Once More, With Feeling (Redux)

by Shelt Garner

Not only am I falling apart, but I continue to feel like I’m spinning my wheels when it comes to the first few chapters of this novel. This is the point in the past, of course, when the whole thing would collapse and I would pretty much lurch forward in the plot so I could at least start writing with some momentum again.

My heroine looks like Corrie Yee in my mind.

But this time, I’m not doing that. I’m going to press forward. I’m pretty sure that I have figured things out with the beginning of this novel. It’s just a matter of being really, really patient and methodical.

I’ve changed so much about characters and relationship when it comes to this novel that that, unto itself, is going to slow me down. But — hopefully — not too much. I am still on track to wrap up this third draft by about April 1st. That will give me a few months so do pre-flight things before I query to agents in the fall of 2024.

I still have no idea what I’m going to “comp” my novel to. In general, the novel could be compared to Gillian Flynn’s “Sharp Objects.” And I’m sure I’m going to make many, many mistakes as part of the querying process. But that’s part of the fun of it all, the thing that gives one a sense of adventure.

Being an aspiring novelist, you are bombarded with a lot of advice, all of it being contradictory. It’s enough to make your head spin. But I’ve come up with my own, personal, set of arbitrary rules that I *try* to follow as well as possible as I write this third draft.

I believe I have a stable first chapter. I believe I’m well on my way to having a stable second chapter. The big issue will be how quickly — or slowly — it takes me to get past just the first few chapters into the core of the first act and then into the second act.

I can’t keep writing and re-writing this portion of the novel forever.

I May Have Two Stable Chapters

by Shelt Garner

I think it’s possible that the first two chapters of the third draft of my novel are now stable. I *hope* that this will mean that things will go much, much faster. But one problem I’ve discovered is even though the first two chapters are strong, all the changes I’ve made in those first two chapters are kind of forcing my hand.

In my mind, my heroine looks like Corrie Yee.

I’m going to have to rework huge parts of the rest of the novel to accommodate these improvements. And I had no idea that thinking up a new, better beginning for the novel would require so much work.

But, here I am, months after I hope to start to rewrite the novel in earnest, still somewhat spinning my wheels in the very beginning of the novel. I’ve also added about 30,000 new words to the novel — at least. The hope is, of course, that all these new, spicy scenes I’m working into the plot will turn this novel into a real page turner.

That’s the hope, at least. I know I’ve stumbled upon a really cool story. The question now is, of course, is my writing ability up to the task? And that doesn’t even begin to address my lingering fears about the rise of AI and the so-called “Fourth Turning” happening at some point in late 2024, early 2025.

But, at this point, I just want to finish the third draft sooner rather than later. I’m still shooting for April, 2024. That’s my goal. I just don’t want this to slip any further. I do not want it to be April 2025, I want April 2024.

That will give me time to pivot to the pre-flight work necessary to query in the fall of 2024, just as all hell may be about to break out.

Things Should Now Go Really Fast With The Third Draft of My First Novel

by Shelt Garner

My heroine, in my mind, looks a lot like Corrie Yee.
There are a lot — A LOT — of lingering known unknowns when it comes to the third draft of my novel. But I’m still pretty confident that I should be able to write much, much faster now. I know the general relationships of the characters and so now I have to root around in the specifics as I move forward through the story to write a solid alpha release of the third draft.

I hope to do that by around April 1st. But it’s going to be a real struggle. Sometimes, I feel like my life is falling apart and everything will be thrown up in the air at any moment in a way or ways that I just can’t predict.

I wish some of these people who read this blog on occasion from unexpected, exotic locales had some connection to the Hollywood industrial complex and would be interested in getting the novel published. It’s shaping up to be really good. With my luck, of course, they’ll just steal the idea and I’ll be forced to watch other people have some success from all my hard work.


Things Are Getting A Lot Better With The Third Draft Of My First Novel

by Shelt Garner

My heroine has the general phenotype of Corrie Yee.
I’m giving myself about a day to kind of chill out before throwing myself back into the novel. I do this every once in a while. In the past, when I had more money, I would go to NYC for a little Writer’s Retreat.

Alas, I now live in abject poverty.

Anyway, here are a revised first few scenes of the third draft. I’m well on my way to revising them, but this will give you some sense of where things stand.

Things *Should* Move REALLY FAST Now With The Third Draft Of My Novel

by Shelt Garner

It’s time. I have got to start to push myself when it comes to wrapping up this third draft. I have a fairly stable first two chapters of the third draft, now is time to zoom through the first act. Once I hit the second act, things SHOULD move even faster.

My heroine looks a lot like Corrie Yee in my mind.
I have written and re-written so much of this novel, that once I get the new beginning of the novel done, then, zoom, I hope to wrap up the third draft no later than maybe April. I know full well that if I don’t keep and eye on the calendar, it could be fall 2024 before I finish the third draft and the whole world could be being coming apart at the seams.

Anyway. It’s officially put up or shut up time. I have got to finish this third draft ASAP so I can piviot to the next step in the process – querying.


by Shelt Garner

Now that I have pretty much built the cornerstone of the third draft by having a stable first chapter, I can get down to business. There is the issue of a ‘canon.’ To date, I have kept canon up to date in my mind by simply reading and re-reading what I’ve already written.

Heroine of my first novel looks like Corrie Yee, phenotype wise.
But that has led me to grow very unhappy with what I’ve written and, as such, rewrite everything. This has obviously slowed me down a great deal. But I took a look at the new version of the first chapter today and realized my heart wasn’t in it. This is a good sign — I can now throw myself into finishing the rest of the first act.

And what SHOULD happen once I finish the first act is things go very, very fast. That would put me on track to finishing the third draft of the novel no later than, say, around April 1st. That’s the hope, at least.

President of Hollywood, are you out there in the aether, reading?
Then I would have all summer to figure out how to afford a professional manuscript consultant to look at the novel before I query in in the fall — just as my world — and everyone else’s — is thrown up in the air because of a potential “perfect storm” of the Fourth Turning and a some sort of Petite Singularity.

Or we might actually punt our problems down the road such that I can try to enter the querying process in peace and quiet. If I legitimately thought someone in some way connected to the Hollywood industrial complex was interested in this novel I MIGHT post the stable first chapter of the novel just to give them a taste of what I have.

But I am well aware that by saying that outloud that some asshole will use a proxy to make it SEEM like someone with Hollywood connections was lurking out there in the aether reading this blog.

So, lulz, not going to do that.

But the first chapter is shaping up to be really, really good. I rewrite a lot of it recently because I used AI to give a sense if it was any good and it told me “not enough tension.” So, I reworked it to make the things a bit more tense and give the thing a bit more of a flow.

I am well aware that many, many other people are doing the same damn thing I’m doing and they’re not drunk cranks. I know anyone doing due diligence on me would probably conclude I was too much of a freaky weirdo to give a old drunk crank like me a chance.

Oh well. Slings and arrows and all that.

I Just Don’t Know, Folks

by Shelt Garner

The moment I think I have a stable first little bit of this third draft of the novel, everything collapses. So, I dunno. I guess I have a stable first chapter? Maybe? It’s possible? I really like what I’ve come up with, regardless.

Yes, President of Hollywood, I’m working as fast as I can.
I’ve reworked the first scene YET AGAIN, this time so it has more tension in it and is more focused. But the changes I’ve made in the story have now forced me to rewrite everything that comes after it. This. Happens. All. The. Time. I think that’s a sign that my storytelling ability is getting a lot — A LOT — better.

I hope.

Anyway, I continue to fall apart on a physical basis. I have some real concerns about the state of my teeth. I don’t know what I’m going to do about that in the near to middle term. I have a fear things are going to get really, really bumpy, only to sort themselves out in a way I can live with.

It’s just going to suck in the near term. Ugh!

I hope I can sprint between now and Christmas when my next de facto deadline is. Christmas is when some relatives will return who I will feel compelled to show at least the first scene to. They were quite pleased with the last version I showed them, then I asked ChatGPT about what I had written and it said, in effect, “This sucks — no tension.”

So I went back to the drawing board and gave the first scene more focus and more tension. I’ve learned a lot of my problems come from simply having too fucking much going on in a scene. Just by cutting long, meandering scenes into shorter, more focused scenes, I fix a lot of problems.

I have also realized I have to hurry up. I can’t keep screwing around. I have a limited amount of time — I’m NOT going to live forever. I’m already in my 50s and not only may AI make all my hard work moot, the prospect of a significant political crisis in the United States starting in late 2024, early 2025, is a “not great, Bob” type situation.

Things Fall Apart: I Have To Hurry

by Shelt Garner

I fear there is going to come a moment in the very near future where the context of me writing a novel will change dramatically. I have written and developed this novel in a rather idyllic situation but all good things must come to an end. If nothing else, this knowledge encourages me to work as hard as possible to finish the third draft of this novel ASAP.

The thing about these fears is it could be that things will suck for a while…then turn out alright. Even if my teeth problems worse and I lose a few because I’m poor and can’t afford a root canal….then maybe I’ll sell this novel and have enough funds to fix that particular situation?

A guy can dream.

Anyway, I’m also old. And at the same age Stieg Larsson was when he dropped dead (50.) But he had sold three novels at that point. I, on the other hand, don’t even have a third draft finished.

The meaning of (my) life.
But this third draft will be the last structural draft. Any drafts beyond this will be just for editing. Though if I somehow magically find the funds to show this third draft to a manuscript consultant…I suppose I might have even MORE structural changes to implement.

Yet I know — KNOW — that this is a great story. The story is probably going to be closer to The Girl On The Train’s ~140,000 word count that the ~100,000 word sweetspot for a first novel. But, lulz, I’m hoping all the “spicy” scenes in the first act will get people interested enough to finish the fucking thing.

My Characterizations Are Getting Much Better

by Shelt Garner

One thing I’m leaning into is how people can change over the course of 25 years. This is one of those things where even though it’s felt like I’ve been spinning my wheels for months, I actually am slowly stumbling across some new, important elements to the story.

Among these improvements is significantly better characterizations. I have two secondary POV characters that have gone from just meh “vibes” into really unique people with sharp edges that make them really, really interesting. I have long written on character specifically with Jessica Chastain in my mind as I write the character.

I really liked her in Zero Dark Thirty and, as such, in the last two novels in this six novel project I have a hardass FBI agent who drives my hero nuts. But now that I’ve been really rooting around in the events that lead to those last two novels — which are meant to be an allegory for how fucked up modern America is — I realize that there is a lot of interesting avenues I can go.

As such, we meet this future FBI agent as a 90s Riot Grrrl. This makes her transformation 25 years later even greater. So she goes from being depicted in the novel like this:

To this:

I think that’s pretty cool! So, over the course of six novels — and 25 years — we gradually see this character morph from a passionate Riot Grrrl into a very conventional, serious FBI agent who drives the Hero of the last two novels crazy with what an asshole she is to him.

That, at least, is the vision.

I Love Developing & Writing Female Characters, But The Process Can Be a Pain In The Ass As A Male Author

by Shelt Garner

People love, love, love to pick on male authors for all being a bunch of clueless hornytoads when it comes to the female characters that they write. I’m so self-conscious of this issue that I over think everything to do with my female characters.

My heroine looks like Corrie Yee.
Then, of course, I turn around and turn my heroine into a part-time sex worker (stripper.) And given that I often write from a female POV, I find myself in a situation where I just can’t avoid talking about T&A, even though that’s the very thing that the fucking “woke cancel culture mob” things I have no right to describe at all as a CIS white middle age male.

But I dunno. It’s typical of my lot in life that I would inevitable gravitate straight towards the most problematic situation possible. And given that I’m a smelly CIS white middle age male, for some members of the “woke cancel culture mob” there just isn’t anything I can write that they would validate. So, fuck it, why not just endure the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and see what happens.

I like to THINK that I can write about women as a male author that won’t be embarrassing or cause women in the audience to want to throw the book across the room. But the whole sex worker element of the novel definitely makes it a provocative novel in the context of how sexless the “woke cancel culture mob” tends to be.

I’m happen with what I’ve come up with. I know people will really enjoy this novel once I finish it. The question is, of course, will the liberal white women who are often literary agents be cool with not just the contents of this novel but the fact that it was written by a smelly CIS white middle aged male.