Daniel Arenson has summarized in just a few sentences what I think is the essence of becoming a professional writer. This is the most condensed and helpful advice on writing I’ve read.
First of all, I wouldn’t rush into publishing. If you’re a new writer, take time to improve your craft. Write short stories. Read books about storytelling. Study how characters and plots work. Write novel drafts and toss them out and start again. Workshop your stories. Before you step onto that stage, practice. Get good.
When you’re ready, put your marketing hat on. Find what genre and sub-genre your work best fits into. Read popular novels in that genre and understand why readers love them. Write for that audience. Pay somebody to edit your manuscript. Get a cover and blurb that’s on par with what’s selling. If you can choose a clearly defined genre, get a professional cover, craft a catchy blurb, and write an addicting story, you’re already ahead of most writers. You will sell.
Sometimes young writers ask me about writing for a living. My answer is to never count on writing full time. I would guess that 99% of writers don’t make enough money to quit their day jobs. So don’t sacrifice your education or job just yet. But if you write well, work hard, and know how to market, you stand an excellent chance of sharing your work with many readers.
I can definitely say that I have followed his recommendation regarding writing drafts and tossing them out to start again.
My takeaway as an author is this: be very deliberate with your writing.