Devoted fans of Robert Heinlein and folks who only want to read holiday posts should probably skip my blog today.
There's something that has been bugging me, no pun intended, since I saw the movie adaptation of Heinlein's Starship Troopers back in '98. Now I understand from reading comparisons made by serious fans that the book and the movie aren't the same. Nor would I dare suggest otherwise since I haven't read the book and have no plans to. But (evidently) both the book and the movie have the same basic plot: future humans enter the military, train, go into space to find and fight giant alien bugs using long-range attacks to wipe out earth.
In the movie soldiers were sent across space to fight these bugs with fairly traditional air and ground forces; the same response humans use to combat other humans. And the troopers are slaughtered wholesale for most of the movie. So here's my question: in the future, there's no imiprothrin or cypermethrin*? Because you know, you drop some planetary-size nukes loaded to deliver those two active ingredients, and they'd kill the bugs on contact. And keep killing for up to four weeks after you bombed. Other than building the nukes and shooting them into space, no troop involvement would be required. NASA could handle it with a couple of Titan IVs.
How this relates to writing (because, of course, everything relates to writing): if you don't assess a problem correctly, you can't respond to it adequately. To kill a bug, you need a bug killer. Whatever problem you're having with your WIP or your work or your career, sending in the Marines won't work. You have to look at the problem then tailor a response that has the best chance of solving it.
Here's a recent industry example: The author vs. selling a debut novel. Author A writes a kickass debut novel with a fresh approach to an old genre standard, gets major pre-order buzz, wows the readers and ends up an overnight success. A year later, Author B publishes a knockoff of Author A's novel, is given a huge promotional push by the publisher in hopes of artificially generating the major pre-order buzz Author A got, drives off the readers with the hard sell and poor imitation, and ends up tanking badly.
They both did virtually the same thing -- and Author B got a multimillion-dollar book campaign that Author A was never given, so B should have actually done better. Where did Author B go wrong or, more correctly, where did Author A go right?
Two words say it all about Author A: fresh approach. What made A's novel kickass? The fresh approach. What got the pre-order buzz? The fresh approach. What wowed the readers? The fresh approach. What did B do? The exact opposite of what worked for A.
It's not always as simple as the situation with Author A and B. You may not have the means to give the best response to your problem. Or, however carefully you tailor your response, it may not solve it. That's when you reassess and tailor another response modified by the information you gather from the failure of the first attempt. It's like directions on shampoo bottles: Lather, rinse, repeat if necessary.
Okay, now you can yell at me for dissing Heinlein.
*the active ingredients in Raid Ant & Roach Killer