I'm not the first person to give writing advice, and I'm certainly not going to be the last. As I said at the very beginning, opinions and tips on how to write fine fiction are a penny a dozen, especially with the age of the Internet. It means that they are all within easy reach too.
And a lot of that advice (including mine) will seem rather negatively driven: don't do this, avoid that, do less of this. If you draw upon multiple voices of critique at once, that can be so much to take on board at once that you put yourself in danger of descending into paranoia, paralyzing your writing altogether for fear of doing wrong.
And I really, really don't want that to happen! First, a word on why so much critique focuses around the 'don't' instead of the do: it's very rare that fiction writing advice is sought out before the novel is written: rather, it is pulled upon midway when the plot and pace are running out of steam, or at the very end when the novel needs chiseling into shape.
And usually, a lot of first novels don't suffer from a lack of things, but rather having too much: flowery prose, long and drawn out pace-killing conversations, subplots that twist away into irrelevance. So a lot of the advice out revolves around the editing process, which by nature means a lot of trimming. Between my first and second draft of Tick, the novel shed around 8,000 words, taking an entire subplot and a couple of characters with it. Only in exceptional circumstances will your novel grow as a result of editing.
And that's why so much of the advice out there may seem negative: cutting and pounding things into shape unfortunately uses a lot of negative language. You shouldn't feel bad about this: every single story out there is the result of rewrites, redos and overflowing wastepaper baskets.
But all of this shouldn't matter to you a single jot to you when you create your first draft. One of my favorite quotes comes from Ernest Hemingway, master of restrained prose, who says "write drunk, edit sober." Whether he means that literally is up you, but what I think he means is that when first setting out on that initial journey of fleshing out your first novel, the critical voices (both external and internal) should be silent. Oh sure, one should subconsciously be aware of proceedings to ensure your plot doesn't completely go off the rails, but your creative juices should be in full flood. Your first draft should be messy, bristling with raw power, fearless, and utterly unpublishable.
And when your first draft is complete, then you can let the critical voices back in to help you start knocking it into shape. Sure, you can lightly edit as you go, and your first draft may look better for it, but the amount you tweak and critique your work on the fly is directly proportional to a less creatively inspired novel. The talented few who can write a first draft that is in an almost-publishable state are exactly that: a few. Don’t try to emulate them. I speak from experience that if you keep switching to editor mode after every paragraph or chapter, you risk losing that honeycomb of energy, that indefinable vitality your novel would otherwise have, even after all the edits.
There are few experiences out there that rival the beginning of writing a new novel (one of them is ending it), and the sheer excitement that overflows from you onto the page is not only a good thing, but it should be protected. So when you first set out on your brave first draft, hush those judges. Their time will come. For now, it is time to be creative.