1) It’s great to keep an eye on the ever-changing book market and see what’s selling out there when you start writing your novel. But at the same time, you need to write the sort of novel you would enjoy reading, one that excites you personally because otherwise your words will feel flat on the page. The best thing about writing for a living is being totally absorbed in your characters and their storylines – which can only happen if you’re writing the novel you really want to write.
2) Make your characters as real as possible. I used to write very comprehensive character notes, describing every detail about outfits, hairstyles, middle names and anything else I could think of, basically because it was so much fun. These days, I still write lengthy character studies and I still include details such as the perfume or aftershave a character might wear and the style of clothes they favour, but I also tend to focus on their emotional core and how they might react to a given situation. Whatever makes your characters real in your own mind is absolutely fine, as long as it translates to the page.
3) Find time to write. This sounds like such a straightforward concept, but it can be tough, especially if you are fitting your writing around a full time job or caring for your children. The problem is that novel will never get written if it remains in your head, so somehow, there has to be a way to shoehorn some time in your schedule to get some of those whirling thoughts down onto the page of a lovely notebook or onto a lap top. When I first started writing, I used my commute into London to get my story down on paper and when my children were first born, I did it when they were asleep. Hey, no one ever said this writing lark was easy!
4) Find your own voice. Don’t try to write like another author, however much you admire them, because there is no point. That author is already out there, hopefully succeeding in a very challenging market but this means that you need to find your own slot on the book shelf. Write from your heart, be yourself and be unique.
5) Get yourself started by writing an exciting blurb. Look at the back of some of the novels you have enjoyed reading and see what grabs you about the plot or the strapline. This is a great way to sum up your plot in a few paragraphs and really get to the crux of the novel. What are you trying to say? What dilemmas are your characters about to face? What will get your prospective readers turning those pages, unable to stop themselves from diving in? Once you have this starting point, you get can writing your novel.