Gabrielle: I don't know all the ins and outs of being published or writing a good story. It's a learning curve, and I'm still working on it, but there are a few things I've figured out in the past year.
Don't revolve your writing style around a certain publisher. I'm not saying don't follow the rules. Every publisher has rules. Write what is in your heart, what you feel, and let your characters show you the way. If one publisher doesn't like, there are countless others who will. So, write your story first, and then find it a home. Not the other way around. You'll be much happier in the end.
However, with that being said, if you have your heart set on a certain publishing house, read their submission guidelines, familiarize yourself with what sales at this house, and know what they're looking for.
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, but it's not going to get you anywhere. We all have our favorite authors in our favorite genres. There is a reason they're favorites. We love their stories, their characters, their ability to draw us into this world of fantasy and hold us until the very end. So, yes, read these authors, study the way they construct their stories, and aim to be great.
But with that, find your own voice and style. Readers will appreciate it and so will you when the day is done.
Read, read, read!
Ask yourself these basic questions when writing. Who, what, where, when, why, and how? Who is the character (and not just his/her name)? What are they doing? Why are they doing it? Where is this happening? When did this happen? How did they get to this point?
If you don't have an answer to any one of these questions--find one.
Write what you like. It's tempting to write what's "hot", but if you're not into it, that comes across in your writing. Be passionate about the story you tell, and readers will be as well.
Also, I'll be chatting at TwoLips Yahoo Group tonight (January 31st) with Jana Downs from 8:00-10:00 pm EST. I'm offering up some never before seen excerpts, and we're giving away even more prizes, including a chance to win another Kindle Fire, ebooks, and print books. So come hang out with us later!!