I'm currently attending Aussiecon 4 in Melbourne. It's the World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention and it caters to writers, artists, film-makers and fans with an interest in anything from Steampunk to Star Trek to Anime. Oh, how I love my time spent in fandom!
At every Convention, there are panels where a group of informed, intelligent, articulate people (if you're lucky) discuss a topic of interest - at least until they go off on a rant about e-book publishing. (Yes, Cory Doctorow, I'm looking at you ^_^). I've been to several panels so far themed along on the line of 'How to get published' or 'How to make money from your writing' and the advice is always the same.
Write. Write a lot. Write every single day until you have a polished piece to send out. Then do it all again.
And they're right. As baby writers, a lot of people seem to want to hear "Yes, you can get published, just tell me your idea and I'll talk to my editor friend who will LOVE your work and then you can write your novel while living off your huge advance and get it published." But the hard, unpalatable truth is that unless you write, you won't have a novel, no-one will ever publish your work and you'll be left staring eager-eyed at Pros begging for the magical piece of advice that will turn you from wannabe into published author.
So I'm going to write. A lot. I want to be an author, more than I want anything else. This is my apprenticeship - 1,000,000 words of fiction in one year. And it's going to be an awesome ride.