Be Careful What You Learn! Says Eric Trant, Author of WINK

ImageAuthor Eric Trant is here today on a WOW! Book Tour, sharing his wisdom on branding yourself as a writer and the perils therein. And honestly, he made me smile–and nod in agreement. The man makes some good points. So on to Eric and his good points:

Be careful what you learn. I have said that over and over in my engineering career, and I will say it again to my fellow writers. Be careful what you learn!

Why is that? you may ask.

Well, I answer, it’s simple. It’s because once you learn something, and once you become good at it, people will want you to do that thing you learned and are good at.

Let’s say you like old-school sci-fi, Heinlein and Azimov and Clarke, but everyone believes Young Adult (YA) fantasy is hot right now, and so you write a YA fantasy book. It stinks, but YA fantasy really is hot and you land a contract and it’s all hands on deck, hallelujah! The book takes off even though it is not your best work, and the publisher asks that you write a second novel in the trilogy. It wasn’t a trilogy, that’s what you say, and they respond, Well, it is now.ย Wah-kiche.

That last part is the whip cracking.

So with bloody fingers you crank out a second novel and when you get to the third book they say, Split the last one into three books. These things stink like last week’s diapers, but the kids can’t get enough of it! Thank God for public schools!

You write more and they sell like crazy, and when you are famous and the movies are finished and you are rich and fat and completely loathing yourself for what you did to America’s youth, you begin work on your true passion, a space-opera about the last planet around a dying sun with deeply-drawn characters and stunning visuals and moral dilemmas and lessons and Holy cow, this is your crowning work! We’re talking Hugo! Heck, we’re talking Pulitzer!

Wrong. Nobody reads your magnificent space-opera because you are a YA fantasy writer who writes hack YA fantasy novels that are rebirthed as unwatchable YA fantasy movies.

So the best advice is to be careful what you learn. Be good at something you love. If you love romance, do not write YA fantasy just because it is popular. If you love old-school rock, don’t learn to play C&W just because it is popular. If you want to be a serious actor, don’t hit the stand-up comedy clubs just because it is fast cash.

Be careful what you learn!

What are your thoughts? Have you ever become good at something you wished you had not? Do you apply this rule to your writing, and to your career and life in general?

PS. I don’t mean to pick on YA fantasy or imply it is cut-rate writing. YA is nothing more sinister than a well-written story that involves children as the main characters, and fantasy is nothing more mysterious than bending the rules of reality. I personally favor that genre considerably, as anyone who readย Winkย can attest.

I’m right, right? Very good points. But I suppose I should add a caveat to Eric’s sage advice. You have to learn something–and be really good at it--to be branded. Which brings me to Eric Trant’s novel, WINK.

ImageIn this thriller set in a rural Gulf Coast town, Marty Jameson finds refuge in the attic from his mother’s abusive rages. But only during the day. At night the attic holds terrors even beyond what he witnesses in his home. With a family made up of a psychotic mother, a drug-dealing father and a comatose older brother withering away in the spare bedroom, Marty feels trapped.

Next door, wheel-chair bound Sadie Marsh obsessively watches Marty’s comings and goings from her bedroom window, despite her mother’s warning about the evil in that house. Evil which appears to Sadie as huge black-winged creatures.

Marty, emotionally torn by the violence and dysfunction in his family, is drawn to Sadie and her kindly mother. But if he is to save his new friend from the supernatural horror threatening them all, Marty must transform himself from victim to hero. And to do so, he must first confront what lurks hidden in the shadows of his attic.

Holy moly, that sounds good, right? And you can win a copy of the supernatural thriller, WINK. Just leave a comment–maybe answer Eric’s questions. I’d love to know what you think about being good at what you learn.

But just in case you don’t win WINK, check out Eric’s website for more information on where you can find his novel.

And P.S. You’re going to find much more than just a wonderful writer.

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15 thoughts on “Be Careful What You Learn! Says Eric Trant, Author of WINK

  1. Awesome guest post Eric and I’m happy to hear that Cathy loved Wink!

    To answer one of Eric’s great questions – in my previous career I was in the collections business. I was good at what I did and advanced quickly. The problem was that I felt badly in so many situations because I’ve been on the “robbing from Peter to pay Paul” side of things and I know people’s financial struggles first hand. It was one of those things where I was proud of being able to support my family but sometimes I felt I was doing it at the expense of others.

    My current career is a much better choice, I can raise my head high and proudly tell you what I do and why…so I guess I maybe learned too much before?

    ~Crysta

  2. Yikes, this hits close to home.

    I began this craft wanting to write mystery and suspense. Cosies a la Christie-style, set in the modern era. I began with short stories and really enjoyed imagining and writing mysteries.

    Yet, when it came time to write my first novel, it was historical-fiction which grabbed my attention. I feel very passionate about telling this ONE story. Truth be told, though, I don’t have another book in that series planned, and only one other historical-fiction plot in the seedling-stage.

    I’ve worried about this first book defining my future as a novelist. History holds great attraction for me, and I do study it on a personal level, I just have not considered this my “niche.” I have an “eye for detail” that works well when writing mystery and that is the genre I most like to read. Yet, I worry this first novel might compromise my path to that goal.

    Then again, as you point out, Cathy, that first book has to be REALLY GOOD for it to brand me. I don’t hold any such delusions of grandeur, but I do have high hopes for a story I believe is “waiting impatiently to be told.”

    What to do, what to do?

  3. Cathy, first off thanks for hosting. Much appreciated. Being branded bad is a brand, too. For instance, Randall “Tex” Cobb is famous for suffering the worst defeat in all of boxing history. His claim to fame is that he did not give up but kept fighting, so he was really good at not falling down. At one point he looks at the camera and says, Bring on the buzz saw, baby!

    Crystal, I love what you do now, too! For those who do not know, she is the instigator who set up my Wink blog tour. Highly recommend her.

    Gail, You can be branded as multi-genre, too. Neil Gaiman is a fine example of this with everything from graphic novels to poetry to movies and books to his credit, and both Dean Koontz and John Grisham write children’s books. So don’t limit yourself mentally. It is at this beginning stage that we define ourselves as writers.

    – Eric

    • Thanks for the encouragement, Eric. Your comment about limiting oneself mentally also struck home with me. I realize that’s exactly the shape of the demon with whom I’ve been struggling. This doubt may also have been interfering with the revision process of my h-f novel.

      Perhaps “passionate drive” is the best litmus test for any project — if it’s not present, no amount of success will redeem the work in the eyes of its creator.

  4. For years I have worked as a freelance writer and editor and apparently I’m so good at the non-fiction writing that my first drafts of fiction tend to sound like newspaper articles. I’m working hard to overcome this, which is why I love the subtitle of Cathy’s blog so much (Rewriting is a whole ‘nother story indeed!) Insightful post, Eric!

  5. Cathy–Thanks for exposing us to Eric and his distinct voice (even in this little snippet, it comes through loud and clear).

    Eric–Thanks for the advice, and for the sound of the whip cracking. (I will use that at some point–the sound, not the whip itself ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Wink DOES sound a great read (and it’s a fantastic cover, although as an author, I don’t know if you, Eric, are happy with the cover. Hopefully you are…

  6. Oh my gosh! This is so true. To flip the theory around a bit, my husband has perfected the art of being terrible at what he does NOT want to do (laundry, dishes, etc.) – and excellent at many other things that he enjoys. I need to learn from Eric (and my hubs) and focus on being good at what I enjoy – – also, probably hiring a housekeeper. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. I know exactly what you mean, Sioux! Makes me want to run out and buy the book!

    And Tanya, the Beneficent Mr. Hall is an old pro at that. But two can play that game (if willing to throw out the ruined clothes and eat crappy food. So yeah, totally me.) ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks, Renee! I do a LOT more rewriting than writing! ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And thank YOU, Eric! Loved having you here! (And I love Neil Gaiman, too. No matter what he writes.)

  8. Eric’s book sounds wonderful. I know exactly what he means about branding. Most people in my writer’s guild know that I am frequently published in Chicken Soup for the Soul books. Many were stunned when my poem won a big poetry contest in town. They couldn’t believe I also write poetry. Since then I have been invited to read at poetry events.

  9. Eric, your book sounds so interesting!

    I love what you say here. It’s so important to follow your passion. I sometimes have to remind myself of this on my kids’ behalf. My 10-year old son is so naturally talented at baseball, but he doesn’t love it. As a parent, do I let him throw away this natural talent that so many other kids wish they had, or do I make him play and hope that he develops a love for it down the line? In the end, I let him choose his own path (lacrosse). He’s never played before, but he loves it. And the talent is still there within, it just needs to be nurtured in this new area. I feel the same way about us grownups. Do what you love. Your natural talents are still there, they just need to be nurtured.

    It’s a great reminder!

    • Thanks, Muddy–some excellent thoughts from you as well! ๐Ÿ™‚ (P.S. I let Oldest Junior Hall quit Orchestra because I didn’t want him to end up hating music–he got stuck with the cello–and when he was 20, he started playing guitar, on his own. He owns three now, so I guess he found his true love with the right instrument!)

  10. Pingback: Answering Questions About G (Giveaway and Genre Map) | Cathy C. Hall

  11. Excellent points, Eric! I actually stopped querying a couple of years back after a conversation with an agent about this very topic. I knew I had that ‘one’ book in me but I didn’t want to write those stories forever as the stories that pulled at me were of a different genre entirely. I took a long time to write stories for myself in different genres to see exactly where my heart lay. I think I have it now!

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