an NYT Bestseller tell me if they knew how hard it was to make it as a professional writer they might not have even tried to submit their query years back. Accept the difficulty from the onset and dig in for the long haul. Getting an agent and a publishing deal is a slow and arduous process but you know who gets both? The authors that never quit.
Fifth, keep learning and read as much as you can. You need to know what else is in the marketplace. Successful authors read the novels written by other successful authors. (and those not so successful)
Sixth, get out of your house, coffee shop, bookstore or wherever you write and explore the greater world. You might have a powerful imagination but experiences are a writer’s inspiration for future stories. The feel of the chipped paint on a park bench, a sweet and enticing smell drifting into the morning air from a mom and pop bakery, heavy footfalls and random chatter as you sit back and people watch in a big city… all these are needed to make your story authentic. Can you make it up? Sure. But why not experience it and tell the reader what you felt, smelt, or heard from your own memory bank.
Seventh, there are lots of rules but don’t be afraid to break them from time to time. Google “writing rules” and start reading. It’s amazing how many do’s and don’ts you’ll find. The good news is you don’t have to follow all of them. The bad news is if you’re trying to get published you won’t be the one to decide which one you can or can’t break. The publisher calls the shots. Your editor will provide invaluable feedback, and when needed smack your hands if you break a cardinal rule. Of course, if you decide to self-publish then you’ll have the ultimate say so.
Eighth, you don’t need to become a subject matter expert but do need to research enough to know what you’re talking about. Readers will find any discrepancy and let you know about it. Sometimes in very direct and harsh terms. Don’t give them any more opportunities then they will already gleefully take.
Ninth, don’t be afraid to make stuff up. I mean come on you’re a writer after all, right? But when your imagination goes into overdrive you better make sure what shows up on the paper is believable. Your creativity is the greatest tools you possess, but you need to convince the readers the “crap” you concoct and put on paper is in fact plausible.
And finally ...
Tenth, enjoy the process. If writing is a chore or drudgery chances are you shouldn’t be doing it.
Remember “Life’s a journey, not a destination.” As a writer, you’ll face struggles and obstacles that will keep you from the thing you should be doing … writing a great novel. Stay with your passion, dig deep and find the words to tell an amazing story. You are not only your greatest obstacle but your only one. If there’s a story in there that needs to come out, set it free.
And that’s my two cents.