I know writers who have struggled for decades to complete their first novel. They work on their novel for a while, then get distracted, put it in a drawer, fish it out a few years later, work on it for a while, and this goes on indefinitely.
I began teaching the 90-Day Novel workshop because some of my students had been in class for years and were not completing their first drafts. My goal as a writing teacher is to guide the writer to develop a process so that I become obsolete.
The secret for all first-time novelists to remember is to write the first draft quickly—even if you don’t know what you’re doing! Just get to the end of your first novel. It’s only by getting to the end that you will begin to really understand what you’re trying to say.
The first draft doesn’t have to make sense. There will be narrative holes, inconsistencies, contradictions. Don’t get too hung up on these.
Something remarkable happens when you get to the end of the first draft. You tend to understand your story in a way you couldn’t have in any other way.
Story is alchemy. It’s only by applying the pressure of a deadline that our subconscious is activated and we find the aliveness in our novel. Every novelist’s goal is to create something that is bigger than he is. In practical terms, this is impossible. But that doesn’t prevent a first-time novelist from believing that through decades of bashing away, somehow he’ll be able to “figure the novel out.” Even when we’re done, on some level, our novel is a mystery.
The solution is to write the first draft of our novel quickly, and surrender the results to the muse.