First of all, it’s important to keep writing and moving on to the next manuscript once you’ve finished something. It can be hard to let go of a story you’ve written and edited over and over, and you should definitely send it out on submission, but I can say the two most helpful things I’ve done in getting published is writing a lot and finding a fantastic critique partner, Kinley Baker. She helped bring my skills to a whole new level.
Something to consider when you look for a critique partner(s) is to find someone on, or close, the same level as you. Yeah, it’d be great to pair up with someone who is a multi-published New York Times Bestseller while you’re an unpublished, and if you can do that kudos to you, but the chances are unlikely. My critique partner and I leapt from unpublished to contracted in about three months of each other. That’s pretty darn cool! (I also have two other awesome critique partners, Bella Street and Lisa Kessler. They moved to that next level within the three months too, which is so amazing.) It’s been helpful since we know what the other person is going through.
It might not seem like you’re moving and shaking and gaining a lot of knowledge by just writing, but you are. I think National Novel Writing Month is really helpful in giving yourself permission to make writing a priority. It helped me to write my first book, and then my second, third, fourth... and well, I’ve been doing it (and completing my novels) every year starting in 2005. Some of them, I wrote and put aside because I was working on another book at the time, but that doesn’t matter as much as simply honing your craft.
Do you have any tips you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them.