"If you could say one thing to aspiring novelists, what would you say?"
I once belonged to an online forum where Diana Gabaldon was a prominent member, and I'll never forget what she told an aspiring novelist. The young lady asked her, "What's the best way to get published?"
Diana replied, "Write a good book." That succinct piece of advice validated my own instincts, and has since helped me keep my priorities in order. It sounds simplistic, but these days it's too easy to get mired in all the networking and blogging and twittering, compiling lists of contacts and influencers, building a drop-dead one-sheet, branding, marketing, honing interview skills and refining a pitch for that elusive fifteen minutes of face time with an editor. Those are good things, I suppose, and some are even necessary, but they have a way of encroaching on the writing.
First, write a good book. Challenge your story and question your characters' motivations. Make your first novel a book that readers, including editors, can't resist. Go the extra mile. In the long run, it's a short cut.
--W. Dale Cramer, author of numerous novels including Summer of Light, Bad Ground, Levi's Will, among others.