If you've made it all the way through this, not only am I impressed, I'm amazed. I figure maybe two or three folks will stick through it for the sake of saying that they did (it's that Best Friend as Editor thing again). If you're not a member of my immediate family (by which I mean the BONC family tree) I am very grateful. I don't claim to be an expert on any of this stuff. I've written a few stories, had a few good reviews, but I'm no more an authority than anyone else around here. I do know what I like to read, and I know what I hear complaints about, both in my work and on the work of other folks. This guide has been my way of letting other people know what I've been told. In the end, though, your best guide is your own mind. You can ignore everything I've written, and still put out a damn fine story. You can also follow every word and publish something ... unfortunate. It all boils down to what you put into your work, and what you want out of it. Don't be afraid to experiment, and never be afraid to ask.
People are more than willing to give advice and opinions, but you have to be ready to accept what they say, no matter how hard it is to take at the time. (Note that you don't have to agree or follow along, but if you don't at least acknowledge it, you're not doing yourself or your readers any favours.)

The best piece of mail I ever received was about my very first story, "To Every Purpose." The woman went through it page by page, tearing apart every detail, pointing out every flaw in characterization, dialogue, pacing, and mood. A few things were in there on purpose, and I told her so, but others were things I never even noticed. After receiving over a hundred "This was Great!" letters, it was a bitter pill to swallow. I can never thank her enough.

When you receive negative feedback, don't automatically flame the sender. Read it, think about it, and decide if it has validity. Then make your own decision as to what you're going to do with your next story, because there will always be a next story. And it's going to be a great one.