This 5 Novel Project Is Massive

by Shelt Garner

Between now and New Year’s Day, I’m going to try to just distract myself rather than throwing myself back into writing. They say once you finish a first draft, you need to chill out for about a month so when you start working on the second draft, you come at the project with fresh eyes.

This is not going to stop me, however, from bouncing around the other books in the series while I wait to write again. One thing that is going to both be a serious pain in the ass to keep consistent and yet will also really make for a far more compelling character is the use of a foreign language occasionally in certain scenes.

Me, late 2021, working on five novels.

I hope to use this foreign language so much — and so consistently — that I may have to have a small list of the foreign words used at the very beginning of the novel (along with a map or two) so readers won’t get frustrated or confused as to what the fuck is going on. But the use of this foreign language on an incidental basis is crucial to what happens later on in the series.

In fiction, at least, things can’t just randomly happen. You have to lay out your cause and effect in a very clear manner so when some big event happens, it doesn’t blindside your audience. As such, I’m really going to make it absolutely clear that my Heroine –and her son — have a direct connection to another country and culture so when the time comes it will obviously make sense that such a thing would happen.

The fact that I have gone backwards in time to show the audience exactly how we ended up with such a strange little Southern town in novels set in the modern day has really helped a great deal. I’m also digging very, very deep into my personal history to tell these five stories, to the point that if you read them all you will know an embarrassing amount about me on a personal basis.

But they say you have to bleed onto the page to be successful, so keep the faith.

Establishing Canon For The Second Draft

by Shelt Garner

I’m now wading into figuring out what is “real” in my epic five novel series. It’s a lot of fun, but it ‘s also a huge pain in the ass. The reason is, there comes a point where I run out of things to say about this or that thing and I feel guilty that I’m not writing 25 pages on it.

But I guess everyone is different when it comes to how they develop and write. So, as long as I write or read *some* it’s ok. I’m really hoping to start writing a lot again at some point just after January 1st. I’m going to use the holidays to take a chill pill and just develop and read.

I find myself wanting to get back into writing as soon as possible, however. I’m just about finished a new fleshout outline and the structure of this new draft works well enough for me to throw myself into things. But I want to do things properly.

When I get back to writing, I want everything to be locked down so things go smooth enough that I can “just write.” The thing I notice about published novel, which is so tough, *IS* the level of consistency, of canon. So, that’s why sitting down and writing out what is “real” is so important. Only by having a cheat sheet of sorts can I have the best possible product when my beta readers — however I manage to find them — read the second draft.

Finding beta readers given that I have no friends, no one likes me and I’m flat broke is going to be a real pain in the ass. But you have to believe. You have to keep the faith. I’ve gotten this far, I can figure out somehow, someway to get within shouting distance of getting published in the traditional manner.

Get Me Re-Write!

by Shelt Garner

I’m totally rewriting and restructuring the first book in this series. The more I think about it, the more I realize how massive this project has become. But I review in my mind time and again what I’m doing and each novel has a concept strong enough to write.

It helps, of course, that essentially I’m writing a very fictionalized version of my own autobiography over the course of these five novels. But, as I have mentioned, I’m going to focus on the first book for the most part in the near term.

It’s time to put up or shut up.

Living the dream.

I need to produce something so I can query an agent and see if I can sell the first book. From the beginning, I’ve just wanted to go through the entire process of getting to the point where I could sell a novel.

It’s just that this project has ballooned into something that I so huge that sometimes I wonder what I’ve gotten myself into. But it is a lot of fun. And here’s how I see it — I’ve finally reached land. The question is, will I reach the mainland of the New World, or will I just hang out in Cuba, thinking I’ve discovered a direct route to the East Indies?

My life.

In other words, do I write one novel, or things work out so I am successful enough that can write and sell FIVE NOVELS that are essentially my person history told by a drunk person with marbles in their mouth.

Anyway, things are going really, really well.

I still have a number of other novels, short stories and screenplays rolling around my mind at the moment. But, for the moment at least, I just don’t feel like taking any mental energy from these five novels.

So I Broke My Right Ankle

by Shelt Garner

Jesus, this sucks. Due to a very freak set of circumstances, I find myself with a broken right ankle. The only bright side to any of this is it’s not like I broke my arm, hand or wrist.

The current state of my right ankle.

I can still write.

And, for the time being, I’m definitely encouraged to write and read because it’s extremely difficult for me to do much of anything else. Just tonight, I’ve managed to prove to myself that I can, in fact, just listen to music and write because if I don’t I grow very, very bored and frustrated.

As such, for the time being, I’m going to spend ever more of my waking time working on these four novels. Though, I will admit, my current run-in with the medical system has me again thinking about a novel or screenplay I have rolling around my mind that is pandemic relatedly in its theme.

But, for the time being, I’m just going to focus on these four thrillers I’ve been working on while dabbling in the screenplay concept I’ve discovered I work to work on as well.

Anyway, wish me luck.

A Creative Conundrum

by Shelt Garner

I find developing and writing female characters a lot more fun because of how much of a challenge it is to do so as a man. I often also populate my work with POC including American Asians, etc. This is all well and good, but for the fact that at same time this thing that I’m told is expected in a modern writer is also, in itself, something that can cause problems.

‘Double dees, double deeze”

Because I’m a white “CIS” male.

So, there is something of a paradox. I’m suppose to have representation in my work, which I find myself doing anyway, and, yet, because I’m a white man, that, by definition, is a problem.

It can make the whole act of creation rather frustrating. All these rules I have to follow — which often have contradictory expectations — can cause you to grow angry at them. As an aside, I will note one of these rules that makes me seethe is the Bechdel Test, which I’ve heard described as originally proposed as a “half joke” in a fucking comic of all things.

So here I am, slaving away to write the best four novel series that I hope might be popular — especially with women readers — and I’m expected to have representation, but if I do have representation then it’s bad because I’m a white man writing from a female, or POC point of view.

What’s more, it’s now a fairly ridged ideology among some that these works also have to feature two women talking about something other than a man. I call bullshit.

The point is for me to tell the best story possible that entertain the audience for hours using only their imagination.

As such, you, as the writer, in my opinion, need to follow your truth north. If you’re a white “CIS” male, you just can’t win with some people. By definition, they don’t like you and don’t like anything you produce. It’s enough to make me want to write under an assumed identity or something. I’m only half-joking, as it were.

Anyway. All I can do is try my best to flesh out my vision on the page and see what happens.

Dreaming Is Free: Of Jessica Chastain, Sophia Lillis & The Thriller Series I’m Developing & Writing

by Shelt Garner

I’m being extremely delusional still when it comes to this thriller series I’m working on. But at the moment absolutely no one cares if I drop off the face of the earth, so I don’t think you’ll be grudge me a little daydreaming. Though, this being the Internet, maybe you will.

Jessica Chastain / Image: Internet

But there’s one specific character in this thriller series I’m working on that I’ve imagined looking and acting like Jessica Chastain. And now that I’ve decided to write two exogenesis novels as well, there’s another red head I imagine playing this character in my head, IT’s Sophia Lillis.

Sophia Lillis / Image: Internet

She’s a little young at the moment to play the character in the first book movie adaptation of any sort of I-win-the-lottery situation where there are movie adaptations of these four novels. But by the time things came to that point, she probably would be about the right age to play the early-20s stage of the character I think Chastain could play in later books.

Yet, again, this is all extremely delusional. I just need hope at the moment and, also, I need someone to model the character after in my mind. I like Chastain’s vibe. And I like the idea that we would kind of see her character — and all the other characters change over the course of a generation.

That’s one of the things I did not expect when I started this process about three years ago — how enormous it would become. I’m really digging deep into every aspect of my personal life — and the lives of a few other people — to flesh out this universe I’ve come up with and populate it with not just characters, but people.

I’ve Grown Obsessed With The Construction of ‘Scenes’ in These 4 Novels

by Shelt Garner

I’m giving myself a few days of a creative reboot with these four novels I’m working on. And things are going really, really well with them. I’ve decided to flesh out the second novel in the series and, so far, it’s going really well.

My life has become consumed by these four novels.

The more I read, the more I come to understand that to construct a good to great novel, you need to change things up. You can’t just have the same old, same old scene structure throughout your story.

You have to think things through with such things, especially, if you’re like me and the scene is the basic building block of your stories. So, I have a number of how-to books I’m reading about scenes. I have to balance my need to have an ebb and flow with how I structure scenes with the need not to grow too elaborate and, by definition, slow.

I’ve given myself a very — very — tight deadline to finish the first drafts of these four novels. I can’t dilly-dally. And, so, I’m trying to do as much reading and thinking as possible before I get back to writing so when I do write, I write as quickly as possible without any need to go back to the beginning and start all over again.

Anyway, I’m very pleased with how things are going. I’m just a little concerned that if I don’t buckle down and actually finish the first draft of these four novels sooner rather than later, it will be a year from now and I will be exactly where I am at the moment.

That a key element of giving myself a few days to creatively reset. I really, really want to wrap the first draft of these four novels up ASAP, like in a few months.

Chapter One, Down

by Shelt Garner

I’ve finished the first chapter in the first draft of the first novel of a four book series. Because I understand how *I* develop a novel, I now am going to sketch out the scenes and “sequels” of the second chapter, then sit down and start writing it.

I still have a lot of reading to do. I really need to read even more about how to lay out scenes and how to write dialogue. I also, lulz, need to read more novels in my genre just to get a sense of how other people have done it (successfully.) Though, to be fair, I did soak up a lot of interesting influences from watching Mare of Easttown.

Having said that, I really REALLY need to read more fiction. It’s just I’m so obsessed with producing fiction, I find it difficult to consume it. But that’s a dumb excuse. I need to do better.

I am very pleased with what I’ve managed to come up with. Things, in a sense, are moving a lot faster, even though I keep saying that and a year later I’m still just working on the first chapter. But I did add to novels to the series and it’s just taken a lot longer than I expected to get to the point where I could start writing again.

Canon Management Is Such A Pain

by Shelt Garner

I have a “cinematic universe” that is currently comprised of four novels and it’s a real pain to manage it all. I have to keep all these things in my mind to keep things consistent and sometimes it’s really hard work on a tactical level, if nothing else.

There is software you can buy to manage such things, but I find that Google Docs is far more flexible. And, in all honesty, I think the only solution to canon management is to write everything, finish it, then read through the whole thing to ensure that everything is consistent.


But that’s the nature of writing a four book series, I guess.

Things continue to be a lot of fun — if a whole lot of work. I’m beginning to see writing these novels as a really hard job that I really enjoy.

American Idol, Showbiz Ageism & Developing & Writing Four Novels At Once

by Shelt Garner

I’m a reasonable good singer and often delusional enough to put myself in situations that I probably shouldn’t, so I on a lark was going to attempt to do American Idol. I was, that is, until I discovered the cut off year for participating is 1992.

I’m about 20 years too old to do it.

Write, write, write.

If you’re an unmarried man without children like I am at the moment, you don’t really have and aging rituals to mark your entry into middle age. Sure, there’s the issue of chatting up a young woman at a bar, only to learn she’s 24, but this American Idol thing has really rattled my cage.

The reason is, it definitely reminds me of the context of the novels I’m developing and writing. By the time I actually finish them — which, I hope, will be in about a year — my age in itself, will be part of the “story” behind the story.

Even if my dreams come true and I successfully sell all four books and they become popular, I may find myself answering the question, “So, how does it feel to be a success later in life,” a lot. Ugh.

And, yet, the whole point of this huge creative project was to give myself a huge creative project to finish before — gulp — I reached a certain age milestone. That has not changed. I had no idea the learning curve for writing a novel, much less four, would be so sharp.

But things are going really well.

I’m changing focus until the end of August — I’m doing more reading and developing than trying to write — and that’s really helping to clear my mind some. Giving myself a few weeks of breathing room to reflect on the saga so when I start writing again in September, things should move extremely fast.

That, at least, is the idea.

Some of what’s going on is I need to get a better handle on the whole thing so I can just go straight through the outline without fear of it collapsing. If I can reach that level of stability with all four outlines, then I will be well on my way to wrapping up the first drafts of the four novels a lot sooner than anyone might expect.

This is a huge fucking project and I love it. The sheer size and scope of this project perfect fits my personality. I’ll put a move on you, no matter how old I may be….