Of ‘Woke’

by Shelt Garner

Because we live in an age devoid of nuance, it’s really difficult to pin down exactly what being “woke” means. It seems to me the whole notion of “wokeness” is more about the *fear* of being “canceled” by the “woke cancel culture mob” than it means something concrete.

And to figure out who is “woke” and why, requires one to juggle a few different causes in one’s mind at once.

One issue that has prompted the debate over “wokeness” is social media. Social media allows the most extreme points of view to dominate the discussion of any subject. Meanwhile, it is clear that a lot of GenZ people honestly do have different cultural tastes than their older peers.

As such, social media causes the most sensitive of GenZ people to put the fear of God into older people who fear being “canceled” for the slip of the tongue or something similar. I can tell you from my own life that I know people who are on a hair trigger for the possibility that their life will be ruined because they’re recorded by someone saying something that “doesn’t fit the media narrative.”

But again, all of this is very murky.

It is interesting than comics are often the ones who bitch and moan the most about the “woke cancel culture mob.” I think that may say more about older comics not understanding the comedy tastes of GenZ than it does there being some sort of raging band of woke people who scour the earth for people to cancel.

The more I think about it, the more I struggle to understand it all. I’m a loudmouth crank at times and I have, indeed, been attacked by people on my Left who are extremely touchy about the usual “woke” things. But these incidents are actually few and far between — but they leave a mark because of how fucking annoying they are.

But wait, there’s more.

Because MAGA Republicans, by nature, work only in bad faith, they have latched onto the idea of “wokeness” as a catch all for anything that they disagree with. To the point that they don’t even know what it is they think “being woke” actually means.

If pressed, I would say “woke” is a form of cultural Leftism that is has a sometimes absurd orthodoxy that is hypersensitive. Or something. It’s one of those “I know it when I see it” type of things. I don’t feel comfortable getting into too much detail about such things because, well, “woke people” might get angry at me. (Which kind of proves my point about the fear of being canceled is more powerful than anything “woke” people might actually be able to do.)

But I also think it’s a very, very small number of people who qualify as “being woke.”

But because of the bad faith arguments of MAGA Republicans and the nature of social media, that tiny minority of “woke” people has a huge amount of influence on the cultural as a whole. It all boils down to the FEAR of being “canceled” by the “woke cancel culture mob,” even if pretty much most of the “canceling” that happens is just regular old accountability.

So, in some sense, the fear of the “woke cancel culture mob” that a lot of older people have is simply the generation gap. They just don’t understand younger people and they have a wistful anger towards people they feel should know better.

Anyway. I’m sure I’ll get canceled one day.

Pondering The Querying Process

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.

Jerry Seinfeld & The Fate Of Comedy

by Shelt Garner

I try to be as moderate and empathetic as possible. But sometimes the “woke cancel culture mob” really gets on my fucking nerves. Take, for instance, what’s going on with Jerry Seinfeld and his belief that people being “woke” has caused the demise of comedy.

There is so much wrong with the reaction to this comment — on both sides.

The MAGA Right has glommed onto his observations as a way to confirm their priors. They believe that they can “own the libs” by screaming at the top of their lungs that what they believe HAS to be Right because “even Seinfeld” agrees with us.

Meanwhile, the “woke cancel culture mob” is just as bad. They really are so touchy that they can’t take even the smallest amount of criticism. They are doing everything in their power on social media to “recon” away how Seinfeld is one of the greatest comics of the last 30 odd years.

Now, as for what Seinfeld believes — I don’t know what the truth is. I suspect he has something of a point, but I also think that the economics of comedy have changed drastically in the last few decades to the point that the comedies of the 1970s, 80s and 90s just aren’t economically viable anymore.

Just the advent of streaming itself is enough to throw things out of whack.

I guess I’m just annoyed at how polarized the American political system is. We can’t come to any agreement about anything — not even the fate of comedy — and it is really aggravating.

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.

The Curious Case Of The ‘Woke Cancel Culture Mob’

by Shelt Garner

Two interesting things happened that gave me pause for thought. One was Bill Maher laid out a view some of the issues surrounding the “woke cancel culture mob” that I could not dismiss out of hand. It was nuanced and at first glance at least, seemed to expound upon a view that pretty much fit what any reasonable person might think about the subject.


Meanwhile, just in the last few days, Jerry Seinfeld said that he thought that comedy had been chilled a great deal by “woke” people being too easily offended.

These two things have given me pause for thought because I find myself wondering if my views on these subjects are out of step with the “media narrative” and will, as such, cause me to get “canceled” if I ever blow up with my novel money.

I don’t know why I even worry about such things because selling my novel and having any success of note will be like winning the lottery. But, lulz.

It all gets worse when you consider that I have seen a number of people on Twitter get their panties all in a bunch over Seinfeld’s comments. I do believe there is some merit to what he had to say and it doesn’t just stop with comedy. For some reason, the “woke cancel culture mob” also has an extremely puritanical view of heterosexual sex in the arts.

Anyway, I try to be as moderate and empathetic as possible. It would help a great deal if there was nuance in public discourse, but alas, that’s just not how things are these days. Everything is yes / no, black / white and people can get pretty worked up if you don’t adhere to the orthodoxy.

‘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.

Things Are Moving Fast With My Backup Scifi Novel

by Shelt Garner

Because of how “racy” my mystery-thriller is, I’ve finally decided to work on a backup novel. The novel is a scifi novel with a pandemic element to it. As I’ve said before, it’s a pretty obvious way to talk about pandemics — at least in my opinion — so I keep expecting to wake up and read in Variety or The Hollywood Reporter that a movie with the exact same premise has started production.

But I really like the idea and it gives me a sense of insurance against my main novel being too “racy’ to ever get published. I have a few other novel ideas to pivot to if disaster strikes and even the scifi novel I’m working on is somehow co-oped by someone else.

One key thing that I’ve learned working on the mystery-thriller is you have to have a proactive protagonist. Too often in the past, I’ve had very passive protagonists, which has made for a dull story. So, now that I am very aware of how important having a proactive hero is, the scifi novel concept is moving a lot faster.

At the moment, I’m just at the treatment stage for the scifi novel. But things are moving a fairly nice clip. I’m beginning to struggle with the second half of the novel at the moment. And once the treatment is done, I think the next step is to do some rough character studies so I won’t be where I am now with the main novel where I have to reverse engineer character development in a story that is pretty much all plot.

I have developed a hero for the scifi novel that resembles me, which is bad because you’re not supposed to have a “proxy you” in the novel when you write one. And, yet, at the moment the elements that are similar to me work, so, lulz, why bother fixing them.

And I’m still pretty early in the process.

I continue to worry that all of this will be moot because of the looming possibility of a “perfect storm” involving the so-called political Fourth Turning and a technological Petite Singularity.

But while there’s life, there’s hope.