Lessons I learned writing my first novel
(I have yet to finish editing it, and I don't plan on letting anyone read it, but I can tell you the writing of it was an excellent learning experience :] )
BEFORE I share with you my questionable pearls of wisdom:
Neil Gaiman talks about having a "compost pile". Have a notebook where you keep all your new story ideas, or write lil short stories with new characters. Like you're allowed to do other projects while you write your main book. If it's just fatigue from sticking to one thing, deem Sunday's your "fun write" day or something where you just write a lil short story in like 1-2 hours to get it out of your system, and then through the week work on your main book.
Include character ideas for new stories as background characters, or introduce them halfway through your novel as a new point of conflict or something.
Now, what I learned from my own writing:
I have found that setting too many rules for myself sucks the fun out of the process. Let yourself "free-write". Be ridiculous. Make yourself laugh. Have fun. Know who your character is, and then just invent madness and pretend its you reacting to those situations.
After some time, you'll develop a style. You may not spot it right away, but going back and reading through 200 pages you wrote, you'll notice where you break your style, at least.
Once you feel like you have direction - whether that's after writing one page, ten, or thirty, take a minute and outline your plot. It's more important to know your characters. How would they react to X, and why? Based on what past experience, and what future dreams/goals? This directs their (re)actions in situations, no matter what you think up!
So, once you've got that, you can make an outline (if you want). This provides motivation for that "middle slump". Make today's goal writing page 102-115. Tomorrow's goal is 116-125. The weekend when you wanna spend more time? SPEED ROUND! pgs 126-140. You can worry about cleaning it up later. So instead of staring down a 250pg manuscript goal you set for yourself back at page 5 when you felt young and ambitious, you only have to write 5-10 pages a day.
Make it a habit, like your morning coffee or your evening tea.
If you're serious about churning out a book, make a rule to only watch TV on weekends or something. Dedicate that 1-2 hours in the evening to your goal. It feels pretty good, I promise. 5 pages a day doesn't seem like a lot, but in a month you've made some real progress.
Make a bullet point roadmap for yourself, in not-too-much detail; you'll fill in the blanks with the finer points as you come to them.
Throw a wrench in your character's plans. Those hopes and dreams they had? Crush them, and then have them recover. Or challenge them in some way. They shouldn't be a broken shell of a person, but they shouldn't be perfect/unstoppable either. Conflict = interest.
Feel free to re-read scenes to refresh yourself, but fight the urge to edit if you're writing your first draft of your novel. Why spend thirty minutes meticulously editing a page, only to decide it doesn't really belong in your story once you're done writing the next five chapters?
So...yeah. Have a blast. Let yourself feel like an absolute bonkers person - no one has to see those pages but you. Once you know you've got some solid material, polish it so it is a diamond and no longer a turd (though I'm sure it was suprememly delightful in its original state). :) [[kind of my take on Hemingway's "write drunk, edit sober" lol]]