It’s Okay to Say No

IMG_0489Really. It is. It might not be easy. It might be nerve racking. But it’s okay to do it.

“I value your opinion, but that just doesn’t work for me.”

You finish your manuscript. You love it. You maybe have some spots that you are iffy on–does it work or doesn’t it? Was that character arc pronounced enough? What about the overall arc? How about that one scene? Did it fit? So you send it off to your trusted beta readers and/or critique partners and you wait.

Then comes the day when you get their feedback. And it’s amazing. Yes that works. No that character arc isn’t quite as sharp as it could be. The overall arc rocks. Keep that scene. But, hey, did you think about making your heroine a circus performer instead of the accountant she currently is, because I really think that would fit her better…

*record scratch*

Okay, so probably a trusted beta/CP isn’t going to say something like this, but you get my drift. They spot something in the MS, suggest a change, and you just stare at the suggestion, scratching your head. No. No, that doesn’t feel right at all.

And you know what? That’s okay.

Not taking that advice, not implementing that particular suggestion does not in any way belittle all the other suggestions they’ve given (that you’ve taken). It doesn’t make them think, man, I am never reading for him/her again because s/he doesn’t do everything I suggest! (And, I gotta tell you, if they do think this, don’t let the door hitcha…)

The bottom line is, this is your baby. No one–no one–knows it as well as you do. If something doesn’t feel right in your gut–no matter how great of a suggestion it is–it’s okay to say no.

“I’d love to work with you, but your vision for my manuscript doesn’t mesh with mine.”

You’ve been in the querying trenches for a while. And suddenly you have a bite. An agent–a great agent!–wants a partial. And then a full. And then s/he requests a phone call to discuss some ideas for your book. You’re excited. On cloud 9. It might not be an offer, but this agent wants to talk to you! That’s amazing!

So you take the call. And you talk. And listen. And what you find out sort of makes your gut go all knotty. There’s a headache brewing behind your left eye as you try to work out the changes the agent suggested for a R&R (revise and resubmit). You would love to work with this agent, but… God. These changes would change everything. It would make it so far off from what your original vision for the book was, it’s really not even the same thing.

Just like with the betas/CPs, it’s okay to walk away from this. It’s okay to say, I love your work, I think you’re great, but you don’t see what I see in this manuscript, so I’m sorry. It’s okay to walk away from that.

And I know it’s hard. I know. I had a R&R on Caged in Winter from an agent whom I loved. We met in person. We clicked. I admired all the work she’d done for previous clients. I was so excited when I got the call from her. And then everything fizzled because, well, her ideas didn’t work for my book. So I didn’t do them.

That’s it. I just didn’t do them. It’s okay to say no.

“I love how you’ve been able to shape other writers’ careers, but I just don’t think we mesh.”

You know the score. Query trenches. Partials. Fulls. Months of waiting and waiting and waiting. Refreshing that e-mail. Waiting some more. And then–wham! An agent graces you with The Call. S/he wants to represent you. S/he loves your book just how it is, with maybe a few edits here or there. S/he has a list of editors already picked out and knows just who to target.

But. Well. There’s this thing. It could be an intangible thing, a gut feeling you just can’t put your finger on. It could be something more than that–maybe you saw them say something vastly against your beliefs. Maybe s/he was a total jerk to someone online. Whatever the reason, your gut is telling you no. But your brain is screaming, but what if this is our only chance?!

It’s not. I promise. If your manuscript caught the eye of one agent, it will catch the eye of another. It might take time, but it will be worth the wait. Because being with an agent you don’t mesh with, one who doesn’t fit well with your personality or your writing style or whatever, is worse than not having an agent at all. (Or so I’ve been told…)

Just because you have that offer doesn’t mean you have to say yes.

It’s okay to say no.


It’s Okay to Say No — 6 Comments

  1. This is such great advice, Brighton. I had a very well meaning friend who heard the summary (not read what I’ve written so far) of a historical novel I’m working on. God love her, she suggested I change the race of my heroine to amp up the conflict. Love you, Boo, but…no. And that’s okay, because we’re friends and we can be honest with each other about things like that. But whether it’s a friend, a reader, an agent, or your Aunt Marge, the rule still applies. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I often feel bad when I get feedback and not only does it not gel with my vision but actually goes against it. I feel like I’ve wasted their time. I just thank them for their comments and move on. Even if I feel they’ve been rude about it. I just tuck it under my hat for future reference.

    • Good for you that you can do that! I’m pretty lucky in that all my beta readers are awesome. They give critique and things that need to be worked on, but they’re always pleasant and supportive about it. :)

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