What advice do you have to give to aspiring writers?
My advice to young writers is:
Write the kinds of stories you like to read. If you don’t love what you’re writing, no one else will, either.
Don’t tell people you want to be a writer. Everyone will try to talk you out of choosing a job with so little security, so it is better just to keep it to yourself, and prove them all wrong later.
You are not a hundred dollar bill. Not everyone is going to like you … or your story. Do not take rejection personally.
If you are blocked on a story, there is probably something wrong with it. Take a few days off and put the story on a back burner for a while. Eventually, it will come to you.
Read—and write—all the time. Never stop sending out your stuff. Don’t wait for a response after sending a story out … start a new story right away, and then send that one out! If you are constantly writing and sending stuff out (don’t forget to live your life, too, while you are doing this) eventually someone will bite!
It is nearly impossible to get published these days without an agent. The guide I used to get mine was called the Jeff Herman Guide to Agents, Editors, and Publishers. It was well worth the money I spent on it, since it lists every agent in the business and what he or she is looking for. It also tells you how to write a query letter, what to expect from your publisher, and all sorts of good stuff...a must buy for any aspiring author!
And above all, become a good listener. In order to write believable dialogue, you need to listen to the conversations of the people around you—then try to imitate them!
Good luck, and keep writing! If I can do it, so can you!