1) A Fine Set Of Big Brass Ones. Balls or ovaries, dealer’s choice. You will need these to start, because without them, you’ll likely be discouraged by naysayers, lingering self-doubts, or the idea of putting words in order for several months with no promise* of a giant pile of money at the end. There are a million reasons not to, and before you’re done you’ll find out what most of them are and maybe invent one or two new ones on your own. If you’re pitting your will against all that, it’ll help to have the stones to follow through.
So strap on your biggest pair, because you’re going to need ‘em.
2) An Idea. Ideally, an idea that you’ve worked with a bit and which has spawned a whole colony of sub-ideas, all of which can go into creating an interesting whole. But in a pinch you can substitute a brand new Flash-In-The-Pan and see how it goes. Maybe it’ll fizzle out after a chapter or two, or maybe it’ll make a fire big enough to toast your brain from the inside. Only one way to find out, right?
3) A Practical Concept Of How You Write. Do you prefer to pick at it a little every day? Or are you the weekend binger, knocking out whole chapters while watching the Sunday afternoon games? Do you want to get up in the morning and scratch out a couple of pages while your spouse sleeps and the paper boy runs from the neighbour’s murderous Rottweillers? Or do you want to stay up past your bedtime, pecking away by the blue light of the computer? Have an idea of how you work, or how you want to try to work. This will give you discipline.
Don’t worry if it’s your first time; if it doesn’t work, you can always change it. I’m not going to come to your house and kick your door in.**
4) A Sub-Atomic Transcription-ator. Or a computer. Or a notebook. Some means by which you will take the raw, fresh squeezings of your brain and turn them into a useable form. Like making booze, you’ve got to have the right container. Charred white oak or a brand-new journal, sherry casks or a clean Word document: each will give your writing a different feel and a different flavour. Pick the one that suits the story.
5) Desire. You have to want it. And you have to want it enough that you are willing to invest something of which you have a finite amount: time.
So want it. Want it right down in your mitochondria.
That’s my list. What do you need to write a novel?
*If you do have a promise of a big pile of money at the end, congratulations on the satanic book deal for which you sold your soul.
**Unless you have coffee when I’ve run out. Or pecan pie. Big pie fan.