The Power of Negative Thinking (November Theme: No-vember)

Sometimes a “no” can be a force for good.

My second novel
If a string of editors hadn’t said “no” to my second attempt at a novel and if one of them had instead said “yes” and acquired it, I would be embarrassed today that my second published novel was so mediocre. Instead, those editorial “no’s” pushed me to improve my writing and led to a “yes” (on a different, better manuscript) from an editor who published that different, better novel and then seven more.

Lovely Lara
I was discouraged when I received polite but firm “nos” from several agents I queried. But if one of them had said “yes,” I wouldn’t have kept looking. And if I hadn’t kept looking, I would never have found the perfect-for-me agent, Lara Perkins.

When Lara gently tells me, “No, that passage/character/theme/hook just isnt working” I pout for a few minutes and then go on to write a stronger passage/character/theme/hook.

Writers are always told to say “no” to anything that distracts us from writing. But if I say “no” to my writing instead of to my distraction and take my dog for a walk or call a friend Ive lost touch with or watch a TED talk, I return to my work re-energized. Usually.

I sometimes need to tell myself “no”: No, this scene isnt going where it needs to” or I love this character, but no, she adds nothing to the story and has to go.” It hurts to trash hours or even weeks of careful work, but if I keep saying “no” to the sub-par stuff I know that eventually it will be worth the pain.

Pundits say “spew out a first draft without self-editing” and “outline before you start” and “stick to a strict schedule” but I say “no” to them and do what works for me.

So far, its been working; book no. 20 is coming out in July!


  1. Amen, Tracy! And congrats on the arrival of book #20!

  2. Replies
    1. 10th novel; I have 10 nonfiction titles as well. A nice symmetry! I've been at it for a while--no. 1 came out in 1993!

  3. Great reminder that NO can be a crucial step on the way to YES. Congratulations on getting to that big beautiful YES twenty times now.

    1. Thank you, Claudia! It occurs to me that a "no" is really a "yes" in the same way that a journey away from someplace is also a journey to someplace.


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