I'm taking this idea from a blog by Chuck Sambuchino, an editor who posts other blogs by agents and writers, which have been very useful and inspiring to me as a writer. I'm trying not to use the obvious lessons, because its all been said over and over. Hopefully, I have a couple of useful tidbits here.
1) You're always improving...Unless you're one of the lucky few whose English and grammar skills are beyond reproach. The editing process will only be finished once it has been published. Don't just re-read and think it sounds good. Examine each sentence, the tense, the point of view, word conservation, eliminate cliches, don't repeat, show don't tell, don't repeat words...oh, so many tweaks to be had.
2)Don't write when you're not feeling it. Some advice would be to write on a schedule or write when you're having a block and that might work for some, but for me, I find it counterproductive. Find ways to be inspired to write. For me, it usually happens when I finish reading a good novel. That pumps me up to sit a pound out a story.
3)There is no instant success. This is a long process; at least for fiction. Even if you write a story in two months and get a publisher a month after that (good luck). It's going to be at least another year before your book comes out. For most of us, it takes years just to get to this point...if ever.
4)You friends and family don't know what it takes to get an agent or published. It might be nice to hear praise from those around you, but that is not going to advance your knowledge of the industry. You need a real editor or other writers to critique your work, which is usually a sobering experience. Once you're over the shock of your writing being torn apart, then you'll be that much better the next time around. Find writing groups or workshops put your thick-skin on.
5)Step back from your work. Yes, once your finish, you want to get your queries out there, dreaming of your first royalty check. No. Put down the manuscript for a few months, then come back and program yourself to read it as if you didn't write it. This will allow you to see where the flow is awkward or the sentences are redundant or the point of view is wrong. Its a shitty feeling to know you sent something out that will turn an agent off.
6)Networking. This won't happen overnight, either. In my years of putting myself out there and attending conferences and querying and contacting other writers, I've met many in the industry and find that I can return to these contacts for advice or support. Slowly, but surely, names start to become familair. Plus, building these relationships lets people know you are serious about your craft.
7)Research your options. Oh, man. There are so many ways to get your book out. Do you get an agent? A traditional publisher? An ebook publisher? POD? Do I self-publish? Small press? Independant press? Publish through Amazon? Barnes and Noble? Kinkos? How can I market my novel without help? It might be very enticing to get your book out by any means available, but choose wisely grasshopper. You might regret letting your best-selling first novel fall into the depths of obscurity because word just isn't getting out. THERE IS NO RIGHT WAY. What works for some will not work for others. If there is a number 8 here, its to develop your filter; use the advice you can and discard the rest.
There are so many more things I've learned, but I've already named the piece, so we're stuck with seven.