Kill your darlings early
Today was a good writing day, but I had to kill a few darlings. I think my biggest challenge when writing a novel is making decisions. When a story first comes to me, it comes as Gaia. It involves all things and many, many characters. Writing it down, taking it out of my head and putting it on paper, forces me to kill my darlings very early on. It also forces me to kill plot lines. I hate doing this. I guess I'm a girl who has learned to keep her options open and that translates onto the page.
When I'm writing, I can see all sides of an issue, of people, of their motivations. But if you try to write a novel seeing all sides, you end up with a big fat mess. Trust me. I've tried it. In fact, I believe this is a common mistake new writers make. We want to relay the story in its entirety. Unfortunately, a story newly and fully conceived often lacks focus.
If I wait until revision to kill my darlings, I'll have a big fat mess, so I know I have to kill darling characters and darling little plot lines very soon in the writing process.
The upside to this is that I never really run out of material. I hoard plot lines and character traits the way some people might stockpile family photographs and their children's artwork. My characters also like to surprise me. I'll cut something I think they won't need and a couple hundred pages later, they will insist I give it back.
Oh, but the pain of making decisions when writing. It really is my least favorite aspect of the process.