This is such a great thread! I never knew it existed (I really should spend more time browsing the Lex--I didn't even think that was possible, but there you go). I am also a writer and my dream is to publish a YA novel someday. That would just be amazing...
Anyway, I got started with writing the summer after my freshman year in high school because I wrote a fanfiction for Harry Potter. It's a love story mixed with a comedy about Hermione and Draco (just because I'm a sucker for the impossible romance), and I realized that I had a lot of fun writing it. It was great to post something and then have complete strangers give you positive feedback on it. What a rush! So, yes, fanfiction was a launch pad for my writing. I remember my best friend at the time, after reading my fanfiction, saying to me, "You know, you could do this for real. Like, write your own book." I just thought to myself...hmm. Well, maybe I can. That night I got this idea in my head for a story and just wrote it down a piece of paper.
Well, four years later, I only had four chapters written on this story (it was about 14,000 words). It was agony because I always wanted to write but something was always holding me back on it. I guess I was afraid of failing, so I figured if I didn't really start, then I couldn't fail. Well, one day this past August (a couple days after Breaking Dawn came out, actually), I just got fed up with myself and said no more excuses. If I wanted to write it, then I just needed to write
it! So I did--I just went. Since then, I've written about 18,000 words and I've completely revamped my story line and some of my characters. I didn't even bother going back to edit the first four chapters--I'm just moving forward. The great thing for me is that I'm having my older sister read my story as I write it and she gives me feedback and encourages me to keep going. It's great to have someone there for you! Although, I must admit, every time I have a few more pages for her to read, I get nervous as hell--I'm always afraid that she'll hate it and tell me I can't write after all. It's nerve-wracking.
Right now, I'm not even thinking about getting my "novel" published. I don't even like calling it a "novel" because the word itself just freaks me out. I'm just looking forward to the day that I actually finish it!
Okay, this post is way too long so I'll save other comments for another day. It's great to find all of you!
Oh, and here is my fanfiction page if anyone happened to be interested in my story: http://www.fanfiction.net/~aria327
It's the one called "Kneazles, Anyone?" Check it out if you feel so inclined.