(1) An early sense of entitlement is deadly to development. Don’t posture and preen well before you have any right to do so. (In fact, don’t ever.) Them that do rarely develop as writers, although some of them may become widely published over time. They just never recognize they suck.
(2) Understand that you need to pay your dues. The worst thing you can possibly do as a beginning writer is think because you have a blog, a pen, and MySpace account that you and Gene Wolfe are now best pals and should be sharing writing advice with one another. If a Wolfe-type wants to, hey–that’s great. None of us are posturing. But don’t assume it.
(3) Reach your own opinions on books. Just as 90 percent of books are merely mediocre, so too are 90 percent of reviews (as evidenced by the fact that if reviews were to be believed, 90 percent of everything is amazingly wonderful). Do not rely on the opinions of others. You might be following a fool and missing out on something wonderful.
(4) Read books you don’t like. You gain as much from understanding what you don’t like and knowing why as from reading work you approve of.
(5) Recognize that “mastery” is an illusion. Yep, that’s right. There is no such thing as mastery. As soon as you learn one thing and assimilate it, go on to the next. Writers often enter decaying orbits where they stop learning. That’s when their books begin to go all wonky and stale.
(6) Understand that fiction writing is a craft and an art before it is a business. You and you alone get to determine your relationship to your gift. If you want to tart it up and sell it to the highest bidder, that’s fine. But if you decide you are more interested in making a living at it than in pursuing the highest possible talent level you can aspire to (because sometimes these two things are mutually exclusive), don’t then pretend that you’re doing something else.
(7) Nothing worth doing is easy. Your apprenticeship might last more than a decade. Don’t whine about it. Suck it up, put in the work, and keep improving your fiction.