Back To The Drawing Board

by Shelt Garner

Welp. I have radically revamped the first novel in this projected six novel project. As such, I now have a solid first act gamed out. And that’s it. Everything is up in the air and I have no idea — at this point — what I’m going to do to flesh things out.

But I definitely have a pretty good idea as to how to reinvent the novel’s story. And given that apparently the type of person who I would need to talk to to help me finish this project — literary consultants — think I’m bonkers I’m going to have to do all by myself.

I know I can do it, however. In fact, it will be a testament to my own writing ability that I can pull it off without any help. And my writing and storytelling ability has improved significantly since I started this project and, as such, I can figure out how to re-invent this story without any help.

But it sure would be nice to be able to pay someone with more experience than me who might be able to help me see things that I can’t see. Or, just in general, I’m just annoyed that literary consultants won’t let me pay them to help me. I don’t get it.

I’m usually able to use my “colorful” personality to my advantage and for that not to be the case in this instance is troubling, to say the least.

I suppose that should I ultimately be successful without help that will become part of the story about the story. But I’m excited to see what I’m ultimately able to come up with.

But this this radical revamping of the novel is going to delay, yet again, the timetable for when I finish the (glup) first draft of this novel. And I still have five other novels I hope to write in this series. Yet, the focus needs to be on getting the first book written and finished.

Second Draft Angst

by Shelt Garner

I’m now transitioning from the first to second daft and things are going well. But I’m also beginning to have a growing sense of angst as to what I’m going to do once I finish the second draft and start looking for beta readers.

Not only does no one like me, I have no friends and no money. So, I’m struggling to figure out how I’m going to find anyone to read my second draft all the way through when the time comes. I’m probably going to have to pay someone to do it. I’m very poor and have a limited amount of time to wrap all of this up (at least in my mind) so…I don’t know.

Now, I did see a piece of advice about this matter recent that made a lot of sense — if you need beta readers, start looking into being a beta reader. That’s the best way to find someone to read your copy — be the person reading their copy.

But this is a lot of fun. This controlled chaos is a lot like what I went through during the good olde days of ROKon Magazine. If you want to be very charitable, you would say that despite how whacked out that whole situation was, at the time I was able to display the leadership necessary to grow the magazine to the point that it got before everything collapsed….because of my personal foibles.

Anyway, I’m really pleased with where things are going. I hope to wrap up the new and improved version of the first act in a few days (knock on wood) then start work on the second act. I’m also pretty sure I’m going to have to dramatically rework my planned third act.

This is where it helps that this novel is part of a series — I know what I need in the other novels’ plots and, as such, can remove or move things as necessary to make the best story possible.

I Regret Talking — & Writing — So Much About This Novel Project (Oh Well)

by Shelt Garner

In an ideal world, I would no have been so conspicuous about this novel project over the last few years. Now, there is this vast documentation of my struggle over the years to write novel(s.)

And, in a truly ideal world, I wouldn’t be such a crank and I would be about 20 years younger. Oh, and if we’re changing things, how about throw in going to a better school and getting better grades in college while we’re at it.

Hell, give me a brain transplant about 16, I think, would fix all the problem I now face.

But, you know, you have to live with the cards you’re dealt. I can’t help who I am. I can’t help that I’ve always been a square peg in a round hole. And I can’t help how old I am.

You just have to believe in yourself. No one else will.

The Transition From First To Second Draft Of My First Novel Is Going Surprisingly Well

by Shelt Garner

So, a few times over the last few days, I’ve been taken aback by how much I’ve managed to improve my first novel as I transition from first to second draft. It’s requiring me to re-write a few more scenes than maybe I would prefer, but that’s the life of an aspiring novelist.

The key issue is things are far more logical and follow the needs of cause and effect than before. People have some sort of motivation for what they do, they don’t just randomly do things for the purposes of the plot.

Now that things are going really well with this first novel, I find myself mulling what I’m going to do with the second novel. At the moment, I have just a concept and that’s it. I thought I could just carve off the second half of the first novel and simply re-work it.

But, lulz, nope.

It just isn’t as practical as I thought it might be. So, I’m going to have to radically change everything. I’ve even had to change when it takes place so I can have some interesting things happening in the back ground to spice things up a little bit.

But the thing I really love about this six novel project is, if I’m successful, you will see why my Lisbeth Salander-like young woman is so fucked. You’ll see in real time the events that lead her to be a badass who will kick your ass if you cross her.

That’s the dream, at least.

I’m not getting any younger, of course. If I don’t hurry up, I’m going to drop dead before I finish it all.

Confessions of a CIS White Male Writing From A Female POV

by Shelt Garner

I’m trying to populate this first novel with as many provocative characters as I can. I really want the main characters to be well thought out. And, to do so, I’m doing some fancy footwork. I’m really, really leaning into what I remember about the kooky characters associated with ROKon Magazine in Seoul way back when. Including me!

The protagonist of the first three novels is meant to be something akin to a journalistic equivalent to Mare of Easttown. At least, that’s kind of bar I’m setting for myself. I want my protagonist to be as rich and well developed as Mare of Easttown. That’s the dream.

I’ve also recently figured out the dynamic between two characters — just going to use what happened between Annie Shapiro and me back in the bad old days of ROKon Magazine — and this sets up something of a conundrum. I’m well aware that for many within the “woke cancel culture mob” by definition, a CIS white male writing from a female point of view is a mortal sin, never to be forgiven. Ok, I get it. But, what’s worse, is I really want to make this particular character problematic. She, in a sense, is the person to prompts a six novel series and, as such, she really needs to be interesting.

I fucking hate the woke cancel culture mob…when it tells me what I can’t write as a man.

But my definition of “interesting” could be another person’s definition of, “you’re a CIS white male, just shut the fuck up.” I mean, if Fleabag had been written by a man, would the reaction have been the same? If Mare of Easttown is who I’m striving to be like with my protagonist, then it’s Fleabag that I’m striving for in this very important other character.

I want her to be endearing, and yet so be so problematic that you, the reader, are ambivalent about her and you care about her, but when Something Bad happens to her, you don’t quite know what to make of it. Of course, I’m not nearly the write I need to be to pull off such a feat. But if you for the moon, you just might fall into the stars, as the hackney saying goes.

My greatest fear is I’m going to write from a female POV and write something so absurd that all the female members of the audience throw the book across the room in disgust. I’m trying to be as conservative as possible when it comes to elements of the female experience that I can’t reverse engineer (which is most of it) but the more I push into making my would-be Fleabag character as problematic, the more I have to touch on sex, etc. The very things that CIS white middle age authors like me aren’t supposed to broach when writing from a female POV. (Which we’re not supposed to do in the first place.)

The late Annie Shapiro was my personal Fleabag.

But no one ever got anywhere in this world without taking a risk, as my father says. So, lulz, once more into the breach. I’m going to write what I can — even thought I don’t have a wife or a girlfriend to be my “reader” — and hopefully, I won’t embarrass myself too much.

My First Act Is Too Long. Again.

by Shelt Garner

Things are really moving quite well as I transition from first draft to second draft of this novel. As I go through the first draft, I am taken aback by how poorly thought out some of the characters are. And how underdeveloped some elements of the story are overall.

There’s a lot to work with and there’s a grain of something really good floating around in all that crap. I just have to flesh out some of the characters and really heighten the conflict and drama. And, of course, I really need to think long and hard about cause and effect.

That’s something I keep overlooking and having to fix — you can’t just spring shit on the audience. You have to prepare them for it. Or, at least, use foreshadowing to lay the groundwork for a surprise to happen. If you don’t do that, the result can come across as choppy and disjointed. People don’t like things to Just Happen because that’s not how storytelling works.

But anyway, here’s where things stand scene wise per act: 50 / 60 / 30. As you can tell, my first act is way, way, way, too long, at least strictly on a scene count basis. I can futz with this problem some by simply making some scenes shorter and, as such, making sure I get as close as possible to the every-important sweet spot of about 100,000 words.

As it stands, I think I’m probably going to overshoot my goal by a minimum of 20,000 words. But, The Girl On The Train is, as I seem to recall, about 140,000 and that is a first novel, so it’s not impossible for me to pull such a thing off.

I find myself thinking a lot about the second novel in the series. One thing that I’ve really realized is it’s not going to be nearly as easy as I first imagined. I’ve pretty much just got a concept — a baby is stolen — and I have to think up a whole new plot, not just the second half of the first novel that I cut out as part of my transition from first to second draft.

But that’s kind of the fun of it all. I have a very well thought out universe and now I have to think up new and innovative ways to use the elements of that established universe to tell the story I want to tell. It just might take a little bit longer than I originally expected.

And, yet, maybe not.

I now know how *I* develop and write a novel, which speeds up the process considerably. The big issue is figuring out how to tell the best story I can possibly tell as quickly as possible. I still have a faint hope that I could potentially finish three novels and sell them all at the same time like Stieg Larsson did, hopefully without then promptly dying of a heart attack.

Yet, I think I may have to lower my expectations some. Just to finish one novel and get to the point where I feel comfortable to try to get an agent and then see what happens.

My storytelling and writing have improved so much since I began this process. The point is to get something, anything done so I can blow up with my DJ money like I’ve always been fated to do.

Am I Being Delusional To Think I Could Make It In NYC? (Yes, Probably)

by Shelt Garner

I look back on my life and am sad that I didn’t have the gumption to visit NYC on a regular basis when I was in my 20s. Maybe things would have worked out differently for me. Now, as an Old, I visit NYC every once in a while and I love it. It’s really inspiring and, as an extrovert, I feed of the city’s intense energy. Whenever I go, find myself slipping into a daydream where I live in the city full time and I’m a regular bon vivant.

Me, in LA 2025?

In other words, I’m delusional.

But there’s some context. I’ve found most New Yorker’s have a lot of heart despite being very cold and distant to strangers. The city if full of characters and, being a character myself, I find myself drawn there. If I can make it there, I can make it anywhere, as the song goes. I think back to my drunken rampage when I was living in Seoul many moons ago, and a little part of me wistfully wonders if I could pull off similar success on Trantor instead of Terminus, to use an Isaac Asimov reference.

Here’s my thinking — the same dynamic that caused me to become one of the best known expats in South Korea would be at play in New York City. I’m an extreme extrovert and the more I drink, the more extroverted I become. The usual caveats about drunks thinking they’re the funniest person in the room apply, of course.

And, yet, every time I delude myself into thinking this, I realize maybe I have the wrong city in mind. There are plenty of cranks on the streets of New York City that get nowhere in life. New York City is full of larger-than-life, colorful characters who pretty much exist solely to inspire drunk writers like me.

As such, maybe LA is where I should head instead, given the opportunity. The only reason I even suggest this is I’m such a good schmoozer (especially when intoxicated) that I have a hunch that someone, somewhere with a little bit of clout might notice me if I ended up at a cocktail party. As I’ve written before, I’m known to pontificate a lot like Quentin Tarantino in the movie “Sleep With Me.”

But, of course, I’m old. I’m not as cute as I used to be, far from it.

So, I think my best bet is to just keep my head down and keep working on these six novels I’m developing and writing. And, should the opportunity come, look into writing a screenplay or three as well.

That Time I Was The Villain

by Shelt Garner

They say we’re all the villain in someone else’s story and I’m definitely the villain when most people retell the story of ROKon Magazine. And now that I’m transitioning from the first draft to the second draft of this first novel in a planned six novel project, it’s occurred to me bleed on the page.

I’m going to draw heavily from what happened between me and Annie Shapiro when things were at their worst. Doing this breaths breath into a character that previously was more of an idea than a character. If I imbue this one character I’m thinking with with who I was in late 2006 – early 2007 when I was at my worst then they’re not just a character, they’re a person.

So, things are finally falling into place. It definitely seems as though the second draft of this novel is going to be a quantum leap better. I’m very pleased. I need to really get into the details of the second book now that the first book is really beginning to come together.

Annie Shapiro and I during the good old days in Seoul.

All of this a far, far more work than I ever imagined going into this process. And, yet, that’s why I started working on a novel. I wanted to be overwhelmed by creativity.

Am I Too Colorful To Sell A Novel?

by Shelt Garner

I often think that if, one day, I manage to scrounge up the money to visit LA for a few days that I might find unexpected success just by being myself. I could totally see myself randomly being invited to a cocktail party, getting lit and before the night was over have a three picture deal line up.

Don’t hate.

The usual caveats about all drunks thinking they’re the funniest person in the room, apply, of course. But from what happed to me in Seoul, I know that under the right conditions — usually involving alcohol — I can be quite interesting and charismatic.

I’m a very good at schmoozing when I’m drunk, in other words.

And, yet, at the same time, I continue to struggle to find someone I can pay to talk to about the novels I’m developing and writing. The very people I need the most at the moment — literary types who I need to pay on occasion for a as much as an hour of their time.

They think I’m a kook. They won’t take me seriously enough to even let me pay them to help me on my novel(s.) It’s very aggravating. I can’t help that I don’t fit the Very Serious Literary Type paradigm.

But it’s not like I can change now. I would have to not only get a brain transplant, but scrub about 25 years worth of online activity to boot. So, I just have to factor this particular prejudice into my game plan as to how I’m going to sell as many a six novels.

Annie Shapiro and me, back when I was cool.

The thing about writing a spec novel is you just have to believe in yourself. You just have to keep going even if haters want to make you feel bad for what you’re doing. As long as you feel compelled to write and have something to say — keep going. You never know, somehow, someway, things might break your way in an unexpected way.

That’s what I learned with ROKon Magazine. In the end, of course, everything that went wrong with the magazine was my fault, but there was a moment, in late 2006 when I was actually cool and I was able to use my strategic thinking to guide the magazine to places that no one could have predicted.

Please, DO Write That Book

by Shelt Garner

I write because I have to, not because I want to. And yet one constant thing I’ve experience since I started my current journey to writing not just one novel but six novels is how many people bitch and moan that people like me shouldn’t even be writing a novel in the first place.

It’s all very frustrating.

Usually, people who say things like “why don’t you just write a short story” aren’t very creative and generally are cocksuckers whose use cold, hard metrics for any endeavor that are in no way connect to the creative process.

They’re like parents who are always on the look out to find some practical use for their child’s aspirations, rather than just letting them dream until they, themselves figure out what they want to do with their lives. Fuck those people and fuck them for every time they make me feel bad working on a novel.

Jesus Christ.

I mean, I’m finished a first draft of a novel and am now transitioning to the second draft. I have no idea if it will sell, have no idea if I will even get an agent. But for me to be happy, I need to be writing — come what may.

So people who make very cogent arguments about why you should not write a novel can fucking suck it. Fucking cocksuckers. Not to sound too much like Matt Damon trying to sell you crypto, but no on every go anywhere in this world without taking a risk.

People who poo-poo the idea of writing a spec novel simply are not creative and have no creative impulse. I don’t want them in my life and I don’t feel any obligation to listen to them. And you shouldn’t either.

As long as you have the will, the creative spark and something to say — write that book. Write that novel. Do whatever you have to do to finish it. I’m not saying it won’t be a lot of work. I won’t say that you’ll actually sell it. But you’ll at least be content that you tried.

Anyone who makes you feel bad for being true to yourself, for being creative is a fucking cocksucker.