For what it's worth, here are a few things I learnt along the way to getting published:
1. Doing a creative writing course doesn't necessarily increase your chances of getting published (which sucks) but it will expose your work to fresh eyes and allow you to meet people who may one day be your mentors or writing partners or friends. It can't hurt. Try one.
2. Enter as many writing competitions as you can. It's great practice for meeting deadlines and there's every chance you'll be long listed or at least receive feedback from writing professionals who work in the field you want to get into and see examples of great and lousy writing every day. Feedback is invaluable for getting much-needed perspective about your writing style, pacing, characterisations, narrative voice etc. One completely lovely and out-of-the-blue letter I received after bombing out of a writing competition (again for, like, the fourth time straight) gave me the guts to finally quit my day job.
3. Bone up on the industry. Good places to start are the websites for the Australian Society of Authors:
And the Australian Literary Agents Association:
4. Make your novel as different as you can to anything else out there. The iconoclasts who back themselves with great ideas and a fresh and exciting writing voice (hello, JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins for starters) will always find a home with a publisher and make a splash. Don't be content to just be part of a pre-existing pack. Get out there and start your own.
5. Read as much and as widely as you can. Don't just "do" one kind of book. Everything you read arms you with the possibilities of the written language and where you can take it.
6. Work hard, keep believing, if you want it badly enough, it shall come to pass.
(image courtesy of http://www.nawe.co.uk)