1. You must write. You must polish it. You should find a workshop or writers group or trusted people to give you critiques. You should rewrite and polish again. You must complete the story. You must submit the story, or it will never be published. And then you must start a new story.
2. You have no control over anything except the writing, be it a short story, a novel, a query letter, or a synopsis. All the other stuff–sales, agents, contracts, awards–those come from the one thing you control, which is the writing. Focus on writing. Understand and do the stuff on the business end, but don’t obsess about the stuff you don’t control.
3. There will be all kinds of books, websites, and individual authors who will offer you all kinds of advice. Me, for example. There is a lot of information out there, and you are going to have to learn to sort out what is useful to you. There is no One True Way, and if some tells you there is, they’re full of shit. Every writer is different and there is no one-size-fits-all way of doing this. No matter how good the advice from no matter how good a writer/editor/publisher giving it, your mileage may vary. Figure out what resonates with you, and use it. If it doesn’t work, cast it aside.
4. Follow submission guidelines to the letter. I cannot emphasize this enough. If you are a new writer, you must do everything right, and this is a big one. Learn the standard manuscript format. Most magazines–print and electronic–still use this format, so it’s a good place to start and a good way to have your manuscripts set up. Then, once again, read the submission guidelines, and adjust your manuscript accordingly. Seriously. Follow the submission guidelines.
5. You are going to receive rejections. This is a fact of the business and you will end up with lots and lots of rejection letters, if you have the nerve and thick skin to keep at it. This is not about you as person: It’s about the story, and it is business, nothing more. For whatever reasons, that story did not work for that editor on that day. The very best thing you can do about rejection is to send the story back out. Once you’ve sold the story, none of the previous rejection matters anymore. If you want to succeed as writer you have to be tough, you have to keep going and writing and believing in yourself.
6. Editors are your friends. They want you to succeed. They want good stories. They spend hours slogging through slush hoping for that one little gem of a story. They will give you money. If you think receiving critical feedback from an editor is an attack, you are probably in the wrong business. Learn to take criticism and to rewrite to an editor’s request. And just as important, learn when to ignore suggestions and criticism. You will probably have to learn this by trial and error, but most of the learning process in this business is by trial and error anyway.
7. Money flows to the writer. Period.
8. Reach. Grasp. Fail. Fall. Get Up. Dust Off. Try Again.