Now Working On The Second Act of The First Draft Of The Novel

by Shelt Garner

I got my first glowing review from an alpha reader recently. When I got it I almost cried tears of joy — for once, what I thought should happen when I showed my writing to someone, happened.

But I have a huge amount of work to do. The more I work on these two novels, the more I realize how hard it is to overcome to headwinds of the expectations of people who don’t know me who might read the novel cold. (Which would be an apt description of a potential literary agent.)

Anyway, I’m just about to plunge into the first drafts second act now. I may continue this little pause I’m in for a few more days so I can turn my attention more to reading than writing. Yet I will definitely be writing full time again by, say, about this upcoming Sunday afternoon.

The general story is finally beginning to take shape and I have a pretty good grasp on structure as well. One thing I’m a little bit worried about is there is an abundance of plot. Some of that concern may come from whenever I talk to someone at length about these two novels, I talk about plot. Character is a bit more abstract at times and, as such, more difficult to talk about when you’re talking about “what the novel’s about.”

I have a lot — a lot — of reading I need to do to breath live into these characters. Too many of my characters continue to be just “moods” or exist because they need to exist. Another issue is my Hero continues to be a little bit too much like me. I need to read some to at least attempt to make him a bit more conservative than I am.

But it’s a struggle. And, yet, that’s kind of the point — it’s not easy to make your hero Not You so it’s work.

I still want to at least attempt to go the traditional publishing route, even though it’s clear that a lot of people think I’m just not good enough to be able to pass such a high bar. It’s kind of annoying that everyone thinks I suck, that I don’t have it in me to for once, meet a metric or pass a test.

The whole point of this journey was to have some overarching creative project to hold my attention, so I’m going to see it to the end. If, in the end, I can’t get past the gatekeepers, then I will, in fact, just self-publish in some way. But I haven’t gotten to that point yet.

The Curious Case Of Modern American Pop Culture

by Shelt Garner

Now that the COVID19 pandemic is gradually beginning to abate, at least in the United States, it makes one wonder What’s Next. It would be nice to think that we might be entering a post-Rona world tan, ready and rested. That there might be the shock of the new in some respect on the cultural front.

And, yet, it definitely seems as though that’s not going to happen.

It definitely seems as though we’re going to continue to go through the paces. No new musical genres will burst forth. No new publications will stir new points of view. No new movies will will shock and delight in new, innovative ways. Something pretty big would have to happen for this not to be the case.

I can only speculate that maybe because the Internet is mature and Silicon Valley is thinking way too small that this is it. For the foreseeable future, American culture will continue to be in a vague neutral.

What’s so frustrating about this is I know, given the opportunity and resources, that I, personally, could do something really cool. I do have a novel I’m working on, and I’m pleased with how that’s shaping up. But it would be so nice to be able to work on a successor to Gawker or something. Something that would shake the media landscape up.

I think I’m just going to have to be content with pinning all my hopes and dreams on the novel.

Novel Endings Endgame

by Shelt Garner

The first of the two novels I’m working on ends in a cliffhanger. I know exactly how the novel ends. What I don’t know is how to build up to that point. As it stands, everything up to the midpoint is pretty good and stable.

Everything past the midpoint is still something of a struggle. So, I’m going to do a lot of thinking as to how to re-imagine the second half of the novel to amp up the drama, conflict and tension.

I’m fully prepared to simply follow the outline I have for this first novel, but I have very high expectations for myself. As such, I may find myself tinkering with the specifics of scenes and their subject matter a lot more than I might otherwise.

But one thing that’s really helping is I finally have some sense of the totality of the work. So, it’s easier for me to plant things within the outline with an eye to the macro.

Anyway, in general, things are going reasonably well. Or, to put it another way, after a lot of work, I definitely feel the momentum is in my favor to wrap these two books up at some point in the near-ish future. I’m thinking I have about one more year of slow-but-steady work ahead of me to finish these two novels.

Once I finish them, I will try to sell them. If I can’t get past the traditional gatekeepers, then I’ll just self-publish and piviot to the next big creative project, whatever that may be.

Observations About The Infotainment Industrial Complex

by Shelt Garner

The interesting thing about showbiz content producers is one hand so much of what is churned out is unoriginal dreck and, yet, when you’re working on your own project you always worry about that one asymmetrical attack that forces you to re-think or shelve what you’re working on.

Some of this, I know, is nothing more than “first time mom jitters,” in the sense that you work on something so much that you think, “Well, if this concept is so obvious to ME, then obviously, it will be obvious to SOMEONE ELSE.” (That’s a lot of obvious.)

This is where my personal belief that you have to make decisions on what you know, not on what you don’t know comes into play. If you worry about what might happen all the time, then you never take the risks necessary to even have a chance at being successful.

So, I don’t know what to tell you. I’m just moving forward for the time being. If something is released or announced for release that steals a march on me, then I’ll address it at that time.

But, for the time being, things are full speed ahead. Wish me luck.

The Status Of The Novel — Late April, 2021

by Shelt Garner

Things are going quite well with the novel right now. Things are moving along pretty well. I’m just about to enter into the second act, AGAIN in yet another first draft.

I can feel myself improving as a storyteller each time I attempt a first draft. Things are moving faster now because a lot of things I’ve been brooding over have clicked. My vision makes a lot more sense for no other reason than I’ve just written so much that I’ve finally been able to get a hang of writing a novel.

I continue to worry about someone out-of-the-blue stealing a creative march on me, but there’s little I can do about it. In hindsight, I would have been far more secretive about what I’ve been working on. But this was my first serious attempt at writing a novel so I made a lot of mistakes in more ways than one. If the worst does happen, I have half a dozen other concepts I can pivot to after the grieving process is over.

One thing I need to do is read a lot more. A whole lot more. I have all these books I bought with the best of intentions. But I struggle to tear my attention away from producing content enough so I can consume it. Yet some of the books are ones I really, really need to read to improve the overall experience of the novel.

So, I guess I’ll soon enough force myself to do all this reading I’ve been putting off.

An aspect of this novel (actually two novels, one story) is how it toys with the tropes of the Trump Era. Even though the Trump Era is over (for the time being?) I think by the time I’m trying to sell these two novels that people are going to be thinking about the Trump Era again because politics will be on people’s minds again.

At least, that’s my thinking.

A lot is going on with these two novels. A whole lot. I’m really throwing everything I got at them in various ways. I’ve split the story into two because I checked the number of scenes for the entire story and it was way too close to 200 for my liking. If you figure each scene is about 1,000 words, then that would be a 200,000 word novel, which is just too long.

And, the way I have it mapped out in my mind, I have a solid cliffhanger at the end of the first book. I’m still in the delusional phase of development and writing, however.

It won’t be until I attempt to query a literary agent that the delusional phase of all of this will come to an end.

Mulling The Bechdel Test

by Shelt Garner

Oh boy. Where to begin with this one. This is a very touchy subject because a lot of well meaning people take it for granted that any piece of art with dialogue in it has to pass the Bechdel Test: two women talking about something other than a man.

Now, it’s my impression that the test was proposed originally as something of a “half joke.” But it’s a testament to how segmented pop art is now that it definitely goes against the media narrative to quibble with the importance of the Bechdel Test.

So, in a sense, the less I say about it and my very strong opinions about it, the better. But I’m an idiot, so I’m going to talk a little bit about it anyway. I have absolutely no problem with someone thinking the Bechdel Test is important. But I also know that on a personal level, I fail any test I’m given and so it make sense that the novel I’m developing and writing would fail the Bechdel Test.

The thing is, there are an unusually high number of female characters in this novel — which, me being a male author brings up a whole different set of problems for some people — but I’m not going to worry about if the novel passes the Bechdel Test or not. The point of this whole endeavor is tell a great, engaging story. If it happens to pass the Bechdel Test, great. If it doesn’t, I’m not going to worry about it.

Given how extremely self-conscious I am ensuring the female characters I’ve come up with are not simply women I want to bang, I think if I fail the Bechdel Test — which I inevitably will — then maybe I can get a pass on it. Or if you refuse to give me a pass on it, then maybe my novel — given that it was written by a man — maybe isn’t for you.

Pondering The Issue Of Male Authors Writing Female Characters

by Shelt Garner

I had a brief conversation with a literary agent on Twitter recently and while she was generally supportive, she said that “some people” would object to a male author writing in the POV of a woman character.

I don’t know what to make of that comment.

On one hand, it might be a matter of, “Shut up you’re bothering me” and she was just trying to think of some reason to rain on my parade because she’s a gatekeeper and that’s what gatekeepers do to aspiring authors without any proven success.

But if that’s not the case, then I find it very curious that a number of women have looked at various versions of my novel and not one of them has said, “Sorry, I can’t read anything written by a man writing from a female perspective.”

What’s more, the book series that inspired my writing a novel to begin with, the Millennium series by Stieg Larsson, has him writing as various female characters throughout the book. That series was huge and of all the things written about those books, none of it was about how he wrote from a female point of view.

And this is a series that is extremely shocking at times when it comes to its depiction of violence towards women. It has that and it STILL was a huge success.

I guess you could say maybe audiences have changed in their expectations since Stieg Larsson wrote his stuff…but…really? I find that very doubtful.

As such, I’m going to chalk the literary agent’s comment off as one of those, “you can’t please everyone” kind of things. Just because “some people” will be turned off by me writing from a female POV, doesn’t mean “all of the people” or a “majority of the people” will.

What’s the most important part of all of this is not the problem of me, as a man, writing from a female POV, but what I do with it when I do use it. That’s something I am far more concerned about than simply using that particular POV. I find myself vacillating between abject fear that I’m going to screw up to grumbling about how I have a vision and I’m going to stick to it.

But only time will tell, I guess.

The Novel Is Getting Significantly Better

by Shelt Garner

After about roughly three or so years of hard work, the novel I’m developing and writing is getting much, much better. Some of this is coming from simply improving my storytelling ability through brute force and some of it is coming from the reading that I’m finally managed to get around to.

But I’m still only on a first draft.

Yet, I have put my self on a pretty tight deadline, so I should be finished with the first draft of the first of two books in a few months. The story is set near the end of “the before times” right before COVID struck the US, but I think that by the time I finally get around to trying to sell it that people will be thinking about politics again so there will be an audience.

The story is meant to be very, very “of the moment” to the point that it plays with some of the era’s political tropes for the purposes of the plot. One my biggest problems is I’m just not a very dark person and there are some very serious issues that I have to address without in any way cracking wise.

But I’ve improved so much since I started this journey that I know if I just keep plugging along that I will continue to get better and better. One thing I’ve learned is don’t be too quick to assume you can’t figure out a problem in a story. It helps, sometimes, to just distract yourself for a few days and come back to the work with fresh eyes.

It used to be that the whole thing would collapse at least one a week — sometimes once a day! — and I would have to rework everything. This happened in large part because I have very high standards for myself and I just did not know storytelling structure well enough to build a framework to support the kind of story I wanted to seriously tell.

But I’m finally here.

Now, I just have to put the hard work into it. I have to stop navel gazing so conspicuously and gratuitously and actually do the work necessary to finish not one but two books. (The first book ends in a cliffhanger.)

I have a pretty good system established for going from development to writing but it’s so thorough that it can slow me down at times. But anyway, I hope to get a lot of writing done over the next few days.

Preparing Myself For The Literary Agent Gauntlet

by Shelt Garner

This novel — or more specifically novels — is the biggest creative project I’ve done in my life other than ROKon Magazine. Which, of course, was the point. Because of the Trump Era I was full of rage and had something to say and, as such, had the energy necessary to do the hard work of developing and writing a novel.

While it’s still some time away, I usually think a few steps ahead with these novels and, thus, I find myself pondering finding a literary agent. I feel pretty confident that all things being equal I’ve come up with a pretty interesting two novels that by the end of the process will be fairly well written.

And, yet, all of this is happening in a vacuum and I’m still very much in the delusional phase of writing this novel. That’s why attempting to secure a literary agent will be the moment when I will face reality at last.

There are so very few slots open for unpublished, untested writers like me that I have to be prepared to simply self-publish. A lot of getting published and being a success boils down to luck. You just can’t predict if you’re going to hit the zeitgeist at just the right angle that you not only get a literary agent but get published and have any form of success.

But I still have a ways to go before I reach the point when I try to get a literary agent. Yet I do have a feeling that when I do get to that point people will be thinking about presidential politics again and I might find the “luck” I need to become successful.

My Experiences In Seoul, My Novel & ‘Write What You Know’

by Shelt Garner

The expat scene in Seoul — at least when I was there — was an overheated caldron of creativity. And there were a lot — and I mean A LOT — of freaky weirdos running around. Myself included.

So many larger-than-life characters were roaming around that I often would look at one of them and say to their face, “You’re like a character in a novel.” Little did I know that many moons later I would make them characters in MY novel.

But here I am.

I find myself leaning into what I remember of those freaky expats as I develop characters in the latest version of this novel. My memory of those people is so vivid that when I find myself struggling to think up some colorful aspect of this or that character I just say, “Well, do I remember any expats in Seoul that would fit that bill?”

I’ve come up with a pretty direct way of being able to use these characters as well. One of the unique things about being an expat in South Korea is you’re always one disaster away from being kicked out of the country for good.

Anyway. Things are moving really fast with my revised vision for this story where it’s split into two novels, one story. Right now, I need to do a lot of reading and distract myself in some way so I can figure out how to fill up the second half of the second act before the sun goes dark.