Development Struggles With My Novel’s Female Romantic Lead

by Shelt Garner

I started off wanting my novel’s female romantic lead to be someone like Alexa Chung. Then she gradually evolve into someone more like Jodi Kantor. Now, she seems more inspired by Crooked Media’s Erin Ryan.

The reasons for this are simple. Chung is too much of a celebrity to write easily and, besides, what would she do? It’s difficult to stand around being gorgeous and witty in a novel. Her character needs to be active in the story. Meanwhile, while the actual human being Jodi Kantor probably has a lot of character, my writing isn’t good enough to portray the type of person she is (very smart and intense) without her character overshadowing the hero. So, now, I find myself thinking about using Erin Ryan as inspiration.

Ryan is very smart and has a lot of spunk. She’s also a bit younger than the other two women, so that affords a different dynamic than might otherwise exist. The dynamic between men, women and age is something you really have to think about seriously if you’re trying to write a novel that’s believable.

None of the women I mentioned would sit next to me in a restaurant. I can’t help how old I am or what I look like. I am who I am. I mean well and can tell a good story. It’s their loss if they think I’m just middle-aged creepy weirdo.

Anyway, my novel’s female romantic lead is now a combination of Alexa Chung, Jodi Kantor AND Erin Ryan. But, remember, while I can articulate a vision pretty well, my writing simply isn’t what it could be. So, there’s every reason to believe that while I can explain to you my vision for the character, should you actual read the character in the novel, you won’t be able to see the connection as clearly as I’ve stated here.

Who knows.

Things Are Still In Flux With This Novel

by Shelt Garner

As this novel’s story grows stronger, I realize some things just don’t work. Sometimes, some pretty big issue stare me in the face for a few days until I figure out how to fix them.

Right now, I have a whole slate of fairly large issues I have to deal with. I’m going to sit down this evening and explicitly state what they are so I can hopefully fix them. I’m quite pleased with the state of the novel right now (it’s just an outline right now) but I have to finish this stage first before I can sit down and start to write.

Or, more specifically, before I can begin to flesh out the individual lines of the outline into individual scenes descriptions that I can use to write scenes with. But the key issue is to just keep going, no matter what. I know I’m being fussy, but I’d much rather be fussy now and have a great product to use as a starting off point than fail — again — to finish anything of note at all.

I know I shouldn’t talk about what I’m working on, but I can’t help myself. That’s who I am. I love to talk and write and I have no friends, so here we are.

Idle Rambling About The ‘Wind of Change’ Podcast, #JodiKantor, #JessicaAlba & The #Novel I’m #Writing

by Shelt Garner

Some thoughts.

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.

Outline Rambling

by Shelt Garner

Things are moving a lot faster because I’m doing an outline of the novel instead of putting all that much work into fleshing out individual scenes. This process allows me to get far further into the novel than I usually do before everything falls apart and I have to start from scratch.

The downside of this is I realize what a massive task I have ahead of me. I have a very complex plot with some pretty huge structural issues that I continue to bump up against as I develop. The biggest problem is how ambitious this novel is. I’m trying to explore the entirety of the Trump Era through allegory. There’s just so much going on, that it’s a struggle to make it all easy to understand. And, really, the only thing that allows me to keep going is I know how great this story is.

I’m willing to throw my heart into this project because I know I can produce something pretty cool — an entertaining — if I just keep at it. I have to believe in myself. I can’t give up. I’ve gotten this far, I have to be willing to do whatever it takes to herd it to completion.

I’m trying to move as fast as I can on this outline. I hope to start writing again no later than June 1st.

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.

Phoebe Waller-Bridge, #Hollywood, #JodiKantor & The #Novel I’m Developing & #Writing

Some thoughts.

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.

I’m Obsessed With Character

by Shelt Garner

I’ve finally gotten to the most crucial aspect of developing this novel — character. I have about three books on character that I’m cramming as fast as I can so I can start writing again no later than June 1st. I need to understand these characters so I can control them absolutely. I don’t have time to let them play. They have to do what I want them to do, the way I want them to do.

I keep thinking about the brilliance of Phoebe Waller-Bridge’s Fleabag. The plot of that story is organic to the character. What in mind, I’m using what I remember of my bonkers self in Seoul from 12 years ago as the basis of my hero’s personality. I have to be really careful, though, that he doesn’t come off as so comical that the story doesn’t have the serious tone I need it to have.

But I do remember how interesting I was in Seoul, if nothing else. I had more than enough character to go around, that’s for sure. The thing about being a long-term expat in Seoul is you find yourself meeting people you would otherwise never meet. For instance, I met Pinch Sulzberger of the New York Times in 2004. Totally blew my mind.

I really like the idea of digging into how bonkers being a long-term expat in Seoul can make you. When I lived there, I could never figure out if South Korea drew bonkers people to be expats there, or if the place drove you bonkers by simply staying a long time. (It may be a little bit of both.)

Anyway, in a sense, this novel is simply me thinking about my time as the publisher of ROKon Magazine in Seoul, but in a far more palatable — and easier to write – fashion than I had in mind when I first tried to tell a very angry version of it about 10 years ago.

I have worked very, very hard to get where I am. Now, to close the deal. I have to keep cramming about how to develop believable characters. Wish me luck.