The Martian, a movie based on the book of the same name by Andy Weir, is the story of an astronaut who gets stranded alone on Mars. Part of a science expedition, he has the habitat his team lived in, along with their month's worth of supplies. Using his scientific ingenuity, he makes his supplies last for over a year, staying alive until he can be rescued. Besides being fantastic entertainment, The Martian teaches many lessons that authors can take away from the theater. Here are five of them.
Good Ideas Come From Strange Places
When Mark Watney, the Mars astronaut, is trying to figure out how to make his food supplies stretch, he comes upon a sealed package of whole potatoes. This gives him the idea of fertilizing Martian soil and growing his own food. Ideas for your books can come in unexpected places, too. Eavesdrop on restaurant conversations to find characters for you books. Look around small towns on vacation to find novel settings. Be open to new experiences, and use them to add flavor to your books.
Sometimes You Need Help
Watney survived on his own for over a year, but when it came to getting off the surface and into space, he had the best scientists in the world working together to help him. You may not need a team of rocket scientists, but you do need editors, book cover designers, beta readers, and any number of other people to help publish your book. No one does it alone.
Everything Watney did was in response to a life-or-death situation. He had to carefully calculate everything over and over again, and had to be prepared at all times. He couldn't let anything slide. The same goes for writing and marketing your book. "Good enough" just isn't. Make detailed lists of everything you need to do, and follow up on every aspect. Covering all your bases is the best way to make sure you make the most of your book marketing efforts.
Mark Watney was an engineer, but he was also a botanist. He wouldn't have survived without either one of those specialties. Knowing about plants doesn't seem like a crucial skill for an astronaut, but it saved his life. Take advantage of every learning opportunity you find. Take free online college classes. Join local groups to learn new skills. Read widely, both fiction and non-fiction. The wider your experience and education, the more flavor and interest you can add to your work.
Failure is Never an Option
Mark Watney may have been an optimistic engineering geek most of the time, but even he had moments when it looked like he was going to break. Stress and bad breaks get to everyone. But, like Watney, wallowing in your stress for long periods of time can do more harm than good. Take a look at failures and figure out why they failed, then move on to do something better the next time. There is no excuse for quitting, only reasons for improvement.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!