Kyle Warner

Writer. Reluctant blogger. I exist. Hello. Hello? HELLOOOOOO?!

10 Writing Lessons Learned from Toho's Godzilla Series

As writers, we can only dream about the sort of success the Godzilla series has seen. I mean, the first film came out 60 years ago. There are thirty movies, tons of merchandize, videogames, comics, and novels, too! Godzilla has been through a lot of ups and downs over the years, but the creation has staying power. 

Maybe we can learn a thing or two from the big guy...

1) Don’t be afraid to evolve to meet the audience’s demands—In the 1954 original, Godzilla was depicted as the walking embodiment of the nuclear bomb. What the beast brought to Tokyo was a glimpse not only of horrors past, but of a potential apocalyptic future. Less than a decade later, Godzilla movies were full of humor, wonder, and escapism. The message of nuclear holocaust was sidelined in favor of monster fights, likable heroes, and a softer Godzilla. The dark origins of the monster were touched on here and there, but for a while there Godzilla became a giant superhero, thus satisfying the demands of children (of all ages) who wanted to root for the monster instead of fear him. There’s a lesson here. I love the original film – it’s a grim masterpiece and one of the best sci-fi/horror movies of all time. I would not have minded if more Godzilla films were made in a similar tone. However, I have no doubt that the shift in tone is what allowed the series to go on as long as it has. Get an idea of what your audience wants and do your best to deliver.

2) Monsters and metaphors—Science fiction and horror give us the chance to tackle the problems of the day in an indirect way, allowing us to have our message without being pretentious about it. This is important. If you talk to someone for an hour about what you feel is wrong with the world, then chances are they will only hear some annoying buzzing in their ear. However, if you disguise your message as a monster, an alien invader, an invention, fictional political unrest, or whatever, then you’ll sneak your message in there without people getting bored by it. With any luck, it’ll take hold. This is especially good for young readers, as they’re more willing to learn a lesson from a monster.
3) Crank that shit out—The film industry of Japan was a well-oiled machine in the 1960s. There was one year where Japan’s output outmatched even Hollywood’s (right now, the Japanese film industry is in the dumps, but that’s a lesson for another day). You could pretty much count on a new Godzilla film every year – sometimes two new films! – not to mention other similar kaiju epics. Toho found something that audiences loved and the studio supplied the demand. Only when the money started to run out did you notice a dip in quality. Otherwise these were some damn fine films that people still watch today. If your audience wants your next book/movie/sequel/work, give it to them. Don’t sit on it forever. No dillydallying. Give us more and give it to us NOW. Stephen King understands. John Grisham gets it. Marvel knows what I’m talking about. Takashi Miike does his thing. George RR Martin? Well…
4) Don’t recycle—Toho’s money started to run out in the 1970s. The Japanese film industry was getting killed off by TV. Film studios were shut down. Toho marched on, though I don’t think it will ever return to the greatness it once was in the 50s and 60s. Godzilla continued, also, but on a smaller budget than before. Listen: Recycling will save the world. Maybe. I mean, right? Well, yes, recycling is good for Mother Earth – but it has no place in your fiction. Godzilla films from the 70s period were fond of reusing footage from earlier films as a way of cutting costs. The problem was, we came to these movies for monster action, and we’ve seen those shots before. It’s the literary equivalent of copying cool stuff from an earlier book and pasting it into the new one. DON’T DO THAT. Even if your ‘recycling’ is not as severe as a copy-and-paste job, you should know that your audience remembers stuff. Other Godzilla films that did not recycle footage still managed to recycle ideas. We noticed. And though not as unforgivable as using stock footage, the use of ‘stock ideas’ is kind of lame. Throw your aluminum in the properly marked can, but don’t recycle your ideas.
5) The shift from villain to anti-hero—Godzilla used to want to kill everybody. Then he started saving the world. This wasn’t overnight. And, in my opinion, it didn’t feel forced. Godzilla, at his best, is one of the better examples of an anti-hero in all of filmdom. You’ve got this behemoth that sets cities ablaze but still manages to save the day in the end, almost as if his heroics were accidental. And I like that. People dig the rogue. If you and your audience love your villain and he’s something that you feel you can turn into a heroic figure, I say go for it. Just be mindful that you don’t change him so much that you destroy what we liked about him in the first place. Like, you can change a tiger’s stripes but don’t remove his claws. Hmm. Yes, something like that.
6) Recognize when the hero can step back—Godzilla is not the star of all of his films. Actually, a great deal of them feature other monsters more than Big G. Sometimes a supporting character takes off in a way you’d never expect. Don’t smother them, let them share the spotlight with the central lead. Sometimes one likable hero is not enough to keep people coming back. Recognize the talent of your roster and give ‘em time to shine.
7) The Shinichi Sekizawa approach—The common monster story formula goes something like this: Monsters mess shit up and people gotta fix it. Screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa came up with a new formula: People mess shit up and monsters gotta fix it. Sekizawa managed to save an increasingly tired genre by turning it on its head. Look for a way to do the same.
8) Crossovers—A couple of the most profitable Godzilla films of all time are Godzilla vs. Mothra and King Kong vs. Godzilla. What do they have in common? Both Mothra and Kong started out with their own movies before meeting up with Godzilla. Consider this: you’ve written multiple works and have noticed different people are gravitating towards two different series/characters. Why not write something where those characters either team up or are pitted against one another? You may succeed in bringing fans from either series together, thus doubling your audience.
9) Let’s all get along—I like dark, brooding works of fiction, but it need not always be that way. Director Ishiro Honda believed in the best of humanity, despite having seen some of the worst of it in WWII. In his films, he was fond of depicting the world coming together to solve its problems. Angst is popular (look at Batman) but aren’t we a little tired of everybody trying to do the same thing with the ‘dark and gritty’ approach? Think about this simple truth: It is a good thing to stand out from the pack.

10) Have some fun—There’s this thing about Godzilla films that I love but do not fully understand, this sort of childlike innocence on display. It cancels out my inner critic. I just sit back and smile. I’m a cynical guy by nature so this is no easy task. These films tapped into something that I cannot define, but I have learned something from the experience anyway: simply, have some fun. Smile a little. Enjoy whatever it is you’re doing. And whenever possible, try to tap into your child at heart. It’s important. If you’re not having fun with your creative endeavors, then you gotta fix that. 

And that's that.



I love monsters. Always have. Always will. Some of the first movies I can remember seeing were things like Godzilla and Jaws. They left lasting impressions on me. And while I enjoy monsters of all shapes and sizes, I have a soft spot for the kaiju popular in Japanese cinema. I'm talking Godzilla, Gamera, Anguirus, King Ghidorah, and so on. I crave these stories and so I decided I'd like to write my own.
While I probably could write a loving homage to the Godzilla films of old (complete with alien invaders, monster allies, laser weapons, mystical prophets, plucky journalists, and a goofy nerd who saves the day with his otherwise useless invention), this book isn't that. I mean, I think you should know that the love is still there -- I wouldn't be writing the book if I didn't love the genre -- but my story is a different kind of kaiju adventure.
I’m calling it IN THE SHADOW OF EXTINCTION: A KAIJU EPIC. For now. Working title. May change.
Look, a synopsis!
It started with earthquakes and dead whales. Volcanoes erupt along the Ring of Fire, killing thousands and displacing millions. But none of that can compare to what happens when the Yellowstone caldera erupts, killing all plant and animal life for hundreds of miles around, and spreading ash across much of the United States.
Then the beasts started crawling out from the fissures in the earth.
An armored bipedal burrower crawls out of Mt. Fuji and reduces Yokohama to dust and rubble. An eel-like sea monster terrorizes ships in the busy Pacific shipping lanes. Swarms of insect-like creatures lay their eggs in flooded California and quickly overrun the entire state. And somewhere in the dark, ashen landscape walks a predatory behemoth with a hunger that only other giants can hope to satisfy.
Weakened by both the volcanic activity and the monster's might, we turn to the nuclear solution as a means of saving humanity. Cities are destroyed beneath mushroom clouds all around the world in an attempt to kill the monsters. However, the monsters prove immune and their numbers keep growing. Our efforts to stop them have only aided the beasts in reducing our world to ruin.
Mankind's final war lasts only weeks.
This is the story of what comes after.
Governments are disbanded. Our once great cities are deemed potential danger zones. Entire countries are decimated. But there are survivors...
Word is spoken of a great city capable of holding off any monster’s attacks. Pilgrims from around the world make their way over the burnt landscape, walking in the shadows of great monsters, hopeful to find this safe haven in the west.
They call it New Detroit.
But what the pilgrims and the leaders of New Detroit do not know is that the monsters are growing hungry. Following the traveling pilgrims will eventually lead the beasts to Detroit, where the fate of the world will finally be decided.
End synopsis!
The plan is to release the book at the end of the summer. But for now, I'm still working on it. Keep checking back here for future updates, like release dates, cover reveals, and sneak previews!

10 Writing Lessons Learned from MST3K

I expect many of you are familiar with Mystery Science Theater 3000 (otherwise known as MST3K). If not, let me give a brief explanation: MST3K was a comedy TV show that ran through much of the 90s. It showed bad sci-fi/horror/exploitation films, while robots and a human host ridiculed the films from a shadow theater. 
MST3K is one of my favorite shows of all time. Some of the movies are so unbelievably bad that watching them would be insufferable were it not for the constant laughs supplied by the MST writers. It recently occurred to me that I might have actually learned a creative lesson or two from the show. Some of these lessons were learned from the sharp humor of the show’s writers, other lessons were learned from watching such bad films and realizing what mistakes should not be repeated.
So here we go.
1— Don’t make your heroes infinitely superior to the villains, or “Your weapons are useless against me!” – I’m not a fan of Superman. THERE I SAID IT! He has a fix-it superpower for almost every imaginable situation. But he’s not the worst abuser of the overpowered hero problem. No, the worst might be PRINCE OF SPACE, an awful Japanese sci-fi superhero, and the star of one of my favorite MST3K episodes. Basically, nothing kills this Prince guy. In the film, some weird chicken people from outer space come to enslave humanity… but they weren’t counting on Prince of Space! They shoot him with lasers and rockets and stuff and he just stands there like a bastard, absorbing everything they throw at him before shouting, “Your weapons are useless against me!” This happens on repeat for basically the entire film and the chicken aliens NEVER LEARN. The point is this: have some back and forth. I mean, I’m sure most of us want the heroes to win in the end, but we want to see them flirt with failure, too. Make your villains mighty in some way. Let them crush enough of the hero’s world so that the hero is forced to rebuild. And if you really want to go with an unbalanced power struggle, it’s typically better to go with villains who are stronger than the heroes every time.
2— Don’t try to say something when there’s really nothing worth saying, or “Focusing my attention on the good and the beautiful.” – Dig this exchange from the film The Phantom Planet. First, some setting: two astronauts are flying through space and there’s a lull in the action, giving one of the dudes a chance to get deep. He says, “You know, Captain, every year of my life I grow more and more convinced that the wisest and the best is to focus our attention on the good and the beautiful, if we just take the time to look at it.” To which the Captain replies, “You’re some guy.” Seriously. Momma always said if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all. My version: If your characters don’t have anything worth saying, glue their lips shut. It’d be different if this wonderful nugget of dialogue meant something to the story. It doesn’t. There are many examples of this kind of an attempt at getting deep and profound, even in good books and film. It’s excusable but only as long as the dialogue is rich or actually meaningful in some way. But if it just sits there, doing nothing other than making you go HUH? then you gotta cut it out like a cancer and toss it in the biohazard bin.
3— Not every genius must be an eccentric, or “You’re weird, which results in creativity.” – In the bad movies shown on MST3K, artists and geniuses are often times presented as goofy eccentrics. Seriously, you don’t need to be a weirdo to be creative. They don’t necessarily go hand in hand. There’s nothing wrong with weird—I like weird. But it’s not a character requirement for crafting an intelligent inventor, writer, painter, scientist, whatever. Some creative people are actually kind of boring. IT’S TRUE!
4—Don’t make your characters pat you on the back, or “I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing!”—I don’t like it when characters in a book/film remark how eloquent, cool, original, or charming another character is… especially when I, as a member of the audience, fail to see what’s so cool about the dude they’re in love with. It just bothers me. It’s the writer patting him/herself on the back with what they feel is a great character and wonderful dialogue. If you’re writing a comedy, don’t have your characters laughing at the one-liners. If you’re writing an inspirational speech, don’t have a member of the audience remark, “How inspirational!” It’s too obvious. It’s insincere. It’s obnoxious. There’s this do-gooder kid in MST3K’s The Giant Gila Monster who writes and sings his own songs. The kid is devoid of originality but everyone seems to love his music anyway. A radio guy wants to make him into a star with his likely-soon-to-be hit song, which features the chorus, “I sing whenever I sing whenever I sing.” Oy… But even films that have not received the MST3K treatment are guilty of similar sins. Oliver Stone recently made the poor choice to direct a sequel to Wall Street. The sequel is not very good but it’s not an awful film. There is, however, an awful sequence where Michael Douglas’ Gordon Gekko is giving a lecture to students. The lecture is full of one-liners in a desperate attempt to strike gold again and find the next “Greed is good.” No gold is ever found, but in the audience Shia LaBeouf is eating it up. Shia’s in awe and thinks Gekko is awesome. Except, what Gekko’s saying isn’t awesome. I mean, it sure isn’t “greed is good” awesome. As a result, the scene sinks, the Shia character seems like a fanboy for all the wrong reasons, and instead of being happy to have Gekko back we’re mostly just thinking how much happier we’d all be watching the original Wall Street instead. Also, Shia LaBeouf sucks. But anyway, onto #5!
5— If you offer a warning, follow up on it, or “Watch out for snakes!”—Ever heard the written rule… or maybe it’s unwritten. I mean, I never read it, so I don’t know… anyway, ever heard the rule that says if you reveal a gun hidden in a drawer at the beginning, then you gotta have a character use it before the end? While I would normally agree that rules are made to be broken, my time watching MST3K movies has led me to believe this is one you should pay attention to. There are many bad movies that offer up a warning to the characters, but then zero conflict results from this. The ‘gun in the drawer’ rule is a promise to the audience about conflict still to come. Not following up on it is a broken promise and those are BAD. There is this one movie, I believe it was Monster-A-Go-Go, a horror story about a town gripped by fear when a mysterious monster stalks the night… The film ends with one of the characters simply saying, “There was no monster.” Um, okay? Why the hell was I watching your monster movie then?
6—The sequence that goes on forever, or “Saaaaaandstoooooorm!” – Ever gotten to a part in a book or film that just refuses to end? There’s probably a good chance that sequence is there simply to pad the story and give it some length at the sacrifice of your enjoyment. Rock climbs and sandstorms are the mortal enemies of the crew of the Satellite of Love. Not sure why it is, but many MST3K films turn to sandstorms to pad out their running time. Weird. I think the filmmaker’s intentions were to show us the character’s enduring suffering on some level, but all we get are some guys walking through drab shots of shit flying past the camera. NOT FUN. To the filmmakers of Hercules Against the Moon Men: you’re not David Lean and this ain’t Lawrence of Arabia… I’ll always believe it’s better to write a story that’s too short than to write one that’s too long.  
7—Poorly written comic relief characters, or “Oh, for fun!” –While I prefer humor to be sprinkled about in the dialogue by all characters, there are plenty of successful works where most the humor comes from a single comic relief character. Which is fine. But! When you have a script full of humor that’s spread amongst the cast of characters, it’s easier to let the lame ducks slide. However! When you have a script with a single comic relief character, it’s much harder to ignore when his/her jokes fall flat. Your readers may begin dreading the appearance of the jokester and soon enough even the okay jokes feel like a cold shower. Actors say dying is easy and comedy is hard. Let me expand on that: comedy is hard, playing the comic relief is a bitch. The humor better hit the mark, the character better be well-written, and if it’s a film/TV show then the actor better be up to task. Otherwise you get a character like Dropo from Santa Claus Conquers the Martians… acting like an idiot every scene… and the only people laughing are the ones with written orders to do so. (One extra thought on this: drunk humor was apparently funny once upon a time. I guess. I mean, I imagine some people found the drunken comic relief guy from The Giant Gila Monster funny back in the day. Maybe not. Either way, he’s not funny now.)
8— The inequality of gender on film, or “Bad touch!”—There’s this trend in fifties/sixties B-movies where the female characters are presented as being, well, really stupid. Even the smart ones! A woman could be a scientist, a journalist, a doctor, a princess, whatever, but by the third act she basically stops coming up with ideas and steps aside for the male hero (who the woman inevitably falls in love with, even if he’s an asshole—ESPECIALLY if he’s an asshole). Your female character should have more to offer the story other than just being available for the hero’s celebratory sex when he saves the day. I mean, come on. I single out the fifties and sixties, but the simple truth is that little has really changed. Women get more respect now, but feminism is still treated like a dirty word. A step towards correcting that is writing stronger female roles in fiction. Women don’t need a man to save them all the time—they can save themselves and sometimes they can save the guys. Women don’t need to have marriage be their ultimate goal in life—sometimes they’re happy the way they are. And so on. In recent years, Marvel and The Hunger Games are doing a lot of good in changing people’s minds as far as what a girl can do in fiction and fantasy (this is especially important for young boys, I think). But the problem’s not solved, so don’t slack on this issue. Treat all women with respect, even the ones that you created in your head. 
9— When you submit your work to the world, be ready for the criticism, or “…the hell?”—While I would never condone bashing fanfiction or the work of budding artists, the people who made the films which appeared on MST3K were professionals—or at least they liked to think so. As a professional artist, you’re hoping people are going to love your work. However, you must remain aware that the door is open for people to hate your work and make fun of you, too. Right or wrong doesn’t matter. As a professional your work is now going to be part of a great, big ocean—and the ocean is full of sharks with blogs, Amazon reviews, and twitter accounts. There’s a story about an MST3K episode for the movie Time Chasers, which was an ultra-low budget sci-fi film about time travel. The story goes that the filmmakers were huge fans of MST3K and were delighted to have their film featured on the show… but apparently they weren’t ready for the wisecracks that Mike and the bots made while watching their film. Supposedly their thinking was that the movie was going to impress in some way, and that MST3K might stop their jokes and go, “Hey, this is pretty good!” Time Chasers is not one of the worst films to ever appear on the show (far from it), but it’s not good either. And one must remember the point of the show is to have fun with the film they’re watching. I feel kind of bad for the Time Chasers crew, but really, what were they expecting?
10— Write your story your way, or “The right people will get it.” – One of the central ideas of MST3K’s humor is that not everyone will get every joke. The right people will understand certain jokes that fly right over other viewer’s heads. And that’s okay. The show doesn’t dumb itself down to be understood by the whole crowd. Whether you’re writing comedy, drama, or genre fiction, know that the right people will get what you’re trying to do. You can’t satisfy everyone, so don’t even try. Play the fool, make your heroes ugly, get all twisted, give us a dash of your weird sense of humor. You’re gonna confuse some people but the rest of us will love ya for it. 
Thanks for reading. 
Push the button, Frank.

Coming soon... The End of the World and Some Other Things

So, I wanted to take a moment and give an update on what I’ve been working on.


For the last couple years I’ve been writing a dark fantasy series called The End of the World and Some Other Things. If I was to give it the Hollywood pitch, I’d say it’s like Hellboy meets 24.


The first book of the series, Death’s Good Intentions, centers on Trey Decarr, a contract killer chosen by fate to become Death, the Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse. Disgusted by his new post, Decarr decides to resist rather than serve, making himself an enemy of Hell and an unpredictable nuisance for Heaven. Decarr finds himself in a losing battle against both angels and demons, while he scours the globe hunting the other Horsemen in a desperate attempt to stave off Armageddon. Meanwhile, a secret order of the church called the Gatekeepers is tasked with killing Decarr, likening him to a rabid dog that needs to be put down. Leading the team that hunts Decarr is young April Frausini. Her orders are simple: kill Death. But April is conflicted, sensing purpose in Decarr’s wild actions, and believes he could become a trusted ally in the fight to save the world from annihilation.


In addition to Book 1: Death’s Good Intentions, I wrote a couple of shorter prequel stories, which I'm calling Prologues.


The first Prologue is called Blood Child, which follows Ivan Tarkovsky, the man chosen to be Death during WWII. Tarkovsky resisted much like Decarr and suffered in Hell for his defiance, eventually becoming a twisted demon of a man. When Tarkovsky sees Decarr repeating his mistakes in modern day America, Tarkovsky makes it his mission to corrupt Decarr’s soul and put him on the 'proper path.'


The second Prologue is titled The Man with The Devil’s Tongue and focuses on April’s initiation into the Gatekeepers. April learns from her teachers how to master her gifts of sight and see the demons that lurk in the world of man. Meanwhile, one of her college classmates has become possessed by the Devil himself, and seeks to stab at the heart of the Gatekeepers by killing its leaders. 


The Prologues were actually written after Death’s Good Intentions. The original purpose was simply to give readers a cheap gateway into the series—but I really enjoyed working on these prequel stories. It gave me a chance to explore the world and the characters in more detail without worrying about the main story of the series, which doesn’t allow for such deviations. In the future I may write additional Prologues, either focusing on Decarr or April, or maybe other supporting characters that never had the chance to act as the lead.


The stories are completed but I am editing them right now. My plan is to self-publish them sometime in May or June. Still gotta get coverart, too. I’ll offer further updates when I have them.


I’m excited about these stories. The story of Decarr has been in my head for years and it’s gone through many variations (including one abandoned 650 page novel and a sequel to that novel) before becoming what it is today. I like the way it’s turned out and I look forward to sharing the stories with everyone when they’re ready.


In addition to the books of The End of the World and Some Other Things, I’ve also been working on a giant monster epic (I love kaiju!!!). Plus! a short story about creatures living in holes on a deserted island—that one’s weird.  But more on those later!


Thanks for reading!


I've been writing a long time but I'm not done learning. I believe I get better with every book I write and I still go to other writer sites for advice. These are just a few things I have learned in my writing. Take from it what you will.

1) Write the book that you want to read. Chances are you go to the bookstore (LOL, I mean Amazon) with a certain kind of book in mind. Maybe you're easily satisfied with a certain genre of choice, but sometimes you're looking for a very particular kind of book. Chances are, that book hasn't been written. It exists somewhere deep inside you, like a wonderful, literary parasite in your brain – dig it out, put it into words, and share your parasite with the rest of us. . . Ick. Anyway. Don't follow trends as to what's selling. That stuff changes so quickly that even the big wigs can't keep up with it. Write YOUR book, that one you wish was on the bookshelf next to your favorites—that's the one we want to read. 

2) Limit the bullshit as much as possible. Your first draft has too much bullshit. Mine does, too. I think everybody's first draft has too much bullshit. As writers, we're always trying to SAY SOMETHING when often times the characters are saying it all for us. Go through your manuscript, look for bullshit, and cut it out. Sometimes bullshit is beautiful—the prose, the wonderful meaning it represents, and so on. If you're in love with a certain piece of bullshit – indeed, if you love it so much that you don't think it's bullshit at all, but rather BRILLIANT WRITING – then keep it. You know best. But often times this sort of writing sticks out. It smells bad. It's like the literary equivalent of an ingrown toenail just waiting for a table leg. Get surgical.

3) "Write what you know" is like a quote from scripture—everyone has a different idea as to what it means. I'll tell you my idea of what it means. I used to think it meant something very oppressive. Like, if you're a cop, write a crime novel. If you're a doctor, write a medical thriller. If you're a janitor, write. . . a janitor thriller. If this is how that piece of old advice was meant to be read, then that's madness. It's wrong and I feel I can confidently assume that it has ruined the dreams of many an aspiring author over the years. . . I see it like this. I love science fiction and horror. I grew up on books and movies of those genres. I'm one step ahead of the scientist's doubletalk in a piece of sci-fi and I know when the decapitated head is gonna show up in horror. I KNOW these genres. So, I write what I know. I do not however think it is wise for me to write a legal thriller. I liked Boston Legal, but I'm not confident enough to tackle that genre. My legal thriller would have to feature monsters in the courtroom in order for it to work. Nor am I ready to do chick-lit, cozies, romances, police procedurals, and so on. I don't know them like I know what I know. I write what I know I know. Simple? Simple.

4) You'll develop your voice over time. If you're not there yet, don't worry. It'll happen—like puberty! But don't you dare try to mimic someone else’s voice. Nothing feels more inauthentic than trying to be someone else in your writing. I mean, go right ahead pretending to be someone else in real life. That's what I do. But your writing must be honest, it must be YOU. It's even worse if the reader figures out who you're trying to be, because not only then are you found out like a masked bandit, but you've perhaps insulted a reader who is also a fan of the writer you're emulating. . . Listen: You're writer, right? You're goddamn unique already. Don't go trying to smother that under the mask of someone else. Be yourself, it's why we like you. I mean, shit. I thought that was obvious.

5) Use caution writing characters much smarter than you are. Now, your own experiences may vary, but I've found that writing brilliant characters only makes me look dumb because, well, I'm not brilliant. And thus, how can I expect anyone to think my characters are brilliant? I'm just posing and so are my characters. Again, this is just something I have learned about myself and my own writing. You're probably wiser than me, maybe you're even a genius. If so, write your own Sherlock-ish hero and make your money. I will weep and hold Lady Jealousy close. She's the only one who truly understands me!

6) Reading a lot is required for any writer, but you already knew that. I think that movies are important, too. Personally, I've learned a great deal from film. People always say listen to the conversations around you to learn how to write dialogue. This is true, but most conversations we're privy to aren't made up of rich, dramatic material. While I don't recommend that you steal lines from a movie you saw, I do think it's wise to listen to how the characters speak. What lines simply can't be pulled off when spoken aloud? How does line delivery and timing alter a dramatic/funny conversation? How does tension escalate as the conversation goes on? Learn that stuff. There are so many books I read with dialogue that simply couldn't be spoken aloud without a few snickers in the audience. A reader hears voices in his head when reading your words. Make it like the movies, writer friend. Give your characters lines that can be spoken out loud without ridicule.

7) Keep your writing brisk, your paragraphs short, and your rambling under control. People are becoming increasingly impatient and their attention is divided in every direction. I mean, I admit to being an impatient reader. If I'm bored with your prose that seems to be going nowhere, I might skim ahead to the next bit of actual character movement or dialogue. I know I'm bad, but I'm not the only one. Trouble is, before you had to deal with readers who skimmed your work, now you've got worse things to worry about. More and more people are reading their books on tablets (like me!). Unlike a trusty paperback, tablets can do more than just turn from one page to the next. Now you're competing with twitter, tumblr, email, and Fruit Ninja. You have to hold their attention like a vice, making sure they don't minimize their reader and go slice up watermelons. The best way to do this is to keep things going at a good pace and keep the paragraphs short so as not to tempt an impatient reader to look elsewhere.

8) Be bold. If you've got two ways of doing a scene, go with the original, daring choice every time. Not everyone will like it. Some people will hate it, others simply won't understand it. But the right people will dig it. They'll love you for your daring and these are the sort of readers you were after in the first place. There's little use to playing it safe, unless you're writing cute puppy stories. If you're writing cute puppy stories, then by God, play it safe. The cute puppy story crowd will burn you alive if your final chapter ends with the cute puppy in the jaws of an alligator. It's just not done, son. But if you're writing a dramatic piece of fiction, some clouded window to the way that you see the world, then give us all you've got. We can take it.

9) Some people need to write in silence. I get it. The voices in your head may be a quiet bunch, unable to speak out over the television set, the crying baby, or your favorite rock album. I say this: if music soothes your muse's soul, then crank it up. If the TV isn't a distraction but rather a bit of white noise for the background, then turn it on. You know best. There's no rule against it. We're all different. Me, I like listening to instrumental music with my writing. I try to create a soundtrack for my novel, often picking scores that evoke a similar mood to the story I'm working on. It works for me, it might work for you.

10) Write every day. It's difficult, I know. I don't mean you should write the same amount every day. That's too much to put on you. But you really must write every day. Two main reasons! One, you'll keep the flow of the story going. Character motivations can be lost if you don't visit them every day, and characters drive your plot. So, without a rich, motivated character, your plot is gonna have trouble. Plus, you gotta finish this thing sometime soon before you forget why you started it in the first place. Secondly, I've found that the more you write the more you want to write. Truth! It becomes something you'll look forward to, like a little piece of the day that you need to get done in order to feel like the day was not wasted. The more you write the better you get at writing, too. There's really no downside to writing every day. . . other than cutting out a few hours from your social life, carpal tunnel syndrome, loneliness, talking to yourself, knowing your created characters better than your family and friends. . . but basically, there’s no real downside. . .