I Have No Idea What I’m Doing With This Novel

by Shelt Garner

I really have no idea what I’m doing with this novel. But the outline I’m working on keeps drifting towards something I hope to be very pleased with, so I keep going. I’ve finally reached the point where I fully understand that writing a novel is a marathon, so just because a solution to an immediate problem won’t come to me right away, doesn’t mean it won’t soon enough.

Right now, I’m doing a lot of reading. They say if you have enough time to write, you have enough time to read. So I’m grazing a lot when it comes to reading. I have a number of books — a small library, in fact — of books I hope to read over the coming days to improve not just the general conceit of the novel, but the characters who in habit it, as well.

But, like I said, I have no idea what I’m doing. Yet I do hope to start writing again soon enough. Absolutely no later than July 1st. I am going to have to do a huge amount of reading to get to the point where even the outline is as good as I need it to be before I go to the next step of fleshing out individual lines in the outline.

I look over what I have done of the outline and I’m very pleased. I’ve made considerable progress on the outline in large part because I am no longer attempting to draft off of Stieg Larsson. I’m telling my story, not his (which I was doing on a structural level.) But I continue to use his book The Girl Who Played With Fire as my “textbook” as to how to write a novel.

But I definitely need to read more novels, just in general. And watch more movies. A whole lot more movies. I saw Chinatown for the first time recently and the ending left me shook. Anyway, I really need to be willing to go outside my creative comfort zone more.

My Novel’s Female Romantic Lead As Twitter Liberal

by Shelt Garner

Every story needs an outsider to serve as the proxy for the audience. They ask questions that you need to answer for them. For my story, I’m using someone inspired — sorta — by someone like Jodi Kantor. I’m not a good enough writer to properly represent this type person, but in general the novel’s female romantic lead is meant to be, essentially, a Verified Twitter Liberal.

There are some problems with doing this. One is, I fear Twitter Liberals will like this character more than the actual Hero if I’m not careful. I know the mentality of Twitter Liberals well enough to fake it in a character, but I’m nervous that if i do too good a job, they’re going to be more interested in my female romantic lead than, well, my Hero.

But the point of using a Twitter Liberal as my female romantic lead is to prove a point — in the end, we’re all human. That, and the fact that having a character inspired by Jodi Kantor fall for a character inspired by bonkers me is very, very funny to me. It’s both a challenge and entertaining to me as I develop to see if I can pull this otherwise surreal relationship off.

But, again, it’s going to be a huge challenge. Everyone thinks I suck. Everyone wants me to fail. Everyone is looking for some reason to make this all moot. But I believe in myself, nonetheless. I think Ms. Kantor has looked at this Website and found me, shall we say, lacking. I can’t help what a kook I am (using her metrics). I am who I am. I try my best to be the best person I can possibly be.

Anyway, things continue to move quicker with development.

I’m quite pleased.

Building A Mystery

by Shelt Garner

After what feels like a very long time — but really is about 18 months — I’ve finally come to the make-or-break portion of development: the mystery. I know what happened at the center of this story, but now I have to figure out how someone would try to unravel it.

So I find myself cramming a number of investigative reporting. I’m reading Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey’s “She Said.” I’m reading Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill.” And I’m listening to the Crooked Media podcast “Wind of Change.” The latter is interesting because it involves music and the CIA. Which, given the conceit of the novel, is very useful. The more I listen to it, the more I feel I’m going to have to give it a shoutout in the Author’s Note.

But the major issue is I’ve come up with a very complex situation that I have to unravel slowly through investigation. I have to think of different ways to do all of this believably. But it’s also all very much outside my comfort zone. Even when I was a reporter, I wasn’t a very good one. So, I have to really learn a lot of things about investigative reporting that I know nothing about.

And, yet, that’s kind of the crux of the story. The part I don’t know anything about.

I have a huge amount of reading to do about character, investigation and leadership — just to name a few things. That is going to slow me down some, but hopefully not too much. I’m still on track to start writing again no later than June 1st.

Of Someone Writing A Screenplay Inspired From My Development Writing Online

by Shelt Garner

I vacillate dramatically from assuming that, of course, someone is going to use all my development on this Website to write a screenplay that “steals” my idea to wondering, how, exactly, they would do it.

I guess you could get the general gist of the concept if you looked at what I’ve been writing about and talking about the last 18 months, but even if you did do that, your interpretation of the concept and mine would likely be dramatically different.

I keep seeing people poking around this Website in my Webstats and that alarms me because I assume that of course my worst fears are being realized. And, yet, really, the idea I am working on is so expansive and ambitious that a screenplay would be, by definition, dramatically different than the novel I’m writing.

If I had, like, friends and stuff, then this wouldn’t be an issue. I would talk to them about what I’m working on and I wouldn’t have this problem. My only hope is that even if people were actively stealing from me at this point, it would still take actual physical time to develop the screenplay. And the subject matter of this novel is such that I find it dubious that even if someone could somehow accurately reverse-engineer the concept from what I’ve done here, I’m not so sure they would actually steal the story beat-for-beat.

Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe that’s exactly what’s happening.

But I’m of the opinion that you make decisions on what you know, not on what you don’t know. I could just give up and assume someone is going to steal this concept from me, or I can work harder and faster so at least I finish something sooner rather than later.

If you are trying to “steal” my story — fuck you, you hack.

An Unexpected Struggle With The Novel As It Grows Better

by Shelt Garner

Things are moving fast with the novel. And, yet, as my storytelling ability gets better, I realize there are some major flaws with what I have right now. I came up with a very complex situation for this story when all of this began and as my writing ability gets better I realize how much work telling the story I want to tell will entail.

I have a very specific vision and I’m willing to put the work into this novel to make that vision a reality. It’s just every once in a while, I have to re-calibrate some pretty significant parts of the story, long after I think I have things settled.

But at least I’m recognizing these problems now, instead of getting all excited and showing it to beta readers, only to have them laugh at me. (Or, worse yet, to simply give me silence.) I’m doing a massive amount of reading right now to catch up to where I should be with this novel.

One problem I’ve had is I’ve been drafting so much off of what Stieg Larsson did with The Girl Who Played With Fire, that now that I realize my novel isn’t served by doing that anymore, some fundimental issues have come up. I really want this novel to be something of a “brown shoe” for readers in the sense that superficially, at least, it seems like just another thriller — even though it’s, in fact, an allegory for the Trump Era.

So, I struggle a lot with how to properly tell this story in the way my gut tells me to — I’m essentially doing everything in a vacuum. I have no friends and no one will help me, so all I have is my personal vision of the story I want to tell. I talk a lot about this novel online for no other reason than it gives me a socially acceptable way to talk to myself.

At this point, the only thing that keeps me going is I know how important this story might be if properly written. There are a lot of existential problems with this novel — all of them, well, directly connected to me. But I’ve been working on this thing so long that I think the point is to just wrap up the outline and write something, anything starting June 1st.

Things Are Moving Fast Now

by Shelt Garner

Now that I have a handle on my POV characters, things are moving far faster. In fact, the only thing slowing me down finishing the outline and writing is the massive amount of research I realize I have to do. I have to understand the characters I’ve come up with and the only way to do so is to know what they would know.

I still have a fair amount of reading to do on the abstract of character development, but simply see that as more reading.

I really understand far better the point of this story (two novels, one story). That allows both the reading and the research to flow far, far faster. I have an absurd amount of reading to do if I’m going to develop characters that don’t embarrass me what how flimsy they are.

One thing I have to do is beef up my Hero. Right now, he’s simply an exaggerated — and far more stable — version of myself in Seoul about 12 years ago. But for him to be, well, the Hero, he has to be someone you can root for. He has to be active, not just a womanizing drunk who gets away with shit because of how colorful he is.

But I’m really pleased.

I’m reading as much as I can, as fast as I can. I hope to start writing again no later than June 1st. I am very unhappy with how long it’s going to take me — even under the most ideal of circumstances — to start speccing the story out to agents.

But I’m all in. My entire creative life is devoted to this novel. Every day my understanding of the story I want to tell grows stronger.

At the very least, I won’t embarrass myself.

I Have To Prepare Myself For Someone Stealing A March On Me Creatively

by Shelt Garner

I don’t know how it’s going to happen, but I get the feeling someone is thinking about writing something — probably a screenplay — inspired by the novel I’ve been working on for about 18 months now.

I can either give up or work harder and faster.

I’m going to work harder and faster.

There’s little more I can do. I guess, should the worst happen, I can console myself by saying at least I understand how to tell a story better. The reason why it’s taken me so long to get to this point is the story I’ve come up with is a lot of plot and I should have been thinking about character.

The story is convoluted and complicated and it’s taken me this long to figure out how to tell it is a simple way. I love this story and its characters. Even if I wake up tomorrow and a movie is being produced that is essentially my novel, at least I’ll be better off as a storyteller than I was when I started this process.

But that hasn’t happened….yet.

I can use this fear as a reason to work harder and faster and see what happens.

Now What

by Shelt Garner

Well, if nothing else, I’ve got my motivation to hurry up with the novel I’m developing. The novel deals with some “big ideas” that are quite provocative in the context of the rise of fascism in America.

I have a massive amount of reading to do, however, if I want to make my characters believable. Every time America lurches forward on its now irrefutable path towards an autocratic “managed democracy,” feel added instinctive to work harder and faster on this novel.

The only problem is it is something of an epic undertaking given the significant learning curve I’ve had to deal with as well as how I’m doing all of this in a vacuum. (For the most part.)

Anyway, this dark foreboding I feel about our nation’s future is exactly the feeling I need to make this political thriller as dark as it needs to be. I had worried that my natural fun disposition would make it difficult to find the darkness necessary to write a proper thriller.

Well, that’s not going to be a problem anymore.

On The Matter Of Word Count

by Shelt Garner

I am well aware that the “sweetspot” for a published novel is about 80,000-100,000 words. But it’s not impossible for a novel to be published that is longer. In fact, the novel I’m using as my textbook, “The Girl Who Played With Fire” is in the 165,000 – 185,000 range.

That’s my vision.

I’m going to write a first draft that aims to be around 165,000 words and go from there. If beta readers think its too long, then I’ll do something about that. Or if an agent / editor tells me the only way it will get published is to cut its size, then I will.

Or, if all else fails, I’ll simply self-publish and be able to feel content that I did, in fact, write a novel after everyone told me I sucked and why am I even thinking about writing anything at all. (Fuck those people, by the way.)

One thing that is really beginning to hit home is how brutal the publishing business is in real terms. Nobody owes you nothing, as they say. But I really, really believe in the importance of my novel’s vision as-is. I believe the that I can pull off a novel that is such a fast read that you don’t even notice how long it is.

I’d rather fail in a rather spectacular fashion than limit myself and not even give myself the opportunity to excel.

V-Log: Idle Rambling About The #Novel I’m Developing

Some thoughts.