Friday, September 9, 2011

No Your Writes

As an author or not, I’ve always had a testy relationship with No. I doubt I’m alone in this. No is ubiquitous, curt, and negative. Absent due consideration for its nuances, No is freely equated with sheer and hurtful rejection. When I was a kid, a parental No stood between me and many things I was so sure (mistakenly, I discovered as I aged and gained a tad of wisdom) would bring me untold joy or adventure. In so many words however sympathetically phrased, more colleges and grad schools said No than Yes to my admission applications. No outnumbered Yes in my job searches since I left school. Those of you reading this who are writers or writers’ friends know well that the vast majority of authors hear No far more than Yes from agents and traditional publishers.

It’s too easy to conclude No is the enemy.

That makes it too easy to be wrong.

My parents’ No’s more often than not saved me from injury or incarceration, if not injury and incarceration. The schools that rejected my applications couldn’t have done a better job educating me academically and otherwise than the one I attended. The jobs and clients I’ve been fortunate enough to have over the years more than compensate for the ones I didn’t get. A couple of the "Big 6" publishing houses in New York turning down "Blood of the Moon" lead me to explore and appreciate the rewards of publishing independently. In turn, this positioned me to forge meaningful relationships with my readers all over the world, such that my new e-book release, "Trust and Other Nightmares," is enjoying a warm reception for which I’m most appreciative.

Frustrating as it may have been at the time of its utterance, each No eventually and inevitably guided me toward a resounding Yes, and I’m the better for it all round.

This is especially true for my writing. I have a generous group of early-readers who graciously read what I write and offer me priceless feedback, a great deal of which is No-centric. My lovely and talented editor for "Blood of the Moon," Jennifer Sawyer Fisher, said No to me more than just about any other person I can think of said No to me about anything ever, and she was right (almost) every time. Hearing a resounding No about a character, a scene, a stream of dialogue, or a plot or subplot, forced me in each instance to revisit what I had so proudly written. Every No forced me to see my work from an eye not so biased as my own, and to make thoughtful and sometimes painful revisions accordingly. Confronting the No my writing earned from someone whose opinion is invaluable in making my writing better and more engaging outweighs exponentially an equivocal Yes from someone lovingly reluctant to hurt my feelings.

Writing is hard. Good writing is harder. And putting what I deem my best writing in front of a person whose opinion matters and who’s willing to say No can be extremely nerve-wracking. But properly considered, every No that I don’t let derail me is a long step directly toward Yes.

Any Yes that doesn’t first raise its head only after an army of No’s has assaulted my writing is not a friend.

No is not the enemy. It’s a badge of honor.

No is the greatest ally a good writer can have.

"From the moment I picked your book up until I laid it down I was convulsed with laughter.
Some day I intend reading it." 
~~ Groucho Marx ~~


  1. I don't have a problem with "no"; I have a problem with autocracy. Oddly, the two are frequently connected.

  2. You are a glass half full kind of guy! Anyway, your post made me do some thinking, especially re-thinking the rejections from literary agents. Seeing a "no" as a "not now" helps.