The Importance of No

from Jody Feldman

Yesterday, I submitted my latest novel to my agent. Again. She’d already said no once, though it had taken her many more words than that.
“You’re off to a good start.”
“The book needs more drive.”
"Too much banter...interrupts the forward motion of the story.”
You get the picture.

But no is an important part of the process. I don’t want participation ribbons or empty smiles or “your hair looks great” comments when it’s apparent I’ve come straight from sleeping in a wind tunnel. I want to put my best work out there even if it takes sleepless nights, all-consuming thought patterns, and dust monsters. (I’ve been known to skip the bunny phase.)

The day I stop hearing no, as I go through the earlier stages of writing a book, will not lead to parades and confetti. It will make me wonder why the critique world has plotted against me, why they want to see me put out mediocrity.

No is hard to hear. Every time I expose my work-in-progress to readers, I am in a delusion-of-grandeur state. The characters are fascinating. The plot is tight and exciting. They can’t possibly find fault in the story. And every time, it’s the same. No. Sorry.

In the end, no is important. No, it’s vital. Because without these nos, I will never hear my readers—the real ones, the kids—say what every author wants to hear: YES!


  1. No's a fuel to a writer's fire and keep us going. Thanks for the reminder Jody!

  2. One of my favorite questions to ask students in a school visit is how many times, out of my total of 56 published books, my editor has ever said the words I'm longing to hear: "This book is perfect." And of course every writer in the world knows that answer all too well: NEVER! There are is always some no, or many no's, or a seemingly endless series of no's that I have to get through to get the book to where it needs to be - and at the end, it's those no's I'm most grateful for. Great post.


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