1. Research. Learn the basics to writing, from knowing your genre to grammar and punctuation.
2. Have an outline of your story and make notes on your characters. (I spent many wasted hours going back to see details on a character that I should have written down. Duh! That was a no brainer!)
3. Know your way around a computer. (Another no brainer.) I depended on my daughter to fix my mistakes more than I care to admit. The most important thing she taught me was...save, save, save. I had to re-type so many chapters because I did not have auto save on. I would hit a wrong key and have it all disappeared!
4. Have a critique group. I did not have one until I finished my first book. Once I had one I sent in a few chapters and was horrified by my results. They actually pointed out my mistakes, and suggested changes, how dare them. (Just kidding.) When I finished the book it was my baby and you get defensive when someone says something negative about your baby. Well I learned to take criticism because their suggestions were going to make my story better. Then I put on my big girl panties and grew a thick skin. They weren't there to hurt my feelings. They were there to help improve my writing skills.
4. Grammar and punctuation (I know I mentioned this) but it is soooo important, it needs to be mentioned twice. It has been a LONG time since I attended an English class, and I can tell you, I obviously did not pay close enough attention.
When I started this process I wouldn't have made so many mistakes if I would have gone back to the basics. But now, I'm done with book number one and working on two more. My editing is a smoother process and my critiquing buddies do not cringe when they see pages from me. It's not that they didn't like the story, they loved it. They just had a hard time reading past all the mistakes I made. My sister would tell me I was not allowed to send any chapters out until she read them first. Not that she wanted to help improve on my skills. She didn't want to be embarrassed that she had a sister who had no idea what to do with a comma Well I no longer embarrass my sister and I have learned from my mistakes. I know I will make more mistakes, and comma’s are still as issue, but I’m improving. So going back to basics is a step I took late, but I took it and I’m becoming a better writer because of it.