Decide the objective: the type of novel (Genre)
As we have already discussed, you must adopt a professional attitude. Forget about romantic ideals and the image of the bohemian writer. Being a writer is a creative activity full of words and beautiful adjectives, but also it is a job and the sale of a novel to a publisher is a business proposal.
What does this mean to you? This means that you may increase your chances of success from the very beginning, if you acknowledge what it takes for your book to be part of the publishing market.
I am not suggesting you sell your artistic integrity, I am only advising you to wear the “business hat” for a moment. You must research the market a little and identify a niche so you’ll know where you’re heading. Writing a novel is risky if you don’t have a clear idea of your book’s intended position in the literary market. You may get away with a novel if it perfectly fits a category. But if your novel slips and slides between the intermediate gray zones of different genres, then publishers are more likely to turn your work down regardless of the high quality writing. Publishing and editing novels is a business, not a charity for creative people. If your books will not earn money for publishers (if not immediately, perhaps in the next two to three years), then they will not want to have anything to do with your work.
In practice, you can identify your niche by exploring the different types of novels out there. Then, you can decide on the type/genre (from a creative point of view) that will allow you to express yourself freely and smoothly, in order to create a story that is both original and interesting.
Even though there might be numerous types of fictional novels, broadly speaking you may classify them into three groups:
Novels of a particular genre
This is the most popular type of fiction. It could be divided into categories, such as: mystery, crime, science fiction, fantasy, noir fiction, spy fiction, etc… If you decide to write a novel in a particular genre, you must bear in mind the different sets of rules (or conventions) of each category that you, as the writer, must more or less follow.
Literature, or fictional narratives
Generally, these are novels with more depth. They are charged with symbolism and ideology, and consist of dense subplots and allegories. These seem to be less commercial than books of a particular genre, but with some exceptions. If your fictional narrative happens to win a prestigious award or receives a positive critique from word of mouth, then this could make you very rich.
General fiction that is intended for the masses
As you may have guessed, this is halfway between both types. These aren’t novels of a particular genre, they do not convey the depth of ideology, and they certainly don’t pretend to be as artistic as fictional narratives. General fiction refers to novels that easily become Best Sellers, and they don’t strictly follow the conventions of other genres (some are set in the future, but don’t intend to be a science fiction novel, others deal with vampires but in reality they are just love stories and nowhere near a horror story, etc…). Usually, general fiction deals with intimate stories.