I started writing Angel Sometimes a couple of years ago. She came into my head and wouldn't leave. I had finished the first of many drafts of her story when I was awarded a four-week scholarship to the Vermont Studio Center.
For four weeks, I wrote, walked, met other authors, wrote, listened to lectures, wrote…. Did I mention that I wrote? Then I came home and edited and wrote some more. I gave Angel the job of swimming as a mermaid because I knew she could do it. I swam for four years as a mermaid while I was getting my B.A. and M.A.
It took a while before I felt the book was done. Not long after it was published, Angel Sometimes was awarded a USA Best Book Award. As you might guess, I was hop-around-the-office happy. But what was even more fun was talking with readers who emailed me.
I can't speak for other authors, but for me, my days are mostly spent typing on the computer, re-reading what I typed, catching grammar mistakes, and re-reading some more. An email from a reader or a "hi" on my Author Facebook Page is great. For a few minutes, I'm connected to a reader.
What this all boils down to is: listen to the voices in your head. Write down what they say. If it's a character talking to you, pay attention.