My Potential Future & A Third Party Interpretation Problem

by Shelt Garner

I’ve always been…different. I just have never quite known what I was supposed to do to fit the conventional wisdom. As such, as I continue to work on my Hail Mary Pass of trying to write a breakout hit novel, I find myself contemplating how people who don’t know me might interpret my life to date.

My fear is, of course, that the moment I make it big should I somehow manage to write a popular first novel that I’ll be “canceled” for some drunken thing I did at some point in my life — probably while in South Korea.

On a macro scale, I’ve been pretty innocuous even at my drunken worse, but I also know that everyone on social media has a hair trigger when it comes to destroying people, so, lulz? I’m not perfect. And, what’s more, I’ve pretty much been a drunk nobody loser for way too many years.

If I do manage to do some sort of hattrick and sell a novel that pulls me out of oblivion, I have a hunch that things just aren’t going to work out the way I want them to. Over and above my fears about being “canceled,” I have to contend with the cold, hard reality of ageism.

If I become as successful as I believe I should be, the first thing any interviewer is going to ask me is, “What’s it like being a such a success later in life?” Even though that is an extremely speculative fear on my part, just the prospect of having to deal with that type of questioning requires me to manage my expectations for the consequences of writing a novel that is anywhere near as successful as what Stieg Larsson wrote.

I just have to accept that even if I get what I want, I won’t get what I want. Even if I stick the landing with this novel, I’m probably going to be in my mid-50s before the novel is actually on bookshelves. And that doesn’t even begin to factor in the potential for some sort of political “Fourth Turning” happening just as some sort of technological Singularity makes a human-written novel seem quite quaint.

The Conundrum That Is The Placement Of Spicy Scenes In Chronology Of My Novel’s Plot

by Shelt Garner

Other than a general need to have a three act structure, there really aren’t any hard, fast rules about how to write a novel. At least, not in my opinion. But I am of the general opinion that that one should delay putting spicy scenes in your novel until as late as possible.

In my personal opinion, it’s bad form to open a novel with a sex scene. I’m not saying it should never be done, just that in general it’s not my style. I’m of the opinion that spicy scenes should only happen after you’ve given your audience a little bit of time to grow accustomed to the characters and universe that your presenting to them.

Having said all that, I have a spicy scene in my first chapter and much of the second scene has sex in it. Ugh. And, yet, these scenes aren’t gratuitous and do, in fact, serve to further the plot. It’s just I don’t know. It makes me uneasy to have spicy scenes so early in the novel.

But, as I keep saying, I’m doing all of this in a vacuum so, lulz, who knows. It could be that I’m fine and no one will blink an eye that there is so much spicy content so early in the novel. I do have a tendency to overthink things a great deal with this novel.

The only thing that makes me feel better is if someone, say, an editor, asked me why I had this or that spicy scene I can tell them specifically why I felt it was necessary. I have given the nature of these spicy scenes a great deal of thought.

Well, On A Personal Note, America’s Transformation Into An Autocracy In 2025 Would Help My Novel Project Be A Success

by Shelt Garner

I started working on a novel a number of years ago because of my white hot rage against the rise of Trumplandia. I had all this anger that I needed to do something with so I decided to write a novel that would be an analogy about the problems in the modern America.

That one novel turned into two novels and then when Trump lost, I decided to tell the backstory of how the unique situation in the small town I dreamed up came to be. Soon enough, I had six novels I was working on. The novel I’m currently working on is the first and is set in late 1994, early 1995.

If we do, in fact, turn into an autocracy in 2025, then the whole point of the six novel project will be pretty timely. I may have to write the novels in exile because a weaponized ICE might want to murder me for being a loudmouth crank, but, lulz, at least project will be as popular as I believe it should be.

Of course, it’s possible that we’ll have a civil war (Reds) or a revolution (Blues) starting in late 2024, early 2025 and, well, there you go. I may be too busy being a domestic political refugee to worry about finishing any sort of novel.

Things Fall Apart

by Shelt Garner

It’s definitely interesting how things stay the same for a long time then everything falls apart at the same time. I have a number of mini-crisis taking place in my life at the moment, from a toothache, to computer failing me to my refrigerator’s thermostat malfunctioning.

It makes me wonder if this is some sort of portent about the future. Am I about to enter a transitional phase in my life? And if so, exactly what am I transitioning into? Ugh.

I am definitely feeling my mortality these days. I’m feeling a lot of internal pressure to speed up the pace on this novel. I’m not going to live forever and it would be pretty pathetic if my only legacy was a failed expat magazine and an unfinished novel.

But you have to work with what you got, I suppose. I just have no idea what the future brings me. Things could go a lot of different ways between now and early 2025. It could be that just about the time I begin querying my first novel, the United States collapses into chaos and anarchy.

Though, on the up side, if we just slide peacefully into autocracy, my grand macro plan for this six novel project becomes extremely timely and potentially popular.

But, who knows. No fate but what we make and all that.

Some Thoughts On The New, Reimagined Beginning of My Novel

by Shelt Garner

I have reimagined and significantly improved — at least in my view — the beginning of my first novel. One thing I’ve notice from my re-reading of Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire” is how much time he spends on establishing character, universe and relationships.

The ideal name for my first novel, if I had my wish.

With that in mind, I have given a great deal of thought to how I can pull readers in with engaging characters so when The Big Event happens, they care enough about them enough to finish the rest of the novel. That, at least, is the goal.

But, as I keep saying, I’m doing all of this in a vacuum. I just don’t know. It could be that even though I love what I’m doing with this novel, the audience will be repelled. If nothing else, I have come up with some pretty provocative plot points that will make readers sit up and take notice.

I talk about periods and the specifics of sex from a female point of view. I have a female “consultant” that I talk to about these things so I don’t make a fool out of myself. I’m not a very dark — or serious — person by nature and as such, rather than shocking the audience with explicit violence, I hope to intrigue them discussion things you usually don’t see in novels.

Anyway. I continue to realize that I need to stop making my heroine so fucking passive. She’s suppose to be the prime mover of the novel. She’s suppose to be ornery and have agency and be someone you like and care enough about that you want to spend the time necessary to read roughly 100,000 words about her life.

In the end, I just can’t overthink things. I need to just write and come back and edit things as necessary. There’s a reason why they say all novels are abandoned rather than finished.

The Third Draft Of My Novel Is Getting Really Good…I Think?

by Shelt Garner

My computer is going to kick the bucket at any moment it seems, but in the meantime I’m trying to write as much as I can on the third draft of my first novel. I continue to do all of this in a vacuum so I have no idea if this novel is anywhere near as good as I think it is.

I have come up with a very ‘Barry’-like dichotomy for my heroine. And, yet, I just don’t know. I don’t know if women — who read a lot of novels — will like the surreal situation I’ve come up with or if it will only lead them to throw the book across the room.

And that doesn’t even begin to address the issue of me being a male author frequently writing from a female POV. When I started working on this novel several years ago, I just decided, in general, to do what Stieg Larsson did, not knowing there had been a “woke cancel culture” shift in audience expectations.

Ugh. Sometimes, you just can’t win. I can’t help how old I am. I can’t help that I’m a CIS white male. Not everyone can be a undocumented transgendered woman.

I’m really feeling my mortality these days. I have a limited amount of time to put up or shut up on the novel front. It doesn’t help that I have a growing problem with one of my teeth just as my computer is just about to crash on me. It’s definitely interesting how everything seems to decide to fail at the same time after a long time of nothing changing.

So, we’ll see. It could be that I will spend all this time on my first novel, only to drop dead of a heart attack like Larsson did.

I May Have Figured Out How To Make This Novel An ‘Old Brown Shoe’ To Anyone Who’s Read Stieg Larsson’s Millennium Series

by Shelt Garner

There is a chance that I’ve finally cracked the nut as to how to make this novel novel an Old Brown Shoe to fans of Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium Series. Maybe. It’s possible.

I imagine my heroine looking like a younger version of Nicole Scherzinger.

My gut tells me that I’m at least within shouting distance of that goal. I’m reading “The Girl Who Played With Fire” AGAIN because my computer is on the fritz and I have no choice. It could be it dies altogether pretty soon and I will have to pivot to reading for a few weeks until I can scrounge up the money to buy a new computer.

That seems to be a very real possibility at this point.

The key to my goal is to ratchet up the suspense and drama by leaning into those scenes from a POV different than my heroine’s. Showing events that she’s not present to experience allows me to have it both ways, in a sense. I get to develop my heroine’s character while at the same time showing building tension and danger in the first act as we progress towards The Bad Event that pushes us into the “fun and games” part of the novel — the first half of the second act.

I have often thought this very same thing in the past, only to have it all collapse on me to the point where I say, “Fuck it, let’s just get to the story as soon as possible.”

But maybe — hopefully? — this time will be different.

I’m feeling pretty confident about this third version, with my only major fear at the moment being I will overshoot my goal of about 100,000 words to the point that an editor will want me to slice about 20,000 words — or, the exact number of words I went into this third draft wanting to add.


Anyway. We’ll see. Wish me luck.

‘At A Loss’

by Shelt Garner

Well, not only is my fucking computer on its last legs, I’m at a loss as to word count for this novel. Because of my computer problems, I’ve decided read a lot for the next two weeks while I wait to buy a replacement computer and, as such, I’m yet again reading Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire.”

This go round, I’m trying to get a sense of some of the finer points of what makes the novel my “textbook.” If I can produce a novel as great as The Girl Who Played With Fire, I will be ecstatic. It’s exactly the vibe I want for this novel and I want my novel to be an Old Brown Shoe for anyone who’s read it.

And, yet, the more I read it, the more I realize not only how much work I have ahead of me, but the issue of word count. The novel — while rather wordy — is really, really good. And I keep trying to figure out why Larsson did this or that thing as part of his storytelling vision.

It definitely looks as though I may match him in word count for the third draft o the novel — which is a bad thing. I’m trying to keep the thing down to about 100,000 words, but I’ve totally reworked the beginning of the novel to the point that the Big Bad Event that is the whole point of the novel doesn’t happen until roughly 50,000 words into the story.

My vision is that by the time the Big Bad Event happens, you will have invested enough into the world and the characters I’ve created that the rest of the novel will zoom by, just like with much of Larsson’s work.

But there is a lot I just don’t know — just like I’m on edge about my computer. It definitely looks like it could have a catastrophic crash at any moment and I won’t have anything to write on until early October. Ugh.

And there is also the issue of making the novel a lot darker. I need to make my villains not only more evil, but also give them a lot more rationale for being the way they are. I have a few ideas as to how to do it, but it’s not going to come easy.

I’m just not a dark and twisted guy and it’s really hard work for me to think up evil people. Oh well. That’s why they pay me the big bucks, I guess.

Stieg Larsson Needed A Better Editor

by Shelt Garner

For far too long, I struggle to understand the fucking structure of my “texbook,” Stieg Larsson’s “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” It just did not make any sense. I tried to figure out basic things like the midpoint switch and…I simply could not find it.

Well, I recently discovered that the novel that we know of in english as “The Girl Who Played With Fire” was actually ONE novel, cut into two. This makes a lot more sense because now it is clear that the cliffhanger at the end of the novel is actually the midpoint of a far larger novel.

The thing about the novels about Lisbeth Salander that Larsson wrote is they would have greatly benefit from a grim reaper of an editor. With “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” you could probably have compressed or revised that novel down to about to a tight 100,000 words and it would have been just as big — if not bigger a success as it was.

Meanwhile, the massive novel that “The Girl Who Played With Fire” is the first half of, probably could have just been one novel, if an editor with a scythe had cut and cut and cut the novel down to what was essential to tell the story.

As it is, all of Larsson’s novels are bloated and became a success despite themselves.

Anyway, now watch me rewrite my own novel is it balloons into a tome significantly over 100,000 words. UGH.

The ‘Barry’ Problem — Managing ‘Spicy’ Scenes In Third Draft Of My First Novel

by Shelt Garner

So. I have a little bit of a problem on my hands at the moment.I’m very leery about having any “spicy” maternal too soon in the third draft of my first novel. But that, unto itself, has caused me to struggle with how to drag things out with interesting scenes.

I have a few ideas, but it’s really difficult at the moment to think of how I can convey what I want to convey without things getting spicy. You see, my heroine is very much a “Barry”-like character in that she had two widely different elements to her life.

On one hand, she owns an alt-weekly and on the other…she owns a strip club.

Because I’m doing all of this in a vacuum, I have no idea if the audience will really like this dramatic dichotomy or if it will only cause them — especially women — to throw the book across the room.

But that’s where I am at the moment. The second draft only alludes to this unique situation, while the third draft really gets into the implications of such a surreal bifurcation of a woman’s life. And, yet, of course, the issue of why even have this as an element of the novel in the first place is another thing that the fucking woke cancel culture mob critics will bring up.

Well, to that, all I can say is, if you think like that — fuck off.

Anyway, I’ve decided to punt the sexxy scenes down the road as far as possible because I want to establish in the audience’s mind that this is a serious journalist we’re talking about. And, besides, if I rushed into things on the sexxy front, the first thing that the “woke cancel culture mob” would bitch and moan about is I was sexualizing my heroine from the get-go.

Ugh, sometimes you just can’t win.

But I’m very pleased with the state of the third draft. I just have to do a lot — A LOT — of brooding about how to make the “filler” scenes interesting enough that people will keep reading, not realizing that I’m biding my time to give them the mental images of T&A they want so bad.

Of course, given the nature of marketing, if I do actually manage to sell this novel, it’s not like people aren’t going to already know what’s going on as they start to read the novel.