Recently, someone interested in writing fiction asked how I got started as a writer. This is how I broke it down:
I started writing in school. It led to writing for the local newspaper and then freelancing for magazines (and, eventually, moving to Nashville to be a magazine editor for the last 14 or so years).
I got to be a novelist when I met the folks at Harvest House through my work and, over the course of a couple of years, I came up with something they liked and they offered me a contract. (That relationship has since ended; I now have an agent who is shopping a couple of projects for me right now.)
The thing that connects all the above together is that each opportunity led to the next opportunity for me. The school paper led to the city newspaper, led to the national small magazine, led to the national larger magazine ... etc.
So ... to boil all that down to a few action points:
1. Write a lot. Fiction, nonfiction, scripts, poetry, whatever. I am a firm believer that no writing is ever a waste of time. (To paraphrase Ray Bradbury, every write has a million words of bad writing within them; the trick is to keep writing until you get it out of your system.)
2. Look for all the opportunities you have within arm's reach. (Church newsletter, local newspaper, etc. Write book reviews, write a column, write short stories for an online zine, etc.)
3. Meet a lot of people. (Conferences, bookstores, writer's groups, etc.)
It is a really long road for most writers (I have hardly "arrived") ... so the advice many give is, only do this if you HAVE to. If you have the ability to not write, then this isn't for you.