Here is a list of things I would recommend to writers starting out:
1) Read these books: Save the Cat and Writing the Breakout Novel. If you have more time, read Plot & Structure (and everything else by James Scott Bell) as well as Fire in Fiction.
2) Follow writers and literary agents on social media. Many of them tweet or blog about writing and publishing tips (you can see my writing blog here).
3) Get real about writing and critiquing. To do so, get involved in sites such as Critique Circle, Miss Snark’s First Victim, First Five Pages and Wattpad. Search for blogs where people post beta readers match-ups (like Reddit). And, if you have the money, employ some professional readers/editors.
4) If you can afford it, go to conferences (real or virtual). There are many to choose from including my personal favorite, SCBWI.
5) Ask for help. Seriously. Don’t be afraid to contact other writers (on Twitter, Facebook or their blogs) and ask them for advice or feedback. We were all beginners once. We have the query scars. We feel the revision pains. And if we can’t help you, we probably know someone who can.
6) Keep Calm. Carry on. Seriously, this is a long road and I’m talking LONG LONG LONG. It can take years to write a novel, years to get an agent and years to get published and those years are full of suckitude. I wish I could tell you they aren’t. I wish I could tell you that you won’t spend copious amounts of time staring at your computer screen/phone/empty bottles of Vodka, but the truth is that you probably will and so will many other writers. But if you want to take this journey, you’re stuck on the boat. Might as well do a little merengue while you’re there, right?