I have a guest interview running in a few weeks on another site where I talk about my path to success and give some advice to aspiring writers. Here is a snippet from the advice section.
1. Produce. Don’t dink around for five years with the same novel. Set daily word count goals and meet them. At 1,000 words a day, you’ll have the rough draft of a novel in 3-4 months. Give yourself two months to polish it to the best of your ability, then move on to the next project.
2. Study. You can’t be a writer if you’re not also a reader. Find good stuff and figure out how they do it. That’s the most obvious way to study. The second is to read as many books on writing as you can get your hands on. I find that doing this while I’m in the middle of first draft work helps me see how to apply this advice to my own work.
3. Keep perspective. You’re a writer, dammit. It doesn’t matter if the world scoffs, if every third person and their dog walker is working on a novel. You are going to keep writing because that is who you are, and that is what you do. In the early days our reach exceeds our grasp. We know what is good and we want it, but we don’t yet have the tools to produce at that level. The good news is that over time your reach grows.
4. Persist. If you’re a writer, you have to keep going. There is no other choice. Remember that a year from now you’ll be a year older than you are now. You’ll either have another novel or two under your belt or you will have finally got your paladin to level 80 on World of Warcraft. Which is more important to you?