I have a few pieces of advice that I often give new writers.
The first is that you learn to write by writing. Just sit down and do it.
Craft books and workshops are certainly helpful, but writing a whole story from beginning through the middle to The End is the best way to learn how to write a book. Also, books aren’t written, they’re rewritten. So go ahead and write terribly. Just write the whole thing, then go back and massage every single word to make it better. The craft book I recommend most for the revisions stage is Getting the Words Right by Theodore Cheney. Note: There are two editions. The first edition is the one I used, but the second has good reviews, too.
My next advice is to always, always, always remember that the act of writing is yours. If you choose to publish, great! But publishing is not yours. Publishing is a business and it will require compromise and sacrifice. Publishing is not something you can control. Rejections and bad reviews will happen and they will give you a stomach ache, but the hard knocks that come from publishing do not mean you should quit writing. Writing is yours. If you want to write, write.
As for how to pursue a career in publishing, I recently posted this reflection on turning a call into a career. The short answer is: Keep writing.
It can be. I try really hard to finish books about a month ahead of when they’re actually due. It’s not always possible, but by setting myself a false deadline, I don’t freak out about the real one. Having said that, I’ve been known to get so wound up about my fake deadlines, my husband will ask me flat out, “Is this really due? Or are you making that up in your head?”
I rarely critique anyone’s work unless it’s for a contest I’ve volunteered to judge. It’s a matter of time and an attempt to spend less time at the computer, not more.
My preferred pace is to two thousand words each day. Most Harlequins are around fifty-thousand words, but I’ve written books as long as one hundred and twenty-thousand words. Longer book with more character arcs and plot threads take exponentially longer. I aim to write four Harlequins a year and fit in at least two other books for another publisher in that time.
I’ve always had imaginary friends in my head. Writing them down is virtually the only way to shut them up.
Sit down and type until it’s done. That’s the short answer.
If the book is part of a series, I definitely do a lot more outlining and preplanning. Picking names is the first challenge. For virtually all of my books, I do a brainstorming exercise where I list all the reasons the hero and heroine resist each other, and all of the reasons they are attracted to each other. This starts to form the emotional arc of the romance. I often write a few paragraphs of back story about each character. About 70% of the time, I write a synopsis, then change things as I go along, so what’s the point in that? Not all of my publishers ask to see early chapters. Lately, I’ve been submitting full manuscripts. My editors offer feedback and I’ve been lucky in that I’ve never had a truly awful experience with revisions.