Is It Ok To Open Your Novel With A Sex Scene?

by Shelt Garner

First, please read this carefully: I fucking don’t care what you do with your novel or how you do it, just tell a great story.

Now, with that out of the way, at least let me give you my reasoning for suggesting that you should at least hold fuck off for a tiny little bit before you have your character fuck each others brains now, no matter how much “character work” and MFA person may tell you is possible.

In general, from my casual study of successful mainstream novels — or, at least, specifically thrillers — you shouldn’t start you novel with a murder or a sex scene.

With any great story, you (often, not always) start off slow in a way that introduces setting and character. Then, once your readers have their bearings, you can murder and fuck as much as you like.

But that’s just my opinion.

I’ve been writing my first novel for years now and, along the way, I’ve both done a lot of reading and come up with some really strong opinions about what makes for a “great story.”

But there is to fucking revealed truth about what makes a great story. If you can tell a great story by having a murder or a fuck session on the first page — have at. Please. I want you to.

I’m just giving you a rule of thumb that is based on some sort of sense of what makes for a good story. In MY OPINION, if you open your novel with a fuck session…the audience (or at least ME) doesn’t give a shit. Who are these people? Why are they fucking? Why should I care?

But I’m not perfect and I do not have some sort of revealed truth about storytelling that I’ve brought down from Mt. Sini. You do you. Just, as I said, tell a great story.

Once More Unto The Breach

by Shelt Garner

I’ve been feeling rather discouraged the last few days with my novel because of my age. But I think also I haven’t really been feeling discouraged so much as running hot. I needed to kind of cool down so I could look at the novel with fresh eyes.

I do this every once in a while. I kind of just pause for a weekend. Usually when I do this, I reflect on some of the more underdeveloped elements of character and plot so when I do sit down to write again, things go a lot faster.

I just usually have a moment or two whenever I have one of these pauses where all my insecurities come rushing to the forefront of my mind. But I have to accept that even if I stick the landing, I’m probably going to be in my mid-50s before I’m a published author.

And that’s if I’m lucky.

I also have to accept that I need to have a lot more structure in my day as well as I need to read more, watch more and definitely have more than just this one novel as a writing project.

Known Unknowns 2023 – 2025

by Shelt Garner

Will I Sell My Novel?
I’m not getting younger and with a real risk that we may have a civil war, I’m worried that a combination of ageism and a systemic collapse of the United States will prevent me from even getting close to selling my first novel.

Is Jon Lovett Leaving Crooked Media?

Lovett has been unusually salty during Pod Save America advertising promos of late. And then there was that moment in time when he outwardly at least seemed to be “quiet quitting” by not showing up to work. I think I’m over thinking things, but there definitely is an unusually high level of hostility of late between Lovett and the other Crooked bros.

Will Lindsey Graham Be Outed?
I saw a blind item on Tik-Tok that suggested that something might happen to “out” South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham. I find this very, very dubious. I don’t care if Graham is gay or not, but the political implications of his relationship with the MAGA base being changed by the thing that everyone assumes about him to be verified would be interesting.

Is Trump Going to get Indicted & Will It Matter?

I’ve been told for some time that Trump facing some accountability is just about to happen and squat has happened in real criminal terms. So, the idea that Trump might ACTUALLY get indicted over the Stormy Daniels imbriglio is not something I take all that seriously. And, yet, it definitely FEELS like this time may be different and Something Big might be about to happen. I asked a Traditionalist relative if they would vote for someone who was indicted and they said no. I have my doubts if the choice in their mind is between an indicted person and someone who Tucker Carlson tells them is a “groomer” and the leader of the “woke cancel culture mob.” So, lulz. I don’t think it’s going to matter if Trump is indicted.

Who Wins The Republican Nomination?

At the moment, seems that Trump is going to win the GQP nomination pretty handily. And, yet, it’s also at least possible that something happens and Ron “Little D” DeSantis wins in an upset. At the moment, at least, it definitely seems as though it’s too far out for us to figure out which way things are going to go. It really could go either way. And whichever way things ultimately go, we’ll look back and think about how obvious it was that that was the only option.

Will #NeverTrump Implode if DeSantis is the Nominee?

I am beginning to believe that the #NeverTrump movement is going to face a real crossroads at some point between now and spring 2025. Either they give up and support Ron DeSantis, or we have a civil war and they become something akin to the War Democrats of the First American Civil War. There’s no middle ground for them. But I do think if DeSantis is the Republican nominee that a few major #NeverTrump “thought leaders” will bounce out of the cause back into the Putin-esque arms of a DeSantis-lead Republican Party.

Will Trump Bounce To The Patriot Party?
This is a real mystery at this point. It could go either way if Trump loses the GQP nomination. He’s just as likely to collapse into a puddle and support DeSantis as he is to go crazy and bounce to the Patriot Party and split the Republican ticket. The likelihood of Second American Civil War increases significantly because if Trump ran as a member of the Patriot Party and lost, then he would be a lot more likely to demand Red States leave the Union than if he was the nominee and simply won.

The Horace Greeley Endgame

Given the president’s advanced age, we have to take seriously the possibility that he may shuffle off this mortal coil at some point between 2025. The closer we get to that crucial few months between Election Day and Certification Day, the more it’s possible that some pretty basic political assumptions we have about the 2024 election would be thrown out the window because we’re suddenly dealing with the untested President Harris. Any student of history will tell you this kind of catastrophe kind of writes itself.

Will We Have A Civil War?

A lot depends on Trump. He is dumb that it’s easy to imagine him, unto himself, being the reason why we have a civil war. If he somehow loses the 2024 election he may begin to rant about the need for Red States — starting with Texas — to leave the Union because he got his feelings hurt. I vacillate widely as to how likely this is. At the moment, I just don’t know. Could go either way.

….Or Does Autocracy Come To America?
When it comes to autocracy in America, there are two main scenarios. Either Trump is our new autocrat and it’s not until his successor that our transformation into a Hungary-style illiberal autocracy is complete or a President DeSantis becomes America’s Putin from the get-go.

Good luck, folks.

The Second Draft Of My Novel Continues To Improve

by Shelt Garner

I am really pleased with where things stand with this second draft. I do have a few concerns, however. One concern is how long its taking me. I really need to speed up my writing. I simply do not have forever. I continue to hope to have this second draft done by around June.

That’s the hope.

But I sometimes find myself falling into the bad habit of just kind of drifting towards my goal. It’s very annoying. And, yet, the reason why it’s taking so long as I am really thinking hard about character. The only way this novel is going to work is if I really, really improve character.

Another fear I have is this fucking novel is too long. Or will be. It’s going to blow past the 100,000 word sweat spot, to the point that I am struggling with a second novel that would be in the 80,000 to 100,000 range. The only problem is, I’m so focused on this first novel, that it’s really difficult to turn my attention away and write about anything else.

Holy Shit

by Shelt Garner

Writing it may take me longer than I hope, but I’m really feeling great about the state of my second draft. It’s actually professional-grade storytelling. I’m really leaning into character this go round.

I’m ecstatic.

A lot and I mean A LOT could still go wrong. Writers are known for dying unexpectedly for dumb reasons. And, yet, you know, you have to have hope. After years and years of spinning my wheels, I finally, finally feel like I’m living up to my “potential” that the late Annie Shapiro claimed I have.

At 50, I’m old as hell, but, fuck you. (wink.)

My hope is, of course, that now things will speed up significantly. I have the cornerstone of the story, so the rest of it SHOULD flow really fast.

I hope.

A New Emphasis On Developing Characters Because of Fleabag As I Write The Second Draft Of My First Novel

by Shelt Garner

I find myself a bit startled by how good Fleabag is now that I’m watching all the way through instead of just watching clips on YouTube. The specific issue is I realize I really need to make my characters more real and sharp as I work on the second draft of the novel.

Fleabag is helping me write better characters.

Remember, I’m doing all of this in a fucking vacuum. I have nearly no one to talk to as I do all of this, so I have to stumble into new ways of looking at things on my way. And that’s exactly what has happened because of Fleabag. The first draft of the novel had an excess of plot while the characters were more just placeholders or moods that were made up of a collection of different traits that I liked or needed.

Now, however, with the second draft — because of Fleabag — I’m really giving my characters some thought. And that, in turn, is really changing the flow of the plot. I have long known, in general terms, the nature of the story, but the specifics have been changing and developing for years now.

And lot of what’s going on is I’m thinking a lot more about not only cause and effect, but also really giving a lot more thought about every possible twist or turn I can squeeze out of each character in a way that helps fuse the plot with character.

Anyway, it’s one of those things where I just won’t really know how successful I’m being until Beta Readers take a gander at it.

‘Shut Up And Write’

by Shelt Garner

Watching Fleabag and Daisy Jones & The Six has really stressed to me the need for well developed characters. What’s more Fleabag and Russian Doll have given me a nudge to be a big more provocative with some of the changes I’ve come up with when it comes to fleshing out the novel’s characters.

Women are going to either love or hate what I’ve come up with.

I honestly, at the moment, don’t know which is reaction to expect.

All I know is things are getting spicy in the way that modern adult readers of thrillers expect. Things getting spicy is a way of keeping tings serious and thought provoking.

But because I’m doing all of this in a creative vacuum….I just don’t know. It could go either way.

If ‘No Hard Feelings’ Is A Hit After The Success of ‘Cocaine Bear’…Movies Are Back, Baby!

by Shelt Garner

For what feels like an eternity, Hollywood movies have been bifurcated into two types of genres — woke and comic book. It’s still too soon to tell, but with the success of Cocaine Bear and the coming No Hard Feelings it seems as though it’s at least POSSIBLE that movies are back!

Double Dees, Double Deeze!

There is a lot to unpack.

One is, despite the rise of Netflix and Chill young people still need a socially acceptable reason to get out of the house and spend a few hours in the dark with a girl or boy that they like.

Also, movies are the background buzz of culture. Sometimes, a movie is just a movie and you go see it and don’t really think about the finer points of Critical Race Theory while you do.

And, in real terms, it’s be a very, very long term since we had raunchy hard comedies like Wedding Crashers and The Hangover in theatres. The premise of No Hard Feelings is enough to make any woke person clutch their pearls for a number of reasons.

I generally support the ideals of being “woke” but sometimes audiences just want to let off some steam watching a smoking hot chick try to seduce a 19 year old for a car.

It’s dumb and spicy and just the type of movie that was the cornerstone of the film going experience for generations until the fucking woke people began to believe there was something innately wrong about heteronormative monoculture.


The case could be made that the pandemic scared the shit out of Hollywood and, as such, they decided to go back to basics. Give people a movie about a bear on cocaine. Give people a movie staring a hot A-list actress trying to bang a 19 year old.

It will be interesting to see what the people on Tik-Tok think about this movie. I think, in a sense, they will make or break the movie.

Shooting For A June Deadline For The Second Draft Of My First Novel

by Shelt Garner

After giving myself a April – May deadline to finish the second draft of my first novel, I’ve to make that deadline around June instead. That’s as late as I can make it and still hope to query agents in early 2024 after the holidays.

I’m really impressed with how much better this novel is getting. It’s getting really good! While my actual writing may still not be all that great, my storytelling ability has improved a great deal.

It’s becoming clear to me that I’m beginning to enter a new phase of this project where my ability to improve it is not entirely within my power. I think given that I’m doing all of this in a vacuum that the only way I can take things to the next level after I finish the first draft is through the beta reader process and maybe hiring an editor to give me some suggestions.

Anyway. Things are kind of getting exciting, in their own way. I’m finally where I want to be in real terms as a storyteller and now it’s just a matter of putting in the hard work.

The Second Draft of My First Novel Is Lurching Forward

by Shelt Garner

While it’s definitely slowing me down significantly, I’ve decided to pick the weakest scenes the first draft of this novel and rewrite them completely. Things are really falling into place, however. I’m very pleased with how my characters are beginning to take shape in a professional manner.

My dream title for my first novel.

Two things are influencing this development. One is, I’m finally doing, like, research and shit that I can use to flesh out my characters. Also, I’m making my way through Fleabag and I definitely feel the need to up my game some. The Fleabag characters are so well constructed that I feel obliged to make my own characters better.

Also, I’ve finally, finally, finally figured out motivation. I understand what makes my heroine tick and now that I have that down pat, a lot of other crutical elements to the story can now flow from it.

I have tweaked some elements of the character to make her personal history more spicy and engaging. One thing I’m paying close attention to is how people would actually react to someone as interesting as my heroine if she was a real person.

I’ve set June as my deadline for finishing this second draft. That’s about as late as I can put it and still hope to begin querying agents in early 2024 after the holidays.