But how to do that?
1. A strong critique group
That might sound weird to start with that, but believe me, it takes a strong group of people to help geniuses. Take, for example, Thomas Edison. You might think this man was a natural because so many inventions are attributed to him. Wrong. He was a great business man, not a great scientist. He actually took the work of others and cultivated his talent that consisted in putting things together. And ta-dah! Why is anyone successful? That’s because they have a team behind them. Nowadays, you start with CPs (critique partners) who know what they are talking about, and you use a marketing team when it comes to publication.
You need people to become great!
Ask around, try every source. Do not hesitate to pay to be part of groups because if everyone pays, then they're often more committed or engaged. Form connections and give people as much as your receive if not more.
I invite you to read this thought-provoking article: http://www.cracked.com/article_16072_5-famous-inventors-who-stole-their-big-idea.html
2. A stronger premise
People will tell you, “Have a great opening.” And also, “Agents like that.”
The thing is many writers these days take an incredible amount of time working on their beginning. The first sentence or page or chapter might be stellar because their goal is to be noticed by an agent or a reader, but once past that, the book starts to sag and not be as satisfying.
Many writers have a good premise, but they don’t know how to develop it. Developing a premise comes hand in hand with developing a three-dimensional world. Be mindful of the novel world and using it effectively to bring on more tension and more magical moments. A great world is enchanting and bewitching, even for contemporary, realistic books.
3. Master Pace
You might not have heard of pace much. That’s because people usually talk about pace when they are referring to books that drag or books that are too slow moving and are filled with descriptions.
Pace is one leg of story writing.
Sometimes you skip things that are important, you jump over boring settings or slow days in your novel, but these might be essential to build an atmosphere or to make a point or to grow a feeling or make an emotional statement.
Some people think the pace can’t be too fast. “I have never heard of a book that is too fast paced,” they say. Wrong! I’ve read books like that, and so did you.
Sometimes the pace is too slow. You emphasize parts of the novel no one wants to hear about, yet you insist on keeping those parts because you love them or they were hard to write, and you don't want to sacrifice them.
It’s called killing your darlings.
You must learn where to slow down and how to effectively slow down so that you make a point when you do. And orange light can build tension like nothing else. Resist the temptation to cram a lot of cool things when one detail can do all the work. Resist the temptation to stretch too long a point you’ve already made.
Learn to master them.
4. Power Emotions
Your plot is not what will turn your story great. It doesn’t really matter what trail someone will take to get to the same point. The most important thing is the journey.
Think of your novel not in term of events, but in term of character arc (the emotional journey).
Vivid emotional moments will do more for your novel than vivid descriptions.
Make a developed map of your character and antagonist arcs, and the plot will follow.
We want to learn about a person and how a person handles a situation.
5. Objective Correlative
Theme is another leg of your story and a big one at that.
Why do you write this novel?
What do you want to say?
What will be left for the reader to think about once the story is over?
What will make the reader want to re-read your novel?
A great story is a story that stays in the reader’s mind and haunts his thoughts for years. However, littering the page with thematic cues won’t do the trick.
The best way to handle themes is to use objects or symbols and repeat them throughout the novel, a little like a chorus in a song or a repeated line in a poem.
6. Three-Dimensional characters
A great novel offers three-dimensional characters.
Not only the characters need to be well developed, but they all need a character arc, quirks, unique traits, flaws, and wants.
You might not use all of this in a novel for secondary or tertiary characters, but if you manage to show more about the life of a character than his/her appearance or role in the novel, then that will make your novel rich and fascinating. The idea of a great novel is to appeal to the imagination of the reader.
7. Strong Psychology Skills
If you don’t know how a person will react in a given situation.
If you don’t know the first word about body language and just repeat what everyone is doing.
If you do not have a strong hold on psychology and how personality types will react in different situations.
Go read psychology books.
If emotions is a leg of a story, then figure out the way a person realistically reacts to events and how this person responds to stress.
Honestly, do your homework, ask elders, live a little, watch interviews, documentaries, etc.
8. Page Turners
If you don't know how to create page-turners, google cliffhangers, tension, scene steps, and suspense, or read shorter works to look for clues.
Great books usually have a lot of suspense building up to the end of the novel with twists that are surprising and startling.
Learn how to come up with great twists.
Great novels come with a unique premise, a unique set of characters, unique twists, and a unique voice. You could write good commercial fiction with a story that has been successful before. There are hundreds of versions of the tale Snow White. They sell well. People like the new interpretation of a traditional story.
That doesn’t make any of those books a stellar novel.
A stellar novel will have a take on a subject that no one has thought about before. It is a novel many writers would say about, “If only I had thought of that before. I would have loved writing this novel.”
But guess what, it’s too late.
The story is so much out of the box, no one has thought about it. You’ve got this story inside of you, something no one else can write as good as you. Go find it.
10. Your novel is not your child
Some people think their novel is their baby. The problem with that is they won’t listen to critiques. They won’t cut the parts that are not helping the story. They will be offended when their novel is rejected. They will become depressed when the critiques are not positive.
Guess what, your novel is a tool, a draft, a mean to an end. It’s not the end of your career if a book you wrote is not good or if you are not successful.
Writers who consider their novels a step to go higher on the scale of success will reach the genius status. That means you do not consider your present/debut novel as a reflection of what you can do. You know you can do better and reach higher. You are not emotionally linked to it although you might have put all your guts in there.
Develop your talents.
There is time.
You are not in a hurry.