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Today I'm excited to welcome Stasia Ward Kehoe who is giving us advice on how to avoid falling into the trap of not submitting. I so needed to hear her advice!

But before I share her post, I want to let you know about her debut novel, AUDITION, that's being released on October 13, 2011. I'll be interviewing Stasia in October and giving away an ARC of her book.

So you get excited like me, here's a blurb from Goodreads:

When high school junior Sara wins a coveted scholarship to study ballet, she must sacrifice everything for her new life as a professional dancer-in-training. Living in a strange city with a host family, she's deeply lonely-until she falls into the arms of Remington, a choreographer in his early twenties. At first, she loves being Rem's muse, but as she discovers a surprising passion for writing, she begins to question whether she's chosen the right path. Is Rem using her, or is it the other way around? And is dancing still her dream, or does she need something more? This debut novel in verse is as intense and romantic as it is eloquent.

Doesn't it sound awesome? So now I'm going to turn over today's post to Stasia.

My debut novel is called AUDITION. Though set in the world of dance, not publishing, “audition” defines a certain type of risk-taking shared by those in print and pointe shoes. You are putting your blood-sweat-and-tears effort out there in hopes that someone finds your work special enough to help you hone it, improve it and, ultimately, share it with the world. It’s an ulcer-inducing process.

In my years as a performer, I’d figured out how to handle winning or losing a stage role. Yet I wasn’t sure I had the emotional strength to subject my novels to similar scrutiny. So, for a long time, I was a writer-who-rarely-submitted. Are you? There are an astonishing number of us.

However, to make it from writer-of-manuscripts to agented author, you’ve gotta get out of this club. The stories of the myriad conferences I attended and MANY manuscripts I put in the drawer before I sent AUDITION out could make a novel in their own right. Now that I’ve gotten past my hurdles, I’d like to share a few tips that may help you make your escape.

1. Find beta readers. While classes or critique groups are terrific, having someone read your ms cover-to-cover provides a different kind of feedback and support to the timid submitter. For me, I really need a person to say “I read the whole thing and it doesn’t suck.”

2. Do your homework. Make a list of agents you ADORE. I used the information at Literary Rambles a lot. The “quotable” and “buzz” sections of Agent Spotlights gave me a sense of agents’ particular kinds of book passion, making me more confident that I was reaching out to the right people. The first time I read about my agent was at this site.

3. Set deadlines. There comes a point where honing that query letter is just a way to avoid the scary next step. So, write these: My query will be finished by Friday. ..My agent list will be finalized Sunday…I will query my top three agents on Tuesday—before lunch. A timeline keeps emotional obstacles out of the way.

4. Keep writing. It may be hard with those nervous fingers and (if you’re like me) the intense nausea, but do it. For non-submitters, writing is a comfort zone. Writing while on submission to agents and, later, to editors, is a way to remind yourself that the process is still there for you.

When I finally took the plunge, I received multiple offers of representation and spent an agonizing week making my choice and apologizing to all the other lovely, amazing agents whom, I realized, were as anxious as me about the whole thing. This also leads me to my final tip…

5. Dare to escape the trap of non-submitting. You will certainly learn from the experience. And you may end up very glad you sent your words out on their audition!

Good luck, buy Tums, and happy writing.

Stasia Ward Kehoe’s debut novel, AUDITION, will be published by Viking/Penguin on 10-13-11. Visit her online at her website. She’s currently in the process of revising her next novel and working up the courage to send it to her agent!


Natalie Aguirre said...

Thanks Stasia for the great advice. I definitely need to get out of the trap of not submitting.

Unknown said...

This is fantastic advice! I'm getting closer to the querying stage, but the closer I get the more overwhelming it seems. I like setting up the timeline - ticking goals off one by one might be easier than thinking about the big picture and how SCARY it feels!

Can't wait to check out this book!

Casey McCormick said...

What a fantastic guest post, Stasia! Fantastic advice. It's nice to know there's a club of writers who don't like to put themselves out there. : p

Angela Brown said...

Congratulations on getting past those hurdles and getting Audition to the publishing house. The advice offered here is fantastic and helps to widdle away at the anxiety of submitting. Thank you so much for sharing.

Barbara Watson said...

Great advice! The part about beta readers is so true, I think. I just read my current MG MS aloud to my kids, so in a way, they were my betas and helped me see what was or wasn't working from an MGers perspective. In the near future, I'll be submitting. A little bit 'EEK!' but a lot exciting. Huge congrats on your book, Stasia!

shelley said...

Great post, Stacia--Good advice. I'm heading out on submission in the next few weeks and am starting my agent list. Can't wait to read Audition!

Abby Fowers said...

The book sounds wonderful and her advice is just that too! :)

Kelly Bryson said...

Great advice! I'm in the middle of querying my first MS, had a few requests, some rejections and some i'm still waiting on. I'm so tempted to find a cave and hide- it's not just me? lol Thanks for the reminder that we all have to just deal with it and keep on keepin on:)

Annie said...

I've seen Audition buzz around so I was so happy to see this post. I especially like the "set deadlines" suggestion. It's easy to say "I'm going to query agents" and let it slide for a number of reasons. But if you know that by Friday, you need to have queried 5 agents (and heck, maybe ask someone to ask you about how those queries went), it can make a huge difference.

Bob Mayer said...

What's amazing is that 90% of people who get asked to send in material after a one-on-one with an agent or editor at a conference never follow through. In essence, rejecting themselves out of fear of having someone else reject them.

Steve MC said...

I didn’t know your book was in verse! Very cool, and thanks for these tips and encouragement.

Setting timelines is so important. I know, because I never do it. I actually told my first offer of a beta reader that I’d send a story at the end of the month, but then added that I had no idea what month that would be.

But I'll get onto that, promise, and by the way, your literary assistant is adorable.

Barbara Dee said...

Wonderful post, Stasia! I especially love what you say about focusing on agents you ADORE. The right agent doesn't just negotiate your book deal--she's someone you really need to click with on a personal level. I think it's important, if at all possible, to MEET the agent face-to-face, to test your chemistry.

Yat-Yee said...

I've submitted during two separate periods with revisions, major as well as minor, happening in between. Lately, I've taken some time off from that to work on my second novel. I know that I need to get back to doing that, so thanks for the reminder that not submitting is a sure way of not fulfilling my goal.

I look back at my experience querying and realize there are a lot of things to be learned, about myself, about my writing, about people in general, and about specific agents. The process is wearying at times, but I am taking the attitude that it's all good. Nothing is wasted.

And now I go back to reviewing my queries and synopses and thinking about my next round.

Soldier on, everyone.

Stasia said...

Thanks, Natalie & Casey, for letting me stop by your terrific blog. And thanks for all the comments and, even more, the great advice. Extra shout-out to Maine Character for your compliment to my literary assistant. He sends word to you to send that ms to your beta reader! Oh, and woof :)

Panda in Chief said...

Excellent advice! Time to get off the pot!

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

AUDITION is amazing. Like AMAZING!! It was so beautiful in every way. I'm a huge admirer of Stasia's. And seriously, terrific advice from her too.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

Congratulations Stasia! I'm really excited to read your book when it comes out. This is great advice. I'm working on my first book now and feel I'll need these pointers to get the courage to send it out into the world. :)

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

Thank you, That's an excellent reminder. Are you going to SCBWI?

Laura S. said...

Congrats, Stasia! These are terrific tips, too.

Kjersten said...

Very helpful advice, Stasia! There are many of us who definitely need improvement in the submissions courage department.