Scott Berkun, an author and former Microsoft manager, recently posted a useful blog entry: How to write a book - the short honest truth. As someone who is ostensibly writing a novel, I'm interested to hear the voice of experience on this topic.
The answer is refreshing: do the work. Berkun breaks down the question into the subtext of what people really want to know: how to get published, and how to make money writing. Here's a sample:
If you want to write, kill the magic: a book is just a bunch of writing. Anyone can write a book. It might suck or be incomprehensible, but so what: it's still a book. Nothing is stopping you right now from collecting all of your elementary school book reports, or drunken napkin scribbles, binding them together at kinkos for $20, slapping a title on the cover, and qualifying as an author. Want to write a good book? Ok, but get in line since most pro authors are still trying to figure that out too.
Writing a good book, compared to a bad one, involves one thing. Work. No one wants to hear this, but if you take two books off any shelf, I'll bet my pants the author of the better book worked harder than the author of the other one. Call it effort, study, practice, whatever. Sure there are tricks here and there, but really writing is a kind of work.