I’ve been a novice. Now I’m working on my seventh novel. I’ve been writing poetry all my life and authoring articles and blog posts for a good portion of my career. I have some simple suggestions to share that may seem intuitive to some but are definitely worth considering.
First, know your craft. I would offer the analogy of building a race car. If you have never worked on this type of car before, the task would be monumental. Imagine starting the project without knowing about aerodynamics and drag coefficients. You can't depend on engineers correcting your design after the fact. Similarly, poor grammar or disjointed plotlines can be caught and corrected by editors, but you shouldn’t count on an editor to know your intent. Also, I believe you should know the rules before you break them, purposely.
Next, strive to be profound. Dictionary.com defines “profound” as “penetrating or entering deeply into subjects of thought or knowledge; having deep insight or understanding.” This should be the goal of most pieces of literary work. Whether you are writing poetry, a short story, a narrative or a full-length novel, you should include a unique point of view, aspect, comparison or conclusion to make the read interesting. Why bother spending your time writing if you are just going to repeat or regurgitate what has already been written? A narrative without insight is simply boring.
Be satisfied with baby steps. Not many great books have been written in a hurry, nor many careers made in a day. My first complete novel was actually my third attempt. When it wasn’t working, I stopped, took some time, reviewed my process, changed my strategy, and tried again. The third time was a charm. I’ve written hundreds of poems, but I started with one, then wrote another, then the next, and so on.
Network. I’m continually surprised at how many writers, even famous authors, take time to help novice and experienced writers alike. The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers group is a prime example of this, but I’ve found this to be true in a variety of interactions I’ve enjoyed. At the RMFW Gold Conference a few years ago, after meeting several best-selling authors, I wasn’t reduced to “what was I thinking?” With their encouragement I changed my thinking to, ”I just might be able to do this!” and finished my novel two weeks later. I have paid it forward in various ways, such as assisting members of online writing groups and other aspiring authors.
Last, gather validators, including friends, family and colleagues. I’m under the opinion that critique itself isn’t enough, and too much critique can truly be counter-productive. However, readers of your genre can validate a variety of factors (or not), such as plot formation, reader interest, believability, character construction, and more. It was especially important for me to know if something was off. I was fortunate indeed to have a wife who had read hundreds of mystery and spy novels, so she was able to validate my plotlines and believability as I progressed. Reliable validation like this should be sought and cultivated.
Sometimes cultivation is what a novice needs most.