There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are." --Somerset Maugham.
But today I think that there is only one rule for writing a novel. Fortunately, I know what it is.
In your face, Somerset.
Easy. Like looking at a mountain from a distance and imagining yourself climbing right up to the top, looking down on the world.
And hard as actually climbing up to the very top.
Because once you get to the base of the mountain, the entrance to its wilderness, in other words once you get up close, the landscape changes into something very different. And then the real effort sets in like cold weather, and the imagined stroll becomes a marathon in a maze on a mountain, a long-distance climb through all kinds of terrain, at least half of it in the dark.
Fucking hard, in other words. Sorry.
So here is the one rule. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.
Each specific work will take a specific struggle to get to the top. Keep learning as much as you can about how you write and what you want to write and the many aspects of craft that can sometimes teach you short-cuts on your long climb.
And most likely you won't be entirely satisfied with your climb even once you're done. You'll have reservations; you'll wonder if you might have done better going left when you went right way back near the beginning of your ascent. Alas, it's the nature of writing fiction. We can never be perfect.
But it's a lot of fun. The struggle gives me great satisfaction.
So you have to keep going and you have to finish and you have to rewrite and when you've rewritten and rewritten you have to start again on something new and it doesn't get easier and that's what is both good and bad about it. Keeps it interesting anyway.