It spawned 5,032 tweets per minute at its peak (about 84 tweets each second)…for a movie about a hurricane that spawns tornadoes filled with sharks that bring down people, helicopters, and houses.
What can you possibly learn from this movie about writing, beyond the fact that people will watch anything scripted for the SyFy channel? At first glance at the “amazing” poster, it seems pretty clear that there is little about blogging and content marketing in the movie.
The sharks don’t win.
Sure, they get in a few good bites, but in the end, the “hero” prevails and it’s messy. In the interest of learning something meaningful from all of life’s experiences, even the ridiculous ones, can writers find anything of value from Sharknado and its messy heroic win?
Most certainly. After watching Sharknado, you will realize that, as a writer, you need to:
1. Think on your feet.
A change in the blogging schedule meant I had 40 minutes to write and publish a post. Those weren’t ideal conditions, but I did it. I cranked out the blog post, and sent it on to my team to peer review. Hayden responded back, after reviewing the post.
“I literally thought as I read: here’s what 10+ years of blogging and disciplined writing gets you,” he said, and it was the first time I realized that constant long-term blogging gives you the skills to think on your feet when you have to. Long-term practice makes it possible for you to think on your feet.
It will happen. You’ll have about 30 minutes to write a blog post. Can you do it? You’d better have a process, the confidence, and the ability to write out of nowhere.
Which leads to the next point…
2. Maintain situational awareness.
In Sharknado, the sharks were coming from every direction–air, land, water, living room–and the hero had to be aware of his surroundings to stay alive.
In those moments when you have to think on your feet, you’ll need situational awareness.
To pull off that last-minute blog post, I referred to a list of running ideas I am constantly tracking. I’m always making note of blog ideas because in those intense moments, you’d better have something in the bank.
And to get those things, you’ll have to be aware of how just about anything could be a blog post and bank those ideas.
3. Carry all-purpose tools.
Whether a handy set of rock-climbing tools, the ability to fly helicopters, or knowledge of chemical engineering to create explosives, the heroes of Sharknado were ready for anything.
Writers, have a set of tools to help you approach every situation. Those tools might be as obvious as apps and services, like an editorial calendar or project management, that make writing easier, or they might be more abstract. For example, remember that last-minute post I had to write? One of my tools is my own blogging “system.” It’s how I break down and approach a blogging topic. It’s how I handle writer’s block.
I always start with an initial gut reaction to a topic or idea. When this Sharknado post was suggested, my first thought on the story line was “survive the impossible.” Then, I ask questions. What’s my angle? Who is the audience? how am I approaching this topic? Lecture? Story? What is the point of view? First person? Present tense? Narrative? Bullet point? From there, my system delves into the mechanics of drafting, self-editing, and writing in a way that has always worked for me.
You find out what works, and you keep it all in your tool chest.
4. Find high ground.
As the waters rose and the hungry sharks were everywhere, the Sharknado heroes had to find higher ground or drown/be eaten.
I don’t have much to say about this that you don’t already know, but…don’t degrade yourself by writing snarky, foul, or low-brow content. There’s enough of that online, most of it found in the comments section of YouTube. A controversial post once in a while that gets conversation flying is fine, but if you’re that blogger whose every post is a rant, you’re going to burn everyone out eventually, except for your creepiest stalker fans. You can’t help but smash toes at some point, with all that ranting.
Find the high ground, and make your stand with your pen (or keyboard) there.
5. Know how to use a chainsaw.
Yes, at the end, a chainsaw saves the lives of people, including a hardcore Sharknado-style Jonah.
This is a practical tip, when you’re in the act of writing.
Nothing is too precious or too big to get cut out. Cut your way out of a tight spot; when you’ve written yourself into a corner, try cutting. Cut and kill the beasts in your writing. Cut, cut, cut. Cut out adverbs, adjectives, favorite paragraphs, any and all things that slow readers down. Cut out the paragraphs that keep getting longer even as they say less and less. Cut your most brilliant thoughts.
Above all, there is no situation too ridiculous, no topic too far gone, that you can’t come up with something. There is always an approach, there is always an angle, even if, for lack of anything else, you write about how there really was no angle.
When the going gets tough and the sharks are flying through the air seeking to devour, pull out your pen and write about it.