Now To Finish This Damn Novel

by Shelt Garner

I’ve finally reached the point where all I have to do is finish the latest iteration of the third draft. I think once I finish this latest version of the third draft that I have one more version to go before I feel as though it’s “finished.”

Once I reach that point, then I going to turn the novel over to someone I know who has offered to go through the third draft and give me detailed suggestions on each scene in the novel. My hope is that doing this will be a way that I can have some sort of developmental editing of the story.

It just doesn’t seem like I’m going to be able to afford *any* editor of the novel before I begin to query it. Or, to put it another way — it would take me over a year to save up the money to do such a thing and I’m not getting any younger.

As such, I will probably begin the querying process for the novel at some point after the July 22nd deadline. It may be as late as August or September, but it will definitely begin this year.

Of course, in the back of my mind there is the lingering fear that all hell may break loose this fall. There is a greater-than-zero chance that the United States, the greatest nation in the world, may collapse into the anarchy of revolution or civil war in late 2024, early 2025 because of “vibes.”

Only time will tell. It would definitely be poetic if that was the endgame of all my hard work on this novel over the years — everything works out but the end of the world happens.

Pondering The Querying Process

What The Fuck Am I Going To Do About An Editor?

by Shelt Garner

In an ideal world, I pay an editor to look over my first novel before I started to query it. But I live in poverty — no joke! — and, as such, it would probably take me around a year to save up the money to pay for a traditional editor.


I have a friend of mine who has expressed an interest in going through and reading the third draft once I’m done. This is a hopeful development, but I’m still uneasy about not using a professional editor to make sure the novel is up to snuff before I try to query it.

My big fear is, of course, that even if I could afford a professional editor that the one-two punch of me being a well-documented freaky weirdo AND how “spicy” the novel is will turn off anyone actually willing to help me.


But I have my vision for the novel and I’m sticking to it. I have to accept that either the novel may never be published or, if it is, it’s only published because of the success of the scifi novel that I’m beginning to work on currently.

I’m cool with those possibilities.

The point of all of this was to prove to MYSELF that I could write a novel that wouldn’t embarrass me. I feel, in general, that I’m just about to accomplish that goal.

What happens after that is going to depend on luck and pluck.

The Mystery Of My Novel’s Word Count

by Shelt Garner

For much of the development of my first novel, I’ve dealt not in words as my metric, but scenes. So, here I am, just about to wrap up a solid third draft of the novel and I honestly have no idea how long it is — at least in terms of words.

In general, your scenes are supposed to be about 1,000 words on average. Just eyeballing the scenes and their length found with this novel I…dunno. My fear is that I’m going to pay a little too much of an homage to Stieg Larsson and the novel will be ~160,000 words.

The idea of it being that long makes me wince.

A first novel is SUPPOSED to be somewhere between ~80,000 and ~100,000 words. The second draft of this novel came in about just about 80,000 words. A few things led to the second draft potentially being longer.

One is, my beta readers said I crammed too much into the first act too quickly. So, that got me thinking about how I could stretch out the beginning of the novel so readers wouldn’t feel overwhelmed. What I didn’t expect was I would spend months and months spinning my wheels, trying to figure out the details of this new, extended first act.

Finally — FINALLY — it occurred to me that for the purposes of giving the novel a clearer point that I needed to split the novel into two. The first novel would be about my heroine’s quest to own a small town newspaper in Virginia and the second novel would be about her investigation into a murder that took place in the third act of the first novel.

This plan has worked out really, really well. My first novel now has a very clear purpose and objective for its heroine — owning a small town newspaper. Everything else hangs off of that goal in a really cohesive, coherent manner.


The issue of how fucking long this novel is going to be continues to linger in my mind. I just don’t know. If it’s about 140,000 words, then I will be cool with that because the novel The Girl On The Train is about that long and was a success. Anything beyond 140,000 and…I dunno what to tell you.

I suppose what I can do is just accept that the novel is on a structural basis too long. While I will still query it, in the back of my mind, I will understand that my best shot at getting published will be the new scifi novel I’m working on that is built from the ground up to be as marketable as possible.

That’s the goal at least.

But it’s still sinking in that I’m on the cusp of finishing my first novel. It’s really deep! After all these years of drifting towards my goal, I’ve just about reached it.

Now watch me drop dead like Stieg Larsson. Ugh.

Contemplating The Looming Querying Process

by Shelt Garner

While I still have the entire second half of the latest iteration of the third draft to make a pass through, it is beginning to sink in that I’ve just about entered the post-production part of my journey towards publication.

The fact that many, many, many people languish in the querying process for years and years gives me pause for thought. I’m not getting any younger and it could be that either I drop dead before I get published or I’m so old that it’s just kind of poignant and sad. I keep searching my mind for ways I could potentially make the novel better. But at this point, the issue is simply rewriting scenes that maybe haven’t been updated in ages.

At the forefront of my mind is how “spicy” the novel is. This element of the novel comes about in large part because of one plot point — my heroine is a partime sex worker (stripper) during course of the novel. She owns a strip club and on someting of a lark, decides to go back to stripping for the holidays.

I hope that I have written a novel that is as popular and an accessible as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

This really helps the novel be better — at least in my opinion — because it makes it edgy, and interesting in an unexpected way. I’ve never seen stripping depicted in the way I do in popular fiction.


There is a problem of the “woke cancel culture mob” that hates heterosexual sex (apparently) and hates CIS white men doing anything — especially writing from a female POV. (I’m being rather droll in even mentioning this.) There are no easy solutions to this particular problem — I have realized what my vision is for this novel is and that’s what I’m going with.

It doesn’t help — I say this with a wink — that many literary agents are white liberal women. I have nothing against white liberal women, I just think the phrase is amusing and I can’t help myself and bring it up a lot as something of a running gag. (Of course, my use of the term isn’t going to help me any when literary agents start to do due diligence on me.)

What I need is an honest third party evaluation of the novel to get some sense of how the sex worker angle of the novel will play with an audience. I have no friends and no one likes me, so my ability to get that kind of input is limited or nonexistent — at least for free.

All my regular readers know me personally. I need someone who reads a lot who is willing to be firm — but fair — about what I’ve come up with. I suppose what I’m saying is I need a manuscript editor of some sort. But those don’t come cheap.

But I even I have to admit that I’ve pretty much reached the goal I started towards several years ago — writing a novel that doesn’t embarrass me. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

I’m….Almost Done With My First Novel?

by Shelt Garner

I have been going through an iteration of the third draft of my first novel at a pretty nice clip. I will probably wrap up SOMETHING pretty soon. It may take a little bit longer than expected because the second half of the novel is not as polished as the first half, but, in general, I am on track to having a “finished” first novel no later than July 22, 2024.

I hope my first novel is as compelling and accessible as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

The old adage is that all novels are never finished, only abandoned and I understand what it meant by this — this novel is never going to be perfect. There’s always going to be a scene that I feel could be better worded or structured.

But, in general, I’m really pleased with what I’ve come up with.

I have a lingering concern that the novel may be too “racy” for the woke cancel culture mob, but I have settled on a vision for this novel and, as such, my heroine is a part-time sex worker (stripper) during the course of the events of the novel.

I understand how that element of the novel could be…controversial…but it really helps to not only add an unexpected element to the novel, but to flesh things out in general. The sex worker element of the story adds conflict and tension that would otherwise not be there.

But the potential problems with this element of the story has prompted me to really plunge into the backup scifi novel concept I’ve been thinking about. In fact, all I have to do before I start writing the first draft of the novel is sit down and do some character studies.

It is very possible that I will begin the querying process for the main novel in a few months. I have to admit I’m at a loss as to what I’m going to do about that. And, of course, there’s a chance that just as I’m trying to query my first novel, all hell will break loose as The Fourth Turning / The Petite Singularity happen starting in late 2024, early 2025.

But who knows. I can’t predict the future. Anything might happen. And I have to accept that successfully querying my first novel will be like winning the creative lottery. And, yet, the whole point of writing a novel to begin with was to have something bigger than myself to think about.

These Novel Writing Projects Are Existential

by Shelt Garner

It is becoming more and more clear to me that I could be nearly 60 years old before I become a published author — if that even ever happens. What’s more, it’s also clear that there is a pretty good chance that if the Petite Singularity doesn’t make all my hard work moot, that some sort of severe political crisis starting in late 2024, early 2025 might just do the trick.

My dream is that my “passion project” main novel is as accessible and popular as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

And, yet, here I am determined to keep going with two different novels that I’m working on.

The key thing is that I manage my expectations. I’ve decided on an existential basis that I’m willing to use what little time I have left on this planet to at least TRY to become a published author, problems and obstacles be damned. I have a huge chip on my shoulder about my writing ability and I want to the validation of getting the approval of literary gatekeepers.

Having said all that, I am really working on my backup scifi novel. The main novel, the “passion project” has problems because its heroine is a part time stripper at club that she owns. I am WELL AWARE of how problematic this may be to younger people — especially women — but I really like how unique and unexpected this part of my heroine’s personality is and so, lulz, fuck it.

Meanwhile, the backup scifi novel is built from the ground up to be as marketable as possible. That’s the goal, at least.

In an ideal world, one of the two novels will sell and I could use the popularity of one novel to get the other novel published. But I have my doubts about if such a cross-pollination of success is possible, given that the two novels are of such different genres.

Anyway. I am pleased with what I’ve come up with and the goal is to wrap up a final third draft of the “passion project” novel no later that around July 22.

Am (Almost) Querying: Now What

by Shelt Garner

It has occurred to me that there may be a problem with my plan to have a backup novel that is meant to be a lot more marketable than the main “passion project” novel — the two novels are different genres.

My main “passion project” novel is meant to be an homage to Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

I don’t know how much of this problem is in my own mind because I’m overthinking things and how much is real. My theory of the case is it will be easier to sell the scifi novel — then I will use the success of that novel as leverage with the thriller novel.

My concern is, of course, that the two novels begin different genres will cause their paths to be mutually exclusive. But I think I’m overthinking things. I think the concept is still valid — if I use one novel to get an agent, I can leverage that success to sell the other novel.

Or, I suppose, I could just throw up my hands in despair because “everything sucks” and I’m too old to ever have any additional success in life. But I’m just not prepared to admit defeat just yet. I’m going to keep going because no one can predict the future.

I’ve learned a lot about developing and writing a novel from the main “passion project” and I’m hoping that those skills will allow me to develop and write a scifi novel far more rapidly than the mystery thriller. I’ve already seen evidence of that with the mystery thriller.

I hope to wrap up an outline of the scifi novel pretty soon. I’m just about to wrap up the latest iteration of the third draft of the novel. Once I wrap that up, then I am going to find myself at a crossroads. I don’t quite know what I’m going to do in the near term, but I’m sure I’ll think of something.

My Backup Scifi Novel Is Beginning To Get Fleshed Out

by Shelt Garner

I am going through my main novel — which I now see as a “passion project” at quite a nice little clip. I hope to wrap up the latest iteration of the third draft in a few weeks. Then I will probably go through and really look carefully at each scene to make absolutely sure that it’s good enough to keep as-is.

Meanwhile, the scifi novel, which I am developing specifically to be as marketable as possible, is coming along as well. I’m using AI to help me develop the novel because I have no friends and no one likes me. I have had decidedly mixed results using AI for development.

Sometimes AI has given me so really good suggestions. Other times, meanwhile, the results have been rather…meh. But, in general, using AI has sped development up significantly because it has given me at least some sort of path as to where I should go. Too often in the past I’ve spent a lot of time just spinning my wheels, not really knowing what I should do.

Anyway, the next step with the “passion project” novel is to save up money for an editor. It’s going to take me a few months because I’m living in poverty. But it will be worth it. I am still rattled by the fact that I managed to scare off one editor I wanted to work with simply because I’m a freaky weirdo.

But I have to accept that within a few months — hopefully no later than July 22nd, 2024, I will begin the querying process for the “passion project” in some way — even if it’s just continuing to save money up for an editor of some sort. I may break down and just start to query the novel if I fear it’s just going to take me too long to get through the editing process.

‘The Backup’

by Shelt Garner

I finally have started to work on my backup novel. It’s a scifi novel that deals with a pandemic. It’s really good, but for one thing — the concept seems pretty obvious to me.

So obvious, that I am preparing myself to wake up on day to discover that a movie or novel has been released with the exact same concept. I have some other ideas to use as a back up, but I really like this back up idea and it will really suck to put all this work into it, only to have to pivot to something else.

But development of this backup concept is moving really, really fast. I’m about two thirds of the way through a treatment. Once that is done and stabilized, I hope to do some character studies.

THEN, I will sit down and block off some time during the day to write the first draft. I am going to be really careful to think about current market trends with this backup novel.

There won’t be nearly as much sex as there is with the main novel. The chapters will be shorter. I will have only one — male — POV so the “woke cancel culture mob” won’t get their panties in a bunch because a smelly CIS white male is writing from a female POV. Ugh.

So, I continue to press forward with the main novel project with an eye towards starting a backup project pretty soon. I continue to dread the querying process. It’s going to be tough, being rejected all the time.

But you have to believe.