Ok, ok. The eternal question: "How did you do it?"
So far, I've skirted around that one and always given the evasive answer, "Oh, you know. I just... wrote." And mostly, laughter ensued. But guys, if you look closely enough, it's the bare-boned truth, and there is no other recipe. Maybe I'm going to be hugely unpopular after spelling this out, but it is my firm belief, and my personal experience.
No amount of talking about it, reading about it, blogging about it will get your novel written for you. No matter how diligently you research, plot, outline and discuss it, if you don't sit down and actually write it, there will not be a book. No writer's workshop, conference or creative writing class will help you here. The dream agent or publisher you found? They need a finished manuscript.
At some point, this one thing has to be the major part of your life. You will have to be ruthless, selfish, single-minded and patient. Your household may die a slow and dirty death, the husband's shirts go un-ironed, the kids fed deep frozen food, your friends might miss you, but all these you have to accept if you really want a book to happen. It must be your JOB. Your calling, your obsession, the air you breathe and the last thing on your mind before you go to sleep. It's the first thing you worry about when you get out of bed, and the one thought when you're waiting at a red stoplight.
My publisher is a very nice lady, but when it comes to business she is quite the tough cookie. I like that about her. A lot. A writer, she tells me, is someone who writes. An author is someone who gets published. By a publisher. She also tells me there are a million more writers than authors. Authors have the guts to pull this off. To start, write and finish a book. To submit it and expect criticism and rejection. Or maybe reap the sweet reward for all their work and the many hours spent on shaping a novel.
The main thing, though, is: first you have to write it.