Any writer attempting his first dramatic novel is facing a large challenge. It's best to go into your novel unarmed --- writing as directly from your guts as possible to make the freshest possible prose on the page. There are as many ways to approach writing a dramatic (as opposed to comedic) novel as there are writers. Everyone has a different technique, style and way to access his inner writing genius, if one exists. Even if you have no genius, you can still find ways to block out and write a novel with dramatic interest. Here are some ways to get started.
How to Write a Dramatic Novel
Start with an idea. If you're thinking about writing a dramatic novel, you probably already have an inkling of what you want to write about. Some writers start with a character, some start with a general story idea, some start with a particular setting. You'll want to create a file called "Novel Notes" and start typing in your ideas as they occur to you. This is the first step --- just emptying your mind into this file with everything crazy you're thinking about. Don't stop to wonder if it's any good or makes any sense. Just pour. This may take several days or weeks, as things occur to you and you add them into your file. Let it take as long as it takes. This is the gathering stage, and can be fun. Better to have more fresh ideas collected here than less. This is the messy, inspirational section, so let 'er rip.
Open a new file titled "Outline." Here is where you will start shaping the plot of your novel. For a dramatic novel, you'll need a solid three-act structure. Act 1 sets up the problem. Act 2 establishes the conflict, and the end of Act 2 culminates in the novel's climax. Act 3 is the solution and resolution. Some writers opt to skip the outline, since it can kill the buzz, and just go right to the writing. It's possible to do. However, an outline can help you sort your rough ideas into an order, and to help you focus your characters --- to make sure your characters each have an arc. They should start one way and by facing the problem in the novel, they should be changed by the end. Remember, the more detailed the outline, the easier the actual writing is when you get to that point. An outline might save you from burnout, when you get halfway through your novel and the buzz has worn off. An outline gives you incentive.
Once your outline is in place, take a hard look at it. A dramatic novel should have the ability to move its reader. While a comedy is intended to make the reader feel amused, a dramatic novel should hit a reader in the guts with an emotional idea, a tense situation, or an intriguing character. You may want to share your outline with a friend --- even talking out your idea can help you get a feeling for its shape and scope --- and get some feedback. Once your outline feels solid (this can take several weeks as well), you can begin to set your writing schedule. Find a time that works best for you. Early-morning hours, late afternoon --- whenever your mind is freshest.
Write. You don't have to start at the beginning of your novel. You can start at the scene that speaks the most to you. Sometimes it's even better to start at the place that feels the most alive, because it will spark your energy and enthusiasm. Once you're writing, don't look back. Don't edit. Just move forward. Try to write every day, for at least a portion of the hours you set up for yourself. This is the hardest part of writing. Write through the times you decide you hate your novel. Just keep writing.
Writing can take weeks, months or even years. Once you have a fairly finished rough draft, put it away for a week or two and don't think about it. Then take it out and read it over. Have a close friend whose opinion you trust (and who likes to read) read it over. Be open to suggestions. Be prepared to rewrite and rewrite as you hone your novel. Also be prepared to throw out pieces that may be some of your best writing, but that don't fit in the novel. Don't despair. Keep them in a separate file. Maybe they'll be the start of some other novel, later on in life.