I received a question the other day from a woman who wanted to write a novel. She wanted my advice as to how she could get published. I wrote this response and then decided I should share it here, in case someone else had the desire to write a novel and wanted to know how to make it happen. Warning, my answer is not an easy one, but barring a rare miracle, it's the way to go about getting a novel published:
Butt in chair. Write the book. If it's fiction the whole book has to be submitted-- not just a few chapters like in nonfiction. It's hard to write a whole novel on spec but we all have to go through it. So take comfort in that.
Get input on the book via a critique group, a service like My Book Therapy, a writer friend-- wherever you can find help. Make changes. Edit. Tweak. Know that you've done everything you can to get the book ready to submit.
While the writing and tweaking is going on, keep an eye out for names of agents you might submit to. Build that list and, if possible, follow these people's blogs, tweets, etc. Get to know them and what they are looking for. Any more an agent is the only way to get in front of an editor.
Submit your manuscript to your list of agents with a well written query. (Google "how to write a query letter" for lots of advice on how to do that.)
Wait. Wait some more. While you're waiting, read books on craft and keep messing with that book. Get rejections and requests for partials (a few chapters). Hope that "the one" requests a full. If that doesn't happen, go back to edits. Make changes and resubmit. Ride the rollercoaster that is the writing life. Find some friends who are also writers so you have someone in your corner who understands. It's possible to find those folks online these days if they are not in your community.
With perserverance and tenacity, one day you will be published. Believe that and keep moving forward with that goal in sight and do not give up.