A friend of mine recently asked me what the above header so boldly asks (though it isn't a question here).
How did I develop the skills to write novels?
To some degree I think the skill has to be built-in. Perhaps that's a convenient answer.
The programmer in me wants to break this question down into modules, in some order, but not in an official way, so here I go:
CreativityWhen writing creative fiction/non-fiction, it is crucial that I have some sort of landscape of original thinking. If I don't have a creative wave pulling me out to the forgotten, demon-ridden whirlpool of story-land, why should I expect the reader to enjoy reading it? They've already read that last book – they probably won't want to pay money or waste their time reading a crappy duplicate.
Bless your story with genuine articles of your own creative juices. Don't be mad if you find story elements based off of other stories, but be sure that you give it your twist/taste.
Love of ReadingWhat? No, you don't need that. After all, books are written by magic, and thus no one writes them.
Yet, the want to read has to be there, otherwise why should you (or I), the writer, want others to read it? Anyone who writes a story and publishes it who doesn't love to read did not have a lot of readers. It will show through. Don't make it out to be that love of reading means knowing how to write just like your favorite authors. It only means that you enjoy the act of immersing yourself in a story so much that you want to do so yourself.
Writing a novel requires you to know the story. (Duh!) There are scenes, and beats within those scenes. A collection of scenes will make a chapter, and a series of chapters an arc. And of course, a series of arcs makes a novel.
You have to know what is going to happen, and when. Does this need to be known at creation of the story time? No. You will figure this out as you go, and from draft to draft changes will also be made, even if just slight.
Make your trajectory, and fine tune it as you write. Otherwise, you and your readers (if you have any) will be completely lost.
DeterminationIf you end up quitting, then your story will never be finished.
Some days (or weeks) are so challenging that you question each piece of the story that makes it your own. Given that, it would be easy to accept defeat and forget the project. Sure, you'll have days that rock your world and you want to sing to the world of your greatness, until the next day when your writing is worse than two hillbillies comparing who has more teeth.
Keep going if you want someone to read your piece someday. That may mean changing large elements of the story, and that hurts. But, that pain will be worth it when you complete the novel and see what you've accomplished.
LearnDoing research on your world is crucial. So is learning from your mistakes and improving. If you don't increase your minds-awareness, and/or your characters', then the reader certainly won't feel challenged, either.
When I say your characters learn, that should mean that they are vibrant and think for themselves.
The world you build also has to learn as you write it. Certain events and places may not feel suitable for it, so if that's the case, take them out. Remember what I said about re-doing things? That's where this comes into place. You want to create the most natural fits for your world, even if your world isn't natural at all.
Take the time to get involved with the story, and really care about what happens to it, and your readers will notice, and hopefully end up caring, too.
CollaborationEven if you never write with another author, you need friends. People can be great, and in that spirit, it is my belief that an ear, a shoulder, eyes balls, or even your own self can be a great remedy to the writing life. Your friends can help you out, and you to them. Learn other styles and stories. Give advice to the others, and listen to others, even if you don't do anything with it. No one knows the secret to writing, so should it hurt to ask around to see if you and your friends can stumble upon it?
This isn't a module, but: believe that your writing matters. If I didn't believe that my writing and my stories have a place in the world, then I probably never would have started doing any of it. It's a compulsion, and the best treatment for it is to keep doing it until you get it out of your system. The best writers never free themselves from the compulsion.