Once you have decided on the genre and have the passion for the commitment to see it through, what do you do next? Get yourself into a writing group and work on your skills. I also attended a few creative writing courses. Familiarised yourself with the huge array of writing styles and go with what suits you. Get yourself into a writing routine, Ian Fleming called it “chunking,” and Like Ian Fleming, I would only do about 1,500 to 2,000 words a day. Now, before getting yourself a mentor, you must have your story and characters fully developed. I had my entire novel completed before approaching my mentor. I believe the key to successfully completing a competitive novel is securing a mentor. All the above is just a very brief breakdown in attempted of starting a discussion on this topic...anyone care to add anything?