Other than being a naturally creative genius with an ability to come up with imaginative scenes around the clock, there are no requirements for becoming a novelist. Just kidding! While it does take an exceptional amount of drive and dedication to complete a project as big as a novel, anyone with the right mindset, desire, and creative skills can become a fiction author. There are a few traditional routes that many writers take, however, and though they are not requirements, they do provide a leg-up when it comes to writing and publishing novels.
Every writer has heard the advice, "Write what you know." Take heart; this doesn't mean that you can only write about yourself. Far from it. It means that you need to know the subject you're writing about intimately and thoroughly. So, education is helpful in this pursuit. You don't necessarily need a degree in English, but a college education that requires ample writing skills will certainly give you a boost when it comes to writing a novel of a few hundred pages. Many writers enter MFA programs, or Masters of Fine Arts programs, to study alongside other writers, sometimes under the watch of published novelists, essayists, poets and playwrights. Though it isn't necessary to have an MFA to become a writer, it does help those who want to teach college writing classes as a way of supporting their novel-writing efforts.
Read Many Novels
Most writers will say that the best way to learn to write a novel is to log a lot of hours reading the work of other writers. Take copious notes, studying the shape, structure, and craft of novels from classic to contemporary. This takes time, as no one can devour the classics in just a few months. Develop a reading habit that is consistent and varied. Studying classic writers is important, as many contemporary writers draw influence from classic works. Yet, reading contemporary authors is just as important to understanding the current market and the way the craft is evolving. Bestselling author A. Manette Ansay, who teaches at the University of Miami, notes, "The best advice I ever got as a writer was to write the sort of story you yourself most want to read.” Reading widely will help you uncover your own tastes and passions, and these will translate back to your own pages of ink.
Learn Time Management
Oh, time. Time is the one topic you will hear writers discussing the most. There is never enough, and it always seems to get filled with tasks other than writing: laundry, cleaning, socializing, other work, teaching, child-rearing. But to be a novelist, you must develop a writing habit that secures the necessary time to produce chapters. In other words, you must structure your novel-writing like a job and consider it just as important as the time you spend doing household chores or other work. This can be difficult, but it's a habit you develop and harden over time.
Don't Give Up
Tenacity is probably the most important quality you need if you plan to write novels. Many writers give up after the first rejection or after hitting the dreaded creative obstacle called writer's block. However, you can't give up if you want to succeed as a novelist. J.K. Rowling submitted the first Harry Potter novel, "Harry Potter and The Philosopher's Stone," to 12 publishing houses. She was turned down by every single one. Had she given up, the "Harry Potter" series would have never been created. To write novels, you need thick skin and the drive to ignore rejections and keep writing and submitting.
Jan Archer holds a Bachelor of Arts in political science and a master's degree in creative writing. Roth has written trade books for Books-a-Million and has published articles on green living, wellness and education topics. She taught business writing, literature, creative writing and English composition at the college level for five years.