Before writing, before planning, in those formative moments where you're just deciding you want to write a novel, there is one crucial ingredient you need that can make the whole process happen.
That ingredient, my friends, is motivation.
Let's face it; writing a book is stupidly difficult to do. I haven't even succeeded yet (I know, awfully rich of me to give advice considering I'm still learning myself); I've been working on my novel since 2008, and the first draft isn't even completed yet.
But it is doable. People will spend decades working before getting their first book out, but it is worth it and it is possible, all thanks to a little thing called motivation. Motivation gets you past 'once upon a time', through the tough parts of your novel, right through to 'the end' and back again with redraft after redraft. I cannot stress how vital it is to the writing process.
So, how do you get motivated to write a book? Well, as with all areas of writing, there are several methods; some may work for you, some may not.
Personally, I like to go out, buy a notebook or pad of paper for my project, then number out how many pages I'd like to write. If the pages are loose, I'll stick them in a ringbinder. Then I'll let myself imagine those pages filled with my words; my stories. I feel how heavy it is, flick through the pages, feel how thick they are and imagine it as a real book, a book that I've written.
Maybe it sounds silly, but for me, this is a springboard into the next step: I start to think about my plot. I dream up characters and situations, get excited about them, and this I can do while I plan. I dream about seeing those ideas in a published novel because come on, how is that not exciting?!
Then, when I feel ready, I write.
Of course, this method is only really good for the first burst of a project you're just starting. After twelve pages, or thirty pages, or, if you're lucky, a hundred pages, maybe the wind will leave your sails. That initial explosion of creative energy might start to wane. It happens to the best of us. What can you do to get back your fire?
You could think back to what inspired you to write the project at first. Again, just think of how cool it will be to have this book published; because if you think it's worth writing, there's definitely someone out there who thinks it's worth reading.
Perhaps you've hit a snag in your plot? Make a note of where the snag is, and carry on. Even if you only write a little bit a day, progress is progress, no matter how small. This applies to all drafts.
Set yourself goals to work towards every day. I like to set myself a goal of 1600 words, which roughly equates to the typical goal of a NaNoWriMo participant. Maybe something smaller works for you. Just imagine, if you wrote 500 words a day (about a page and a half, depending on your handwriting), in a year, you could have 182,000 words, or about 600 pages (again, depending on your handwriting or font size). That's amazing, and you could totally do it.
Look after yourself. Eat well, take plenty of breaks while you work to avoid burning yourself out (this is so important, you wouldn't believe it). Take walks to let yourself think, cut any doubters out of your life or ignore them. In fact, make it your mission to prove them wrong. Love yourself, believe in yourself.
If you're working on the first draft and have worries about the quality of your writing, do not be worried. All first drafts suck. Yours does, mine do, J.K Rowling's do, Shakespeare's did. There's a magical thing called editing, in which you will shape your novel into the beautiful thing it was meant to be. Besides, even if your work sucks, it's wonderful because it's an extension of you. We live in a gorgeous, diverse world full of fascinating people with interesting things to say, and you are one of these people. So don't be afraid to just write what you want, write what makes you happy.
And if you're editing, just persist. Revel in the beauty that's beginning to shine through your words. Take pride in the shape it's beginning to take, and always remember that you've overcome a massive step in the writing of your first draft; one of the biggest steps is already behind you.
The most important thing is to keep your original inspiration in mind, and remind yourself constantly that you can do it. If you've written one page, you can write a hundred more. Three hundred, maybe even six hundred and beyond. You can do it. I believe in you.