The most important thing you can do, when writing a novel, is put life in your words. Without life, nobody cares. Period.
In that vein, I remember the best writers, and the fact that, in some regard, they lived.
Louis L’Amour traveled the world as a seaman before he became a western writer.
Jack London worked as a lobster pirate, prospected for gold, sailed the seas, before becoming a writer.
And there are writers that experienced war, famine, depression, illness, all manner of adversity, before ever setting down to paper and pen.
As for myself, I did the martial arts. I trained with every manner of person, fought constantly, taught, and lived life through that medium. And it all coincides.
Now, when I write a fight scene (for instance), you can bet that that is the way the head snaps back, the way it feels when you get hit, how the blindside works, and so on.
So, if you’re going to write, you better get out there and live first. And if you’re going to read, choose books wherein the author has actually substantiated himself as a real person.
You can find my books if you poke around the rather outrageous website The Daily Neutron.