In addition to just writing, many other activities have been helpful to me: I meet with Ron Seybold's Writers' Workshop monthly, and each of the five or six members submit about 20 pages of a manuscript a week prior to our meeting. Everyone in the group talks about what they liked in the pages and what pulled them out. So I leave each session with four or five critiques of my pages. This monthly schedule keeps me moving on my project, and the feedback let's me know early on if the writing is communicating the way I intend.
I'm also lucky enough to be friends with two amazing authors who willingly read my whole manuscript when I think I'm finished with it--I say "when I think" because after they read and give their rich feedback, I'm always motivated to expand and deepen! One of the authors, Claire Ashby (WHEN YOU MAKE IT HOME) helps me rev up the romantic and relationship interests in my writing. The other, Elizabeth Buhmann (LAY DEATH AT HER DOOR) helps me strengthen the mystery elements.
I enter contests and go to workshops. Houston Writers' Guild and Austin Writers' League both sponsor contests, conferences, and workshops. I always learn something new when I participate in any of them.