There are elements that must be understood in every genre. Certainly, understanding the writing process of planning, drafting, revising (and drafting again?), more revising, and editing should help you get from Point A to Point Z. However, there is also the business of writing—publishing and marketing—that you must learn. Yes, it’s overwhelming, and the business end has little to do with writing well.
Do take classes, read writing books and magazines, join writing organizations, go to conferences, participate in writing groups, get critiques—all of this helps. When you have saturated yourself with all of this—or even while you are saturating yourself--read the works of other writers, especially the writers in your genre of choice.
Read as a writer. This doesn’t mean you can’t savor the story and become engrossed in the world of its characters. But allow a part of you (probably “Lefty”*) to be present while you read. Don't make it an assignment; just note those "a-ha" moments where you catch what the writer has done to affect you. I know I have learned a great deal from the writers I’ve read. God bless them all! I’ve learned about pacing, economy, characterization, dialog, plot devices, character arc, character motivations, cliffhangers, creating the culture of the book with lush description unobtrusively woven throughout the story, tying up loose ends, even breaking the rules—you name it. Of course, it helped that I knew about story elements to begin with, but the really good writers bring these elements to life and have been my best teachers.
Does it matter that they have very different styles? No. The differing styles are in themselves another lesson, one which can help you develop your own unique voice.
Another perk to reading as a writer is that it can get the creative juices flowing again when you’re in a desert period. You find yourself saying, “I wish I’d written that” or “Hey, I can do something like that.” And so you do. You come to appreciate the complexities in a story and find that it inspires you to grow a richer plot and authentic characters with all the foibles and heart that real people have. You even find your own voice.
So, whatever else you do to become a better writer, read—read as a writer.
Keep writing and trust yourself.
*For those of you who haven't read my last post, "Lefty" is the name I've given to the left brain, the analytical, judgmental part of our thinking.