Friday, June 6, 2014

4 Craft of Writing: The Art of Saying No by Jenn Johansson

Jenn Johansson knows how to turn up the creep factor in her books. With the sequel to her 2013 Paranormal Thriller INSOMNIA coming out on the 8th of June, advanced reviews of PARANOIA are saying it's even better than the first! I personally can't wait to get my hands on the book.

The Art of Saying No by Jenn Johansson

I’m not one of those many authors who seems like they were born with a pen in one hand and a manuscript in the other. In fact, I never even thought I wanted to write. I’ve always loved reading, but the few times I’ve been given writing assignments throughout school, I pretty much did what I had to do to earn the grade and then moved on.

At my university, I was supposed to complete two required semesters for the school newspaper. I hated my first semester with such a fiery passion that I actually made arrangements with my school counselor to do a substitute course (re: AND clean his office on weekends) to get out of taking the second semester.

This is how much I did not believe I enjoyed writing.

This is all to say that I spent a lot of time doing other things before I got around to my writing journey. Any and all of my writing related experience prior to actually becoming an author was in the avenue of marketing. While these paths are definitely intertwined, I think most authors would agree that the two areas of focus are often at odds once you become published.

Much of the time that an author spends on writing is time that they are not spending on marketing efforts and vice versa. Although it definitely can (and should) be argued that any time spent improving your craft will improve your marketability and draw in more readers…but that is a different discussion for an entirely different post.
As I am a still fairly new author with a background in marketing, one of the hardest things that I still struggle with on a regular basis is learning to say no. Every time I get a request for an interview, an invitation to a conference, or I stumble across a marketing idea that I hadn’t come up with before, everything in my training and background screams, “YES! Do it! You might reach new readers! You can find a new audience!”

And as I’ve discovered going into the release of Book #2, these opportunities do not slow down the further you get into your career, they just become more plentiful—which is both fabulous…and also exacerbates my difficulty.
Let me clarify: the problem isn’t that my instinct wants to do these things. This is a very good thing. Most authors wish their instincts wanted to do marketing. I’m sincerely grateful that my background is in this area and it has absolutely benefitted my career on many occasions. My problem is that my instinct wants to do ALL the things.

No one should do ALL the things. Doing ALL the things is bad.

If you try to do ALL the things, you end up being able to do NONE of the things very well…and while that list will include many very important things, one of those is definitely going to be writing. As you all probably know, if you don’t do the writing well, then you won’t be doing it for very long.

One of my goals for my writing has always been for it to be a career. I don’t want this to be short-lived. I’ve sold 5 books so far and if I have my way this is just the very beginning. I am far from hitting my stride and I want to be doing this for the rest of my life…or until I can buy a small island, whichever comes first.

To this end, I work daily on prioritizing and practicing the art of saying no. Not all of my marketing ideas are created equal. I pay close attention to which things work and which things don’t. I am willing to try new ideas, but I only try them if I feel like I’ve given them the best chance I can at succeeding, and then I learn from whether they were a success or not. If they weren’t, I try to decide if I know what I could have done differently to achieve different results. Until I feel like I have a good plan for that, then I don’t pursue that avenue again because it is no longer worth the time that I invested in it.

I’m not a marketer first anymore, I’m an author first. I try to remember that and make sure I say no to enough marketing things that I always leave time for the most important thing I can do to help my career move forward, which is to keep writing.

This entire post applies to many other jobs if you substitute a few key words, the point is, we all have things we have to say no to in order to focus on our writing. Make sure you’re saying no (and yes) to the right things for you to find success in your career. Take yourself seriously or no one else will either.

About The Author

Jenn Johansson is a young adult thriller author represented by Kathleen Rushall of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. Her debut novel, INSOMNIA was released in Spring/Summer 2013 with Flux.

She loves reading, playing board games, and sitting in her hot tub. Jenn's dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

About The Book

In the aftermath of the events that nearly killed him, Parker Chipp is trying to learn to cope better with life as a Watcher. And it seems to be working...until he wakes up in jail with a hangover and 12 hours of missing time. Darkness has somehow taken control and Parker doesn't have a clue how to stop him. He finds an unlikely ally in Jack, the mysterious guy in the motorcycle jacket who offers to help Parker master his abilities as a Watcher. But even as they practice, the darkness inside Parker is getting more and more powerful, taking over Parker’s body and doing everything he can to destroy Parker's life.

When Jack reveals that there is another kind of Night Walker, known as a Taker, Parker starts to wonder if the strange things happening in Oakville are more than just a coincidence. After all, people are more than just sleepwalking. They're emptying their savings accounts with no memory of doing so, wandering into strange parts of town and disappearing, they're even killing other people--all in their sleep. If Parker wants to find out what's happening or have any hope of seeing his father again, he’ll have to defy Jack and put his own life in danger...because the more he learns about these other Night Walkers, the more certain he becomes that his life isn't the only one that could be lost.

Amazon | IndieBound | Goodreads


  1. Thank you for saying it. I've gotten caught up in the you-must-market-now! craze that has spawned a million hashtags with little results. Oddly, you can't sell book if you haven't written one yet. If we go with the theory that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert at anything (5 years @ 8 hours per weekday), then why bother tweeting about your WIP if you've got 8,000 hours left? As if, when your book releases, it will gain instant success because of your loyal twitter followers, who've been infinitely patient for the last 4 years. Let's spend more time on craft and less on facebook, then maybe we'll have something worth selling.

  2. Great post. This is good information for all writers, but especially those at the beginning of their tenure. Thanks.

  3. Thanks for this. I do PR for my day job and sometimes it's hard to give myself permission to turn off that part of my brain and just write, instead of writing AND worrying about the 1001 things I'm NOT doing at that very second from a marketing perspective.

  4. GREAT post, Jenn! And great advice. I'm exactly like you. I hear a new idea and immediately want to do ALL THE THINGS. And that means the writing suffers.


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