Use the Force...
As a novice in the chess world, I keep finding myself just becoming aware of the most basic of principles and having my mind completely blown by them.
One thing I've finally been able to wrap my head around is the idea of a "forcing" move.
One thing I kept doing in my first few games was making moves in hopes that the opponent will respond a certain way.
I would make a move and say to myself, "I will move here because if the opponent repsonds this way, I can do this."
That "if" in there was a huge problem. Given the innumerable ways an opponent could respond in any given position, the odds that they would respond as I'd hoped were patheticly low. In fact, I can't recall a time when they ever moved according to my plan.
The answer is to remove the "if". Find a forcing move, or a move that forces them to respond in a certain way.
Look for a move that sends a very clear message to the opponent. The message should be...
"You will move as I want you to move. If you do not, I will take something from you. I may take material, space, a tempo, but no matter what, you will do what I want, or I will take something from you."