Challenge,  On Writing,  publishing

Research and Study

We Study In All Sorts of Ways…

Normally I don’t say much about my reading or other activities except when I am detailing out a few days while writing a project in a challenge. Like the five day novel challenge. I do a little more detail on the short story challenges about the life around writing them. But not all of it by a long ways.

But tonight I’ll tell you what I did for a few hours. I found myself studying a puzzle mystery form.

Castle, the very first season when it was great, was a great puzzle mystery series pretending to be set in a police station. Not a police procedural by a long ways. Puzzle mystery with the idea that a mystery writer could help solve real really twisted cases.

They were showing back-to-back episodes and so I watched three of them in a row. Form became instantly clear. And they were always twisted plots. Cliffhangers (commercial breaks) always came on a reveal of information. They all started (in that early time period of the show) with the body.

Castle was always who the show was about with the great team members around him.

Of course, the humor and the interaction between the two main characters was wonderful, especially early on in the series. The daughter and mother were great team members. A lot of stuff was played for humor. Clear why the show became a hit early on.

I write puzzle mystery novels in my Cold Poker Gang series. And I will be introducing a new detective team in the next one and I wanted some of that type of Castle interaction and humor. So I studied. Now this new book will be even more fun to write.

Speaking of Cold Poker Gang

Right now the first book in the series, Kill Game, is free just about everywhere in the world. And there is a big BookBub push on Saturday for it as well. And we lowered the prices on the other six books in the series a little bit to get people introduced into the series. Give it a shot if you like twisted mystery novels.

July Regular Workshops… Still Time to Get In…

This might be out best list for a month of workshops we have ever done with the addition of the Magic Bakery workshop and Information Flow. I am very, very pleased these workshops have come this far.

And are still moving forward.

You can find the workshops under Online Workshops to the right of this post. Sign up for July on For credits or workshops beyond July, write me.

Each regular workshop is 6 weeks long.

Again, it will take you about three hours per week on your own pace to do each of these if you do the assignments. All workshops have now started, but still enough time to jump in and openings in all of them, including the new ones.

And Lifetime Subscriptions are available on Teachable. Write me with questions about any of this.

Class #1… July 10th … Depth #3: Research
Class #2… July 10th … Author Voice
Class #3… July 10th … Dialog
Class #4… July 10th … Writing into the Dark
Class #5… July 10th … Writing Fiction Sales Copy
Class #6… July 10th … Writing and Selling Short Stories
Class #7… July 11th … Depth in Writing
Class #8… July 11th … Business
Class #9… July 11th … Writing Fantasy
Class #10… July 11th … Information Flow
Class #11… July 11th … Magic Bakery
Class #12… July 11th … Advanced Depth

Again, if you don’t have credits, sign up directly at Teachable.

I will be putting up the August workshops in the next few days. So stay tuned for that.




  • Janine

    One thing that always seems to baffle me is how many writers dismiss TV shows, comics, video games, and other forms of storytelling that isn’t prose or a film as “lesser” and don’t brother with it, or worse, look down on those who enjoy them. Some only see books, poetry and movies as legitimate forms of storytelling and that’s a shame. There are things I learned about stories with video games and TV shows I wouldn’t have learned otherwise. Despite all the “how to” guides on how to write on the internet, the best way to learn is by costuming other stories. I would rather watch a bad TV show than read another writing blog filled with dubious advice.

  • emmiD

    Great research choice. Those first years of Castle are well-written with writers not afraid to scare their loyal audiences. I greatly admired how they developed the secondary characters with only a few touches of the paintbrush.

    And Janine is right: more than a bit of writerly snobbery comes from those who dis TV and films as easily accessible looks at story.

    I’ve dissed time spent before TV and Netflix marathons because that time might better be spent with the writing. But, hey, research IS necessary, and Castle is enjoyable research.

    PS: Have you seen the alley scene yet, with Castle and Beckett in ac”face-off”? I think it’s the circus in the warehouse episode, but my memory could be off. Very Clever.

    • dwsmith

      Watched them all in first run. Last night was just a fun research session because I stumbled across them.

  • allynh

    I got the first season of Castle for the same reason. The season contains the essence of Castle; the daughter and the mother are what made it for me. I didn’t bother to get the rest because it morphs away from the core story. The same thing happened with Remington Steele and Moonlighting and Lois & Clark. They morphed from a great story into something else.

    I’m trying to understand how to keep the heart of the story without the need to morph so far away as the series progresses. That’s why I’m starting to read the Smalliville books to understand the same thing.

    The question I have, is if you were novelizing each episode of Castle:

    – What is a good size for an episode covering the same story arc.

    In other words, if you were going to novelize the first season of Castle — capturing the story beat for beat, without padding — how long would each episode be.

    My natural prosefication is highly compressed story. Not as compressed as Christopher Anvil would do, but still more bonsai than big sprawling live oak that you can climb in.

    I think that I’m too close to the page to see the answer, and it’s driving me mad. HA!

    • dwsmith


      If you novelized, you would spend a lot more time in the character’s heads, which is not padding. After watching three of them, I could easily do 50,000 word novels per episode. Twisted mystery with great New York settings and fully rounded characters. Doesn’t get any better.

      • allynh

        Awesome. That’s 5:1 to what I was doing.

        I just could not see. I was cutting the prose too close to the bone. Essentially, I was doing one manuscript page to one minute of screen time. Like I said, I tend to do bonsai. A bonsai is complete, but a bird can’t nest in it, and I can’t climb in it. HA!

        I have the same problem with telling jokes. My brother will spend ten minutes lovingly setting up a joke then deliver the punchline. I will repeat the joke to somebody else, taking 30 seconds, and it’s not funny. All of the information is there, but it takes time for the punchline to have impact.

        I’ll try 50k per episode for a while and see how that feels.


      • dwsmith

        Not all hour shows would be that many words. Castle is thick in great characters (first season) and great setting. Some shows would be less. Some more. But in that range. Movies are another matter. 120 page script feature film is normally around 80,000 words in novel form. Kris and I got to do the 12th Kingdom, which was a wonderful fantasy mini-series on NBC. They wanted the entire thing in one book. 140,000 words later we had it, but we cut out a bunch of stuff for the book.

        • Kessie

          They wanted all of 10th Kingdom in one book?? What were they smoking? There’s so much in that series. I need to watch it with my kids now. 🙂

  • Prasenjeet

    Dean, do you watch WestWorld? They seem to be in your thunder mountain genre, a marriage between science fiction and Western, though entirely different. I love WestWorld especially the complexity of the characters and plot twists. Mind-blowing.