One year (and about 2 weeks) ago, I learned about Nanowrimo and it changed my life. No really, it did!
It was the start of a chain of events. Even though it was almost half way through November when I made this amazing discovery I jumped in and wrote something for Nano. Now don't get excited because no I did not finish the 50,000 words. But it did open a door for me. I met some great people and for the first time in my life I discovered writers groups and critique groups and writers conferences. Yes, I will honestly admit that although I'd been writing for almost 15 years, I had never known what great resources were available to the writing community. For that matter, I had never known there writing communities!
So once my friend let me join her group I discovered everything else - including the very strange idea that it's ok to share your work and get feedback. Authors support each other and they like to help. Critiquing makes your story better, bouncing ideas with a group keeps your story moving, and spending time sprinting with other authors pushes you to get words on the page. Even if they aren't great words, at least they are words and it's moving your story. You can edit later, just get the first draft down!
I joined a group of writers that meet monthly and share knowledge, ideas, and WIPs (Work In Progress). I learned writing terms I had never heard before, and I went to my first writers conference. It was the best thing I could have done for my writing and I'm so excited to go back!
So why am I telling you all this? Well, specifically because I think it's important for writers to understand that puting yourself out there is what gets you to where you want to be. I could never have gotten my publishing deal on my own. It was through the efforts of some awesome people who critiques, edited, read and re-read my manuscript, and taught me so many things, that I got what I wanted. If you want to get published and be a serious writer, go find a great critique group. Meet other authors, go to conferences, learn everything you can, write, write, write, and write some more!
I have learned more and grown more as an author in the last year than in the last 5 years since I graduated with my BA in Creative Writing. I became stagnant and didn't know what to do next. I was trying to do it all on my own, writing, editing, critiquing, and querying. And I was failing miserably. Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and join the writing community! You will progress more than you ever imagined. I know I did, and I'm still learning! Even though us writers are very protective of our work and we're very sensitive to criticism. Constructive criticism, or critiquing, will take your writing to a level you could have never achieved alone. Go for it! It's worth it, I promise.