Tell your family or friends who are not writers that you're writing a novel. They don't understand that the writing process is slow and the publishing process is even slower. For the last four years I've had to explain to my grandmother, at various stages of the process, that I didn't have a publisher yet. When I received the book deal, I let her know and she continued to ask me when the novel
would come out even though I told her over and over it won't come out for another year.
I love my grandma to death, but there are times she still thinks I'm in high school and it's 1990 and she gives me $5 like I could go buy the latest cassette by Nick Cave. Memory fades with old age.
Do: Love your characters. Love their flaws. Understand their motivations. The final draft of my novel runs 214 pages. That's probably out of a thousand or so pages written. I wrote backgrounds on other characters. I understood why they made decisions that were wrong for them and their reasons for how they respond to each other.
Don't: Write a novel thinking it's going to get published. Don't listen to the industry. A few agents refused to read my novel because the protagonist was too young, or too old, and they asked me to rewrite it and send it to them. They hadn't even looked at my manuscript. I tossed their cards in the trash. If someone hasn't read your novel and has suggestions for rewrites, RUN.
Do: Be gracious. Get rejected. The agents and publishers who read my work and rejected me, I hold in high regard. Many were honest as to why they couldn't work with my manuscript. Publishing is a business. Agents and editors work their asses off and to even get rejected, that's a privilege.
Remember: The story is more than the writer. I was a little more jokester about it earlier in the week, but take your ego out of excellent storytelling.
Do: Have an absolute blast when you're on a roll. During my rewrites, I'd walk into a café with my red marker and 500 sheets of paper wrapped by a rubber band. I'd drop the manuscript onto the table from a few feet in the air. THUD! People would turn around and I'd tell them, It's my novel. You don't need a publisher, great reviews, or an agent to have your heart and soul wrapped in a rubber band.
Don't: Get pissed if other writers won't read your work or can't help you. Just say thank you and continue to love their work and hope that you can do something for them one day. I only have a debut novel out. I've received so many requests to read other aspiring novelists, and I've been advised to say no to all of them for legal reasons. I was advised not to read a novel unless it's under contract, meaning the writer already has a book deal. Of course, I'll read novels from friends (not online friends) and help everyone I can, but I understand when writers are cautious. If the answer is, 'No,' if the answer is, 'I can't help you,' the response is, 'Thank you.' Holding a grudge is futile.
Don't: Get in this game if you don't absolutely love literature. Let me take that back, don't get in this game if literature hasn't saved your life somehow. Don't get into this game for the money. Don't get into this game while wondering if you should Tweet your novel online to show your digital forward thinking.
Do: Read and write. Read and write. And write. And write. It's like learning to play guitar and you play "Stairway to Heaven," and after you master that you play other songs. Which brings me to...
Don't: Think writing like Bukowski is unique. Most of us go through our Bukowski period. Bukowski is necessary. I'm a fan of Bukowski. But, I can also sing karaoke to Foreigner songs without using the teleprompter. Bukowski is puberty for too many writers who never grow that second pubic hair. Develop your own voice.
Do: Live life like a writer. Get out there. Make huge mistakes. Life is complicated as all shit. We're human. Tapping the human condition is material. Tapping the human condition through words is what makes great writers.
Don't: Listen to a word that I have said above if it discourages you from writing your novel. Write your novel and be damned by writers with advice who don't understand your working process.
Fellow writers, write your guts out.