There have been hundreds of books on how to get published. Here's my condensed version:
1. Write When You Can - Find the time to write, even if you have to give up other things to do so. And know who your audience is, and as much about that audience as possible, before you write your first word.
2. Finish What You Start - Turn off your internal editor until you finish that first draft, and get to the ending no matter how much you think it sucks.
3. Edit What You Finish - Rewrite, add, cut, and polish. Then give it to others to read, consider their suggestions, and keep repeating the process until you've got something your peers, and you, consider decent.
Here's a critique sheet to help you out. http://www.jakonrath.com/critsheet.pdf.
4. Submit What You Edit - Since you know your audience, you should know who reps/publishes your type of story. And don't get hung up on writing the perfect query letter. The writing sells the writing, not the query letter. All a query needs is a two sentence description of the book (mention setting, genre, and a bestselling similar work by another author), some praise for the recipient, and a thank you.
That's all. Now stop sweating the process and go do it.
If you have any questions, put them in the comments section of this thread. Or if you want my undivided attention, visit me in person.
For everyone in the St. Louis MO vicinity, I'll be in town Jan 16 and 17.
Friday, Jan 16 - ST. CHARLES CITY-COUNTY LIBRARY FOUNDATION, MO
Joe will be doing a presentation 7pm - 9pm. Details at http://www.stchlibrary.org.
Saturday, Jan 17 - BIG SLEEP BOOKS, ST. LOUIS
Joe will be doing a signing at this wonderful mystery bookstore, 1pm - 2:30pm. www.bigsleepbooks.com
Feel free to spread the word and come see me. The library event has a cash bar. How cool is that? Naturally, books will be available at both locations, and besides dishing out wisdom I'll be giving away some free cool stuff.
Hope to see some of you there.