Begin may also mean that you must do something to make it official; something that you recognize, that reminds you, "I am writing a novel."
Time and Tense. Would, would have, did, does, is. . .? Whew. As soon as you begin, you will learn what I mean by this.
Ask for help. Every time you begin, remember that you can't do it alone. Ask God, ask your friends, your kids, your spouse, other writers. Ask the universe. As with everything else, you have to ask for help and write with hope.
Watch and Listen. Things will come to you, will be offered, will be given. The phrase you need right now as you are writing, the conversation, the quirky term, the exquisite description, may not appear till tomorrow afternoon. It may surface in a conversation you haven't had yet, a poem you haven't read, a movie you're about to see. Take your time. Stay receptive. Be oh, so grateful, when it arrives!
Trust that what you need will come. Sometimes it takes staying put in the chair, sometimes getting out for coffee or a walk or time with a friend. Sometimes, sitting in the yard watching the birds. The effort of writing a novel can be like the effort of wrens building a nest in the birdhouse.
They drop to the ground and pick up a twig, some pine straw, a stick. Then fly up and poke it in the hole. Pop in, pop out, repeat.
Sometimes they fail to get the angle right. Drop to the ground, pick up a twig, some pine straw, a stick. Then fly up and poke it in the hole. Pop in, pop out, repeat. A picture of diligence.
Believe in your characters. When you want to write about her relationship to her mother, she wants to talk about the turtle she found the summer she turned nine. When you want to write about the Baptist pastor she got mad at and told off, she tells you his wife ends up murdering him, and how she does it. She believes she murders him, at least.
It's her story, after all, and you have to trust that she will get around to telling all of it, even the parts you don't know yet. It's always a stab in the dark.
Endure. And Endure. The worst part is writing badly. Be willing to write badly (as Anne Lamott says, shitty first drafts) in order to get it all down. Julia Cameron calls this laying track. Remember you're just laying track, getting the story line down, or a character's clothes, or quirky traits, or a conversation in an elevator, a restaurant, a motel room. You can go back (and go back again, and again) and shine it up, get it right, make it fit for public consumption. That's not what this stage is for. It can be so hard to make yourself do it!
Read About Writing. There are some fabulous books out there by writers for writers on writing. My personal favorites: The Writing Life, Annie Dillard. Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott. The Right to Write, Julia Cameron. On Writing, Stephen King. Writing Down the Bones and Wild Mind, Natalie Goldberg. If You Want to Write, Brenda Uleland. I read and reread them, to remind myself that I want to do this, and why.
Alleviate Pressure. In order to alleviate the pressure of constant endurance, go back and reread parts you've already edited. The parts you love. Laugh through them, cry through them, love through them, feel through them. It will make you want to keep going.
Know Your Best Time. My energy is at its best in the early mornings. If I get off to a good start, with an open ended day, I can go for hours. The trick is in allowing myself to be interrupted if necessary. Sometimes I have a meeting or a dental appointment. Sometimes I have to go to work. (Ten months out of the year.)
Also, I've learned that if I write in the evening, I'm in trouble. I can't get my brain to shut off in order to go to sleep. After 6:00 or 7:00 p.m. is off limits.
Be Willing to Be Lost. After a few thousand words, you may try to read through and organize what you've written. An impossibility. You'll begin to memorize parts you've written, and when you come to just the right place to use them, they won't be there. Remember Hansel and Gretel? Leave a trail. Use flint stones, not breadcrumbs. Stones are well titled sections of your story. Use the name of a character, an event, places, chronology. Mark your place as logically as you are able, knowing that still you will be lost. Then, when you arrive at 50 or 60 or 80 Thousand Words, print-print-print, and cut-cut-cut, piecing it all together like a puzzle. (For this you will need a warehouse, Annie Dillard tells us.) This is my next step.