Pub Rants

What’s in a NO? Nothing.

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Today was a holiday at the publishing houses in New York so not much going on in that arena.

I had the most amazing weekend at the Landmark Forum. Maybe I’ll talk about it some time but right now I’m still digesting. The best part is that I’m having conversations with all my family members that I never dreamed I could have. Talk about feeling really vital and alive today.

But I bring this up because when I was at the forum getting inspired, I sat next to a man who looked like he was in his 40s or early 50s. As conversation often does, it turned to what we do for a living.

He had just retired and one of the break-throughs that he had this weekend was that he always wanted to write a novel and for the past twenty years, always found an excuse not to.

This weekend, he made a commitment to do it (and boy he was kicking himself that the novel wasn’t finished considering the synchronicity of me sitting next to him).

Sheesh. So what? Right?

But it reminded me that it takes a lot of courage to sit down and do that first page. That we can be inspired, write it, and do everything in our power to publish it and the dream still might not happen.

A lot of you have shopped manuscripts (either with agents or the houses) that are now gathering dust in a closet or on your computer.

You had the courage to do it, to be rejected, and to continue because of the sheer joy creating that possibility has given you. That’s what makes life extraordinary.

And it’s easy to forget. But remember, if an agent or an editor rejects your work. It’s not personal. Don’t assign a meaning to it (like “I’m a failure” or “I have no talent” or “this is how my life always is” or “I’m unworthy”).

A NO is simply a NO—nothing more.

Quit whining about it. Quit being attached to your story about why you haven’t published yet. You’re expending too much energy in that arena. Move on. If one novel didn’t sell, get on to that next one. You already know you are courageous. What more do you need?

26 Responses

  1. Youngblood said:

    Thank you for saying that! I have been procrastinating about working on my next novel until I get my first accepted. I like things neat and clean, finish one project before continuing another…the first is finished and I should move on with the next letting the novel speak for itself instead of dwelling on it! I needed this kick in the rear end!

  2. GirlGrownUp, Still Dreaming said:

    Inspiration: that’s what writing is all about. I have a great-aunt and uncle in their mid-eighties who have inspired me in the last few months like nothing else. They are in their 63rd year of marriage. They survived the loss of a 3 yr old daughter 50 years ago (she picked up spinal meningitis on a train ride and was gone in 21 hours), the only child they ever had. Uncle Bud was one of the first paratroopers to land on the beaches of Normandy, was shot, and earned a Purple Heart and Congressional Medal of Honor. Two years ago they moved back home to Indiana to be close to us, their only family, in their final years. Then, on Nov. 6th, a tornado swept through their home, directly through their modular home, and they survived, both found in a field behind their home, alive, at ages 84 and 85. A week later, as we were allowed to sift through the rubble for any remains, we found splinters of their bed two lots over. And miracle of miracles, we found the cigar box that contained Uncle Bud’s two medals, then found one of the few pictures of their little girl. When Uncle Bud saw aunt Marie for the first time in the hospital after the tornado (they had been brought in separately) she was wrapped from chin to thigh in a brace because her back was broken. She couldn’t hear him because, since it had been the middle of the night, she hadn’t been wearing her hearing aid. When she first saw him, she told the nurse, “I just want to touch him”, and even though she couldn’t hear him, I will never forget the words he said over and over: “Don’t give up, Marie.” So, even as I cry writing this just remembering, I am constantly inspired by them and am writing a love story based on their life right now. But I know that Uncle Bud’s words will be in my head like I just heard them yesterday, and those words are my creed now in everything I do. When I think I’m having a tough day, I just remember his words, “don’t give up, Marie” and that is my inspiration.

  3. Ewoh Nairb said:

    Where to start? First, congratulations on taking a huge step in your life by doing the Landmark Forum. It is a wild ride for three and a half days. My wife and I did it three days after the 911 attacks. The shock of the attacks had overpowered all of our plans.

    Then they called to remind us of the Forum and so we took the weekend and sat through it. Out of spending one weekend sitting on very uncomfortable chairs, my wife and I were able to get very clear about quite a few things in our life together. The most important one was that we gave up all our stories about what we thought parenting was all about and decided to discover that territory for ourselves. We now have two beautiful little girls and are talking about trying for another.

    A short time after completing the Landmark Forum my father’s cancer got the better of him. I flew out just in time to say goodbye before he passed. That was something I was denied when my brother passed in ’85. I was able to get past all the stories about it being my fault for not spending more time with him and all the rest. In the end, not only was I able to be there to ease his passing, but to help my mother out in arranging things for the funeral, and generally just taking over for her so that she could have some time to grieve and think. Out of the experience I gained a new clarity in my life and through that I have been able to get her a job close to home that she enjoys as well as get my family moved across the country to be closer to her.

    The ability to get beyond my stories about things and just to deal with ‘what is so’ has given me the opportunity to grow from writing only poetry to writing short stories and now to writing novel length prose. I am finishing the draft of a second novel and will be going to the Backspace Conference in July as my first ever writers’ conference.

    My inspiration comes from average people in their daily lives, beyond the stories of right and wrong, straight from the heart of people just being decent and loving. Whenever I listen from there I am inspired and boldened in my life and my writing. The scariest part is “not” doing the things that I am afraid to do.

    Lastly, thank you for putting yourself out there for all of us who strive to be recognized for loving words and what we can accomplish with them.

  4. Dana Y. T. Lin said:

    I know how that man feels. I’ve been dragging my feet until now. My dad passed away a couple months ago, and now, remembering my dad and the way he used to tell me bedtime stories as a child has inspired me to get off my butt and start writing and querying again!

  5. Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said:

    As I said on Miss Snark’s blog, I take a rejection as a statement that my writing still needs work.

    I know that some kinds of writing just don’t appeal to everyone, neither do some styles. Dear Kristin hates portals, potties, and forests. I understand. Others like those things.

    It is in my interest to take a rejection as an “it’s not good enough message.” The first version of my book was boring. The rejections, particularly one personal but rather nasty one, made me rewrite. Then I rewrote again. These were not tweaks. They were major rewrites. It was painful, but it really helped.

    Also, rejections send me off to friends and associates. One expert in medieval warfare pointed out that I have a falling sword do the impossible. He kindly explained how swords are weighted and behave. Using that information I changed a scene. So, when my pixie princess drops the sword she can hardly lift, it falls as it should, and the beast it falls on dies in a convincing way. Cool beans!

    The agent who told me my first chapter was as flat and as boring as he’d ever read did it bluntly, and it hurt my feelings. But, guess what? He was right. I liked my first chapter. But, as I reread it, I saw it was very like what I might put in an academic paper. It was far less the exciting adventure I meant it to be and much more a history textbook. Ok, so shoot me. History excites me.

    There is very little in my first chapter now that was in there then, and I’ve rewritten major portions of other chapters too. So, while I upset some over on Miss Snark’s blog by saying that a rejection meant my writing is inadequate, that view is what has helped me. It makes me analyze and work.

    If I write history I want to inform. But I want to entertain. I want to drag you off to the world that exists in my mind. I want to convince you it’s real, make you laugh, and run riffs off fairy tales and legends just to see if you’re sharp enough to catch them. I want you to have a great time playing with an unlikely pixie family made up of a regular human guy, the pixie princess he falls in love with, and their overly adventuresome children.

    I’ve done my best to make everyone and everything as real as possible. Rejections have helped. The real issue isn’t what a rejection means. It’s what a rejection leads you to do. So, the agent or editor didn’t like it? Why? They can’t and won’t tell you, usually. But, you can figure it out. Find the flaws. Fix ‘em.

  6. Michelle said:

    Well said. It’s tough to distance yourself from a novel because so much of yourself is poured into it.

    I hope that man actually does write his novel. That’s the great thing about writing–it’s something you can do no matter how old you are.

  7. Glenda Larke said:

    I had my first novel published when I was 54. I have lost count of how many rejections I had prior to that! Or, indeed, how many books I had written up to that point. Who cares? That was just the learning process.

    I now have seven either published or accepted for publication. You are never too old when you are a writer… Now if my chosen career had been, say, tennis player, it would have been a different story!

  8. Kristen Painter said:

    I think this is why so many writers turn to epubs. Their often relaxed standards allow many to publish who wouldn’t otherwise. And having that quickie sale soothes the sting of rejection from mainstream editors/agents.

    Keeping your sights set on NY makes the road to publication much more narrow. That trip requires thick skin, a strong spirit and superhuman perseverance. Only the brave and crazy take that route.

    It’s good to be crazy. Makes life much more interesting. ;o)

  9. Wesley Smith said:

    Hope you had fun at the Landmark Forum this weekend. I went through it about five or six years ago, and it really did help me get through some barriers I had created in my head. The things I learned there continue to benefit me now.

    Having said that, continuing to enroll in their seminars and classes can get extraordinarily expensive, and they never end. It can become really cult-like. It has some wonderful benefits, but be selective in choosing follow-ups.

  10. Nikki B. said:

    Wesley said: “classes can get extraordinarily expensive, and they never end. It can become really cult-like.”
    Hi, Wesley! Why doesn’t this surprise me? From what I understand, Landmark Forum is headed by Werner Erhart’s brother. Erhard, as folks may remember, was the founder of est, which was gobbled up by “seekers” of the 60’s and 70’s. Landmark, I believe, began with the purchase of the est “technology.” I wonder if their recruitment methods have changed much. Interesting story, and easily Googled.

  11. Anonymous said:

    I did the Forum more than ten years ago, and still consider it the most profound event of my life (other than the birth of my children). I believe it’s the only thing I’ve done I would recommend to anyone. When I meet someone who has done that work I know a level of conversation is available that is not present with most people. My estimation of you, Kristin, has risen; just knowing you were open and courageous enough to take this on.

  12. blueberri said:

    Agent Kristin,

    Thanks for the great advice! If I would have sold my first submitted ms, I would have wondered what the challenge is in writing? I need a mountain of a obstacles to keep my interest going.

  13. Anonymous said:

    Sha’el Pixie Princess,

    I’ve always pictured pixies as being as big as Tinkerbell. So how could one bear (let alone, uh, conceive) a human’s child? Or should we not even go there?

  14. Anonymous said:

    I can understand setting aside a first novel that couldn’t be placed to go onto a new one. But for certain kinds of nonfiction, I just don’t see that as possible.

    My narrative nonfiction book will tell the unfinished story of a historical figure who disappeared at the height of his worldwide fame. My next book will be a true crime story of a sensational murder in Utah prior to the Gary Gilmore case. Since my proposal for the first book has found very encouraging responses from agents, but nothing beyond that, I could set it aside for the second.

    But, quite aside from my skill (or lack of it) in telling the story, it just MUST be told. Someone else will do it if I don’t, though it would take years to find the clues I’ve found to the man’s life and motives.

    I have changed the approach and the structure and everything else, it seems, that some very good agents have recommended, and I’ll keep working the book until it captures an audience. But it’s something other than courage (and thank you for that wonderful compliment to writers, Kristin Nelson); it’s almost that the man insists, from the grave, that his story be told.

    Gotta listen; gotta do it.

  15. Sha'el, Princess of Pixies said:

    Dear Anon.,

    Ah, but Pixies average about four feet in height. Some are taller. Pixies aren’t what you think. They aren’t Tinkerbellish, neither are they little blue creatures from Cornwall. Pixies are human, though on the extreme edge of what is possible for humans. And pixies aren’t fairies.

    In Pixie myth they are depicted as small, but not miniature, humans. One of the oldest Christianized Pixie myths makes them Eve’s dirty children whom she hid when God came to inspect. He condemned them to be hidden forever. I mention that myth in my book. Sha’el considers the story scandalous, but with an element of truth. Implicit in that myth is that they are human. Remember too, Morgan le Fay, was a full sized woman, Fay though she was. The world of myth is very interesting, and I’ve used it but with interesting twists.

    A lot of research went into my book. Hopefully it doesn’t show. I hope I’ve erased anything that smacks of research, and that everything is a natural part of the story. I’ve created a Pixie culture that is based on ancient cultures (I have a back ground in history) and on my imagination. I’ve given them a language of their own, though they can speak human languages. (If you are really good, you’ll be able to figure out on what real language I’ve patterned Pixie speech.) They live among us, or at least visit at will.

    My Pixies nest, are almost totally female, and have a two-week gestation. There is the pregnancy hunt. Pixies are born talking. At birth, Sha’el fits in her father’s hand. She will reach her full stature with in a year, but at the start of the story she can hide in her father’s large coat pocket.

    Marrying a pixie takes a man on a wild and unpredictable ride into an unexpected world. Sha’el, the narrative voice, tells her readers that while the world is a magical place, there is no magic. I’ve eliminated magic from the story. If it isn’t science (though unexplained) or just biology, it isn’t in there. But, Robert is taken into a world where Dragons exist and aren’t what you think. Pixies can talk to most creatures, and they display their emotions in wing colour. And, as Sha’el explains, they aren’t especially rational. It’s a world where literacy is counted in the ability to sing and dance.

    Robert and Sha’na (Sha is the name of her house. Na is her given name) are faced with hiding their family, fighting bad men and evil pixie-eating beasts. Sha’el becomes the predicted Pixie Warrior. Her twin sisters have special talents that derive from their mother being cured with dragon’s milk.

    There is a considerable “back story” in my notes. If Pixie Warrior (working title) is ever published, there is enough for a series. I have a rough outline for two more and another is in the thinking stage.

  16. Anonymous said:

    Sha’el Pixie Princess,

    Thanks for the explanation. Your book sounds good; I’ll buy it once it’s published.

  17. Lady M said:

    Isn’t she (Glenda) a fantastic inspiration?

    Folks, if you haven’t read Glenda’s blog and you’re reading this – take heart. If anyone has been there, done that, she has.

    Take a little time and get a quick read – and realize that she gives you a little more faith that if there is a will, there is a way.

    Lady M

  18. Anonymous said:

    Just don’t YOU get too attached to the story you tell yourself about the Landmark Forum.

    And watch out, they will suck you in and bleed you out of every dime they can….

    A cult is a cult is a cult…

  19. Glenda Larke said:

    Thanks for the kind words – and the birthday greetings. I am rather taken with the idea that I am an inspiration to someone! Now all I have to do is remember to re-inspire myself on those occasional days when writing seems a chore rather than a joy…

    Someone once asked Ursula LeGuin what she would be if she wasn’t a writer, to which she replied: “Dead.” Well, that goes for me, too.

    Still very much alive,