1. Don’t worry if what you write isn’t good. It will be. I really believe that writing is in the rewriting. A first draft should be fluid and free, so that the plot and characters can change, grow and surprise you as the novel takes shape. Imperfect, but fresh. Resist the urge to tidy and polish. Then, when you come to edit the novel, the work of fleshing out scenes and adding details begins, and this is when everything in your book really comes to life.
2. Live, observe, talk to people, travel, be curious. Sitting at your laptop is a relatively small part of being a writer. Live as full a life as you can – whether that’s travelling to far-flung places, talking to your neighbours or trawling through old photographs in junk shops – fill your mind with ideas and stories and the words will flow.
3. When you get feedback, take time to digest it. When you’ve been working closely on a manuscript for a period of time, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s working and what might be holding your novel back, so feedback from a trusted, well-read friend or editor can really help push your writing forward. It can be nerve-wracking, though! When you receive feedback, give yourself a few days (or, ideally, weeks) away from your project to let the ideas and suggestions sink in. Decide which comments resonate with you, and if a reader’s flagged an issue see if you can come up with your own solution. Growing a thick skin and not taking criticism to heart is essential if you want to keep improving.