What with all the talk out there about the publishing industry being turned upside down (literally - new writers must have a platform, i.e., a ready-built audience, in order to attract the pub biz, no matter how good the writing and storyline), writers must have a business plan in tandem with the writing.
One way to begin is to submit stories, essays, poetry - whatever - to magazines, anthologies, journals, newspapers. If your stuff is good (keeping in mind that you're competing with hundreds of others), you'll slowly build name.
If you manage to get a chapbook, a novella, a book of short stories in print (self-publishing isn't laughed at anymore - so go ahead, if you believe strongly enough in your writing to pay the price), market it locally (press release, book stores, libraries, etc.) and work outward geographically to build an audience.
Another tool is contests. This one is somewhat problematic; you'll have to pay an entry fee to have your story, essay, novel, short story collection read. Some are just this side of scams, so beware. One thing to look out for: the up-and-up ones will offer something of a quid pro quo - a subscription to the publication, a copy of the winning book.
Of course, there's the MFA route: go to school, impress your instructors with your writing, and gain a reference to an agent, an editor.
The biggest pitfall is discouragement: DONT! Stick to your plan, watch what works, what doesn't, and adjust to fit whatever openings seem there for you.
Causes Bob Mustin Supports
Native American culture. Education. Creative writing.