Wait! There's got to be a better way. Productive writers don't take years just to BEGIN writing. Isn't there a way to "jump-start" the process?
Yes, there is.
The secret? Preparing. Notice I didn't say 'plotting'. Some writers plot out their novel extensively, and there's no doubt that does make for a faster first draft. Other writers find plotting stifles their creativity, they'd rather just get the first draft down as it comes to them and do more editing. But whether you plot in detail or not, first you have to consciously prepare that idea.
Like a good reporter, if you want to get your story out, you need to make notes in advance. We'll start with the five W's - what, where, when, who and why. Because if you can't answer these five W's before you begin, you will have to stop and figure them out while you're writing. And as any car owner knows, it takes more gas to start again after stopping than it does to keep going. (Not to mention the likelihood of becoming completely stalled, and giving up.)
So let's dedicate this October to preparing our novels, in order to write them without getting stalled. Every day in October I will provide a series of probing questions about one aspect of the book you (and I) are planning to write. Keep notes on your answers, and as the month progresses, these notes will look more and more like an outline, so that by the end of the month, you will be ready to write.
Meet me here on October 1st and we'll get started!