My advice is simple: just write.
Sit down every day and plow ahead, with whatever word count goal you choose. And as you write, don’t think about the fact that you’ve never written anything longer than a twenty page paper and that was for a class you hated in college. Today, even if what you put on the page is terrible, no-good, the worst chapter ever inflicted on a word processing program, believe that through editing, educating yourself, and reading what other people write and say about writing, you can learn and improve. You can get better day by day—until one day you read over the two pages you managed to write the day before and think to yourself, ‘hey, that’s pretty good!’
Don’t think about publishing. It isn’t that a first or second book couldn’t be published, but that it can’t drive the work—the publishing experience is too frustrating, with too little compensation—for that to be a significant motivation. It’s only after you’ve written a book, revised it fifteen times, shown it to a few people whom you trust who have given you feedback, and then revised it several more times, that a novel is ready for public consumption.
And then, maybe, it’s time to think about finding an agent, at which point you’ll probably find that your book wasn’t really done at all.
But that’s in the future.
For now, the only thing you need to think about when you write is your characters, their struggles and joys, and how to funnel their lives onto the page. Write for the sheer joy of it. Write with the knowledge that only you can tell the story in your head, and if you don’t, nobody will.
This blog was part of my application to Writer Unboxed, which sent out a call earlier this week for applications for new writers for the blog, specifically unpublished authors. Wish me luck 🙂