Why Has It Taken Me So Fucking Long To Get To This Point With The Novel?

by Shelt Garner

I am now lurching towards wrapping up my first novel after years of working on it. I am taken aback by how long it has taken me to get to this point. Reviewing in my mind the journey that got to me to this point I have come up with some observations.


One is, I simply had no idea what story I wanted to tell. I spent some time thinking I wanted to write a scifi novel, but that turned out to be just to huge and I shelved it. Then I pivoted to the idea that I wanted to write a mystery-thriller that would allow me to make some political and social commentary about the Trump Era.

But I spent a lot of time just spinning my wheels on that one and I was still spinning my wheels when I realized in early 2021 that because Trump was no longer POTUS that my original intent for the story was no longer as timely. It occurred to me that I had this massive backstory about the novel I was working on at the time and it would be interesting to tell the very beginning of a 25 year tale that would end with the novel I had originally wanted to write about the Trump Era.

Once I got to that point, things began to move a lot quicker, even as the project went from one novel to two, and ultimately six.

I hope to write a novel that is as accessible and popular as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

And then something curious happened. I had planned to begin the third draft of the novel in September, only to spend months just spinning my wheels in the first act. I just could not figure out what I wanted to do with the first act of the novel.

There came a point when I realized that there was a way where I could write a novel that made sense and yet was totally different than what I had originally planned. It would require me to expand what was the first act of the novel into two third of a new novel and using a chunk of what had been the end of the first act and the beginning of the second act of the second draft.

This is the point where things changed dramatically for the story. It occurred to me that it would be very provocative if I leaned into something only alluded to in the second draft of the novel — the idea that the heroine owns a strip club. As such, I decided to have the heroine not only own a strip club but, for the duration of the novel, on occasion strip, too.

Now, clearly, if I had a wife or a girlfriend who was a Reader who could tell me “no” I probably wouldn’t have decided on such a strategic change to the plot of the novel.

But I don’t have that. So, lulz, I’ve come up with a really compelling story that MAY have too much sex in it to ever get published. But I don’t know yet. I’m too obsessed with finishing a novel of some sort that I am going to wait until I finish the third draft of this novel before I make any assessment like that.

And I continue to want to work on a backup scifi novel just in case my fears about the main novel being too “spicy” turn out to be correct. Then there is the issue of me being too bonkers for any literary agent who does due diligence on me so, well, there you go.

Is My Novel Too Spicy?

by Shelt Garner

Now that I’m racing through the second act of the third draft of my first novel I find myself mulling some Big Issues. One is the idea that this novel may be a bit too spicy. My fear is that I am using sex scenes as a crutch. And, yet, I once saw a quip from someone where they said characters in novels have much, much more sex than people in the real world.

So, I don’t know.

Having said that, I do really think this is a pretty damn good novel, all things considered.

Another issue that I worry about is the fact that I’m a smelly CIS white male who writes about a same-sex relationship between two women. Now, obviously, the late Stieg Larsson did the same thing with the novels he wrote before his death.

But things have changed over the last 20 years and there is a real concern that, by definition, there is a real chance that no matter how good I am with writing the novel that should I sell the novel that a whole slew of earnest young women will produce Tik-Tok after Tik-Tok complaining that I wrote what I wrote.

As I keep saying, I just find women far more interesting to write than than men. Writing female characters is such a challenge that the struggle to present women in a believable way as a male author is something I really like.

Video: Idle Rambling About The State Of The Third Draft Of My First Novel

It’s Comical How Much I Move Scenes Around

by Shelt Garner

As I move through the second act of this third draft of my first novel, I continue to move scenes around at a comical, alarming rate. And what makes this behavior even worse is there’s a chance all of it will be quite moot. I have, in general, used what Stieg Larsson did with his chapters as a guide.

This woman has the general phenotype of my heroine.

And, yet, it seems as though modern novels may have shorter chapters than he had. So, it’s possible that for all my futzing with chapters and the sequence of POVs within them…lulz?

I suppose I can console myself by with the thought that even if the first thing happens with the novel should I somehow, magically, sell this novel is everything changes with the scenes and chapters, at least I will have presented the best possible vision for this novel before I came to that point.

That, at least, is what I’m saying to myself to make myself feel better.

My heroine has a sleeve tattoo similar to the one that Megan Fox now sports, even though I thought of the idea first.

But I can’t help myself. I have some very, very strict, arbitrary rules about what “looks right” in the outline I have, even though I’m the only fucking person who will notice such shit — especially if I tell a great story. People will be so wrapped up with reading the story that they won’t give a shit about the exact sequence of POVs within a chapter.

It will be interesting to see how things work out. If nothing else, I’ve come up with a novel I can be proud of, no matter what the ultimate endgame of this particular journey might be.

T & A: Struggling With How To Depict Female Characters In The Age Of The ‘Woke Cancel Culture Mob’

by Shelt Garner

I really enjoy developing and writing female characters because it’s so much more of a challenge than male characters. And YET, the whole notion of me, a smelly CIS white male, writing from a female point of view is fraught with potential problems.

Ugh. ‘Woke’ people.

There are so young women on Tik-Tok are quite strident in their belief that, by definition, I can not write from a female POV. And that is just the beginning of what the potential creative landmines I have to deal with when I do something as now-provocative as write from a female POV.

Again, as an aside, let me be clear — had I know what a potential pain in the ass doing any of this would be, I wouldn’t have done it. But I studied Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium series and HE wrote from a female POV all the time so when I started working on what could now be a seven novel project…I didn’t really give it much thought.

From what I can tell of the “woke cancel culture mob” Tik-Toks I get pushed on occasion, one big quibble that some “woke” readers have is the what they feel is the gratuitous tendency for male authors — like me — to talk about tits and ass.

As someone who actually writing a novel, I really struggle with the idea that this is some big deal. One of the thing that is so appealing about female as opposed to male characters is there is so much to work with. Because women are so much more judged on what they look like than men, the writer — that would be me — has a lot to work with.

This is the general phonotype of my heroine.

So, the issue of how big my female character’s breasts might be is actually pertinent — in my view — when it comes to describing her to the audience. Hell, Stieg Larsson spend a long-ish scene talking about how and why Lisbeth Salander got breast implants. This is especially important when should there be a need to give the reading audience some sense of the character’s self-perception.

All of this sturm and drang about how horrible it is that smelly CIS white males like me talking about tits and ass gives me a great deal of self-conscious stress. I just want to present my female characters as interesting and engaging as possible and sometimes I feel that I need to, in a matter-of-fact kind of way describe their bodies and their self-perception and interaction with them.

The ‘woke’ always have their eye on you. Wink.

It should not be that big a deal if I do it all in a non-salacious manner. I’m WELL AWARE that some ding-dong male authors use their female character as an opportunity to design characters they clearly want to fuck.

Ok, I get it.

While we’re on the subject of female characters, I must note that my one big quibble about Stieg Larsson’s work is how ALL of his female characters are good. It seems a disservice to both the story and the audience for there to be no female characters who are not on the side of good.

Now, obviously, I haven’t really read the post-Larsson novels published by his estate, so that issue may have been fixed.

Anyway. What do I know. I’m a smelly CIS white male. I should nothing at all but sit in my dark bedroom, twiddle my thumbs and stare at the ceiling.

Things Are Moving Along At A Nice Clip With The Third Draft Of My First Novel

by Shelt Garner

I spent all morning writing out scenes and I hope — hope — to throw myself into similar writing this afternoon. It definitely seems that, barring something I can’t predict, that I am still on track to wrap up the third draft of this novel no later than July 22 — the 20th anniversary of my first trek to Asia in 2004.

Barfly makes good.

I’m really leaning into character with this latest attempt at a third draft. And, what’s more, I’m really smoothing out the rough edges of the plot. Scenes no longer can be moved around without regard for where they are in the outline. That comes from how stable — in general — the plot of the novel is at the moment.

All of this is happening in the context of me continuing to worry about what the fucking “woke cancel culture mob” will think of me, a smelly CIS white male, writing from a female POV. I TRY to be as empathic as possible and to make it clear that I “get it” when it comes to what women may experience. And, yet, I could be fucking Darren Star and there will be young women on Tik-Tok who simply can not accept that a middle aged dude like me can possibly write from a female POV.

Ugh. Woke people.

But, slings and arrows, as they say.

I just want to tell a great yarn and it just so happened that the story I want to tell involves me writing scenes from a female POV. When I started this project, I simply followed what Stieg Larsson did. I had no idea that it would be such a fucking big deal that I might write from the POV of a woman. Had I known that it was even an issue, I probably would have constructed the novel differently.

And, yet, lulz. I want this novel to be an old brown shoe for people who have read the original Millennium novels written by Larsson while he was alive, so there you go.

I hope my novel will appeal to readers who liked The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Having said all that, I am really pleased with how this novel is shaping up. It definitely may be too long — which is a real problem — but the story is coherent, cohesive and cogent. It tells a story that is engaging enough that maybe a few people — who don’t even know me! — will feel enough interest to actually finish the damn thing.

Well, If Nothing Else, I Won’t Embarrass Myself With This Novel

by Shelt Garner

Things are finally beginning to click with this novel. As I’m going through and rewriting many of the scenes of the third draft so I can produce something I can maybe get a manuscript consultant to read — if I can find the money — I’m finally, finally feeling confident that this novel won’t, if anything, embarrass me.

My dream is to write a novel as popular and as successful as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

I can finally feel some peace about all the hard work I’ve done over the last few years with this project. A lot of why things are moving so fast now comes from how I have a stable outline. All I have to do is go through the outline and smooth out some of the rough edges while leaning into character.

I’m really beginning to use cause and effect on the scenes so they’re not just a series of scenes that move around constantly. There is some sense of a flow from scene to scene. This is why I really feel the Beta Release of the third draft will be good enough that it will feel like a professional novel.

My heroine as a sleeve tattoo similar to the one Megan Fox now sports, even though I thought of the idea first.

All systems are go for me to wrap this novel up around July 22 as I hope. When I finally do finish this novel, the real work begins. I’m at a total loss as to what I’m going to do when I start to query this novel. I’ve been developing and writing this novel in such a vacuum that I fear the transition into trying to sell this particular work could be extremely jarring.

But I’m prepared to fail — a lot. And I know the odds are against me big time. It will be like winning a creative lottery to get anywhere near my goal of being a published author anytime soon. Even if I stick the landing, I could be a lot closer to 60 than I am now by the time the book hits bookshelves and people can buy it

My heroine has the same phenotype as Corrie Yee.

And that doesn’t even begin to address the possibility of a political “Fourth Turning” happening or a technological “Petite Singularity.” But I have hope. I’m a peace one way or another.

I believe that when this process is over that I will have a finished novel that I can be proud of, regardless of any obstacles I may face to get it traditionally published.

Am (Almost) Querying: Worrying About Liberal White Women Literary Agents & What They Will Think Of My Novel

by Shelt Garner

The worst thing anyone else said about me was that I am a “delusional jerk with a good heart.” That was said to me by the late Annie Shapiro while we were in the process of untangling our hearts and minds from each other at the end of ROKon Magazine.

The late Annie Shapiro and me in better days back when I was cute.

She had a point.

But, I’ve had a brain transplant since that statement, said many moons ago. I’m a much more humble, stable person.

And, yet, here I am, about to plunge into the cold, dark waters of querying — in a few months, maybe more — and I am worried about what the liberal white women who make up the vast majority of agents will think of me and my novel.

The novel itself is problematic because even though it’s really good, the idea that a smell CIS white male would write such a novel might make some liberal white women blanch.

My novel is about a part-time stripper obsessed with owning a rural community newspaper in Virginia.

Or not. I just don’t know. I can’t help how the story I worked itself out of my emotional system. It has a lot of spicy scenes but it does, in fact, tell a compelling story about one woman’s obsession to own a small town community newspaper.

It tells a complete, compelling story. And, what’s more, it leaves you wanting more. It is written in such a way that the audience will want to know what happens next. I have a second novel in the series in the hopper — I just have to write the third draft. So it’s at least possible that I may have TWO novels done this year, ready to query.

But that’s a little bit down the road. I need to chill out for a little bit today then sit down and start writing again. It sucks so bad that I have to do all of this sober, and yet, that’s the reality I face.


Wish me luck.

I Finally Understand What My Novel Is About

by Shelt Garner

For a long time, I thought this novel was a murder mystery like Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire. Because of this assumption, I spent months — years — spinning my wheels, struggling to figure out how to make the story work. It wasn’t until I realized that the first novel in this series is actually more foundational than that that things began to click.

My novel is about a part-time stripper who is obsessed with owning a community newspaper in rural Virginia.

This novel isn’t about a murder, it’s about one woman’s struggle to own a community newspaper. Throw in that the woman is a part-time stripper and a few people do die during the course of the story and you got yourself a pretty good shot at a novel that is interesting enough to actually get published the traditional way.

What’s more, this is meant to be part of a six or seven novel series that ends with a NEW series about a Lisbeth Salander-type woman. So, in a sense, my vision for these novels is you get to see how one Salander-type woman had such a fucked up youth that she would turn into someone you want to read a lot of books about.

Writing a novel as accessible and popular as Stieg Larsson’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo is my dream.

That’s the thing about Salander, from my point of view, the reason she was the way she was is she had a really fucked up upbringing. Had she had the opportunity have a normal youth, she might not have gone bonkers the way she did.

So, now that I understand the nature of this first novel in the series, I find myself dwelling seriously about how successful I will be when it comes to querying this novel. At the moment, I honestly don’t know.

I’ve never queried a novel and it could be that despite all my hard work that over the years that, lulz, I’m still not good enough. But I know I’ve accomplished one thing — I’ve written a novel that at least won’t embarrass me.

Just…*About*…At The Midpoint Of The Alpha Release Of The Third Draft Of My First Novel

by Shelt Garner

Editor: I need a stiff drink. Too bad I’m sober.

Anyway, I’m just a few scenes away from reaching the midpoint of the alpha release of the third draft of my first novel. This novel is a lot — A LOT — more spicy (and funny!) than Stieg Larsson’s original Millennium series of books. And while I just am not as good as he is when it comes to structure and POVs, I do think that, in general, the story flows a faster clip than The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

Nathalie Emmanuel pretty much looks literally like my heroine in this picture. So much so I’m worried someone is going to steal a march on me creatively!

And, in a sense, I do feel that I’ve finally, FINALLY, developed and written a novel that has the same vibe as The Girl Who Played With Fire. It’s not fan fiction — it’s its own thing — but the influence that novel has on my work is pretty obvious in the sense that if you pick up my novel after having read the original Millennium series of books you’ll think, “Oh, I get it, this is like a Stieg Larsson novel set in America.”

That is the general goal of things in my mind.

But, in real terms, my novel is creatively its own thing other than a few stylistic choices and a few Form Follows Function things I was kind of forced into doing because of the genre.

My heroine has a sleeve tattoo like Megan Fox sports now, even though I thought of the idea first!

In fact, the biggest difference between my work and Stieg Larsson’s is something pretty basic — our personalities. He seems like he was way more serious than I am and had a far more twisted creative sense than I do. I love to laugh and socialize and it’s a real struggle for me to stay serious — or think about dark things — for too long.

Anyway. No one cares.