Practice makes perfect: It’s important to write every day, even if it’s only for fifteen minutes. If you’re on a break from your book, try blogging or journaling—just make sure you’re writing daily.
Misery loves company: Join or create your own writers’ group. Don’t just join the first group you find; a good fit is critical. Look for like-minded writers who are supportive but honest; encouraging but not sycophantic. Try to find a mix of both accomplished and aspiring writers; everyone, no matter his or her level of experience, has something to share. If it’s truly misery to share your work with them, move on—it’s not the group for you.
School: not just for kids: Enroll in a class; take a webinar; attend writing conferences; check out some writing books. Never make the mistake of thinking that you already know everything there is to know about writing.
Those who can [write], read: Want to be a better writer? Read.
Emulate, but don’t imitate, the Greats: Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, it’s true. You can learn a great deal from studying The Greats, but beware of copying them. Rather, study those Greats to help prepare you for your own leap forward.
Get tough: One of the hardest things to do as a writer is to become comfortable sharing your work with other people. My advice? Suck it up. If you want your work to be read, you have to share it. But—you don’t have to share it with everyone right away. Share it first with people who will simply encourage you (your mom, your best friend), just to get over the hump of that initial terrifying exposure, then move on to people who will give you their honest opinions.
Learn how to listen: Speaking of honest opinions…even the best writers in the world rarely get it right the first time. Listen to feedback and take it seriously. There is, of course, a difference between critique, which is helpful, and criticism, which is not. Choose your beta readers and editor carefully and be open to their suggestions.
Find your own rhythm: Some writers work best first thing in the morning; some writers are night owls. Find what works for you and stick to it.
Birds of a feather succeed together: Reach out to some local writers and ask them if you can meet for a cup of coffee. Ask them questions about their paths to publication. You’d be surprised how many generous, open writers are out there who’d be happy to share their experiences with you—particularly if there’s a free cup of coffee involved.
Live: Don’t isolate yourself! Writers can be very reclusive people by nature, but your writing will be richer and more engaging if you are connecting with the world outside of your laptop. As much as possible, get out there—travel, visit museums, people-watch, live life!