1. READ - To be a writer, you first must be a reader. No exceptions. Read anything and everything, but especially the genre you write. Keep your chosen favorites close to you, on your writing desk. Words are like viruses: the closer they are to you, the better the chance of seeping into your pores, and that's what you want. Bookmark pages so you can refer to your favorite authors' techniques, then make those techniques your own, in your own voice.
2. WRITE - This one seems obvious, but it's true. You must practice playing the piano to eventually play Beethoven. You must train to run a marathon. You must fill a thousand canvases before painting a masterpiece. Writing is the same. It is a craft that you hone. You must write to become a better writer.
3. VOICE - "What is voice?" This is the most common question I hear at writing conferences. To be honest, it's the most elusive (and most important!) concept in writing and nearly unexplainable, but I'll give it a shot.
Voice is the style, personality, and method by which a writer tells a story. It's the way a writer communicates with the reader.We all speak differently, in various tones, diction, and intonations. Writing is the same. We all write differently. The catch is that writing voice can take years to develop. Voice involves so much: reader connection, clarity, attitude, tone, mood, word choice. When writing a first draft, I focus on voice above all else. Plot can be reworked easily. Characters can be fleshed out. Voice is either there or it's not.
4. SHARE - When you've put years of practice into your craft, it's time to share your work. As a writer, you must remain open to feedback and constructive criticism. Surround yourself with writers you trust. Your mother does not count, unless she is Laurie Halse Anderson or JK Rowling. While receiving feedback from others, shut your mouth, open your ears, and listen. You will not be there to defend your work when someone reads it alone on a beach somewhere, nor should you defend it to your peers.
5. GROW - Respect your writing self and respect other people's work, no matter the level. Remember that you were once a beginner, and in some circles you still might be considered just that. Learn as you read. Learn as you write. Learn as you give quality feedback to other writers. Become better.