I'm currently working on my creative writing thesis, which is really just a long story. At the last meeting with my professor, he told me that due to its probable length, the list of literary journals that would publish my story would be quite narrow. But I never set out to write for acclaim — and you shouldn't either.
Being in English and creative writing, I’ve seen my fair share of stories and poems that I assigned a variety of labels, ranging from mediocre to derivative to pandering. It is very easy to sit in the peanut gallery tossing verbal shells at other people's work. That temptation is easy, but it misses the mark. Lots of people create for the sake of creation, and not for praise, money or fame.
Many people who make art don't set out to do so solely to make money or for widespread recognition. Artists often ignore the hard economic reality that surrounds their occupation. Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, died in poverty, and he is now in the pantheon of great American writers. I can reasonably assume he did not write for money; rather, the undertaking of the novel was a personal journey that he felt he had to go on.
Further, in the district of cold reality, there exists almost no commercially viable reason to write a novel at the outset. Unless you are a celebrity or politician, your name won't carry a book by itself. So the only thing left is to make it personal and hope that your writing is just universal enough to light a spark in readers' minds. There will always be someone who enjoys the art that one might not consider worthy of the dirt on his or her shoes. This same logic applies to literature as well.
That said, it doesn’t hurt to have a healthy dose of realism if you do end up writing a novel. Sometimes creating is tough, and while I’ve never attempted novel writing, it’s not a huge reach to say that the publishing process is incredibly difficult. The feedback you receive along the way is certainly critical to one's growth as a writer.
But at the end of the day, not everyone is going to love your art. Don't be discouraged if the prose you slaved over doesn't win you worldwide acclaim or buckets of money. There is no guarantee, and barely even a safety net, in most artistic mediums. But look at Nickelback, one of the most universally derided acts of the era. With that level of mockery, how could they have ever thought they would achieve any level of success? Yet they've still sold fifty million albums worldwide.
To the student who is thinking of writing a novel: Do it. Excise the words of those who say otherwise from your mind and get cracking. You’re only doing it for yourself, after all.