I’m Very Pleased With The Progress of The 5 Novels I’m Developing & Writing

by Shelt Garner

As I’ve said before, every so often, I have something of a reset with the development of these novels I’m working on. Something clicks in my mind and I see how to make them much, much better. And the latest example of this is I have come to see a way to show something about a very important character in the series.

The overall theme of these five novels is the value of one person’s life and how one person can influence the lives of others — even in death. This theme developed as I struggled to write what are now the last two novels in this project. It occurred to me that I had a huge backstory in my mind and that I could write at least two 100,000 word novels about what lead up to the strange little town I came up with. Ultimately, those two novels became three and here we are — I have five novels to develop and write.

But the clock is ticking. I need to stop fucking around and get these novels knocked out so I can start to query them. I like how overwhelming all of this is. That was the point of this all when I started this project as an homage to Stieg Larsson. It was originally meant to be an allegory about the Trump Era…then Trump was too stupid and too lazy to steal the 2020 election and then I saw Mare of Easttown and everything change.

So, now, I have five novels to work on. I’m giving myself no more than about two more years. That will mark the 20th anniversary of my first journey to South Korea in 2024. Of course, by that point the Fourth Turning may be in full swing and I’ll have far bigger problems to have to think about — like, say, a Second American Civil War happening in conjunction with World War 3.

The Struggle Of Writing 5 Novels

by Shelt Garner

After years of struggle, I finally know how *I* develop and write a novel. It makes how slow the process is very annoying. But the upside is I am also very addicted to knowing that I’m well on my way to at least not embarrassing myself. I’m working on the second draft of the first novel and I’ve re-worked it to the point that I’m very pleased.

What my homage to Lisbeth Salander looks like.

Things are really beginning to fall into place after years of work.

This happens every once in a while, where I’ll have something of a reset in my vision of the series when something clicks and my writing and storytelling ability gets significantly better. The only downside is, I throw everything up in the air and have to start from scratch because what I had before was so fucking bad.

But the endgame makes it all worthwhile.

The latest reset happened when it occurred to me how I could “show, not tell” some pretty important elements of the story. One thing that makes all of this so fucking frustrating and slow is I have some very, very arbitrary rules that I force myself to abide by.

But there’s a point to these arbitrary rules — they force me to make decisions that I might not otherwise make. If I didn’t have these rules, each of these novels might end up being 1,000 pages. So, while in the short term having some pretty weird rules about structure slow me down significantly, the end project is going to be really, really good.

And, what’s more, these 5 novels are so autobiographical that should you read them all, you will know way, way, way too much about my personal history. So, in a sense, the power of these novels is how “true” they are. They’re my own life story, only told out of order and conflated in various ways to protect the guilty. But being able to lay out to my audience my life story in fictional form is one of the things that makes all this struggle worth it.

Yet, I really need to stop fucking around. I need to get this shit done sooner rather than later. I have five solid concepts and I’m not getting any younger. I have to produce something.

Why I Fucking Hate The Fucking ‘Bechdel Test’

by Shelt Garner

Of all the reasons why I’m likely to get “canceled” should I manage to sell these five novels, my absolute white hot rage against the dumb “half-joke” of the Bechdel Test is probably going to be up there. The reason why I hate the fucking Bechdel Test so much is it totally misses the point of doing anything creative.

If you’re so beholden to some arbitrary ideological requirement for your art, then I find any of your art suspect. You produce art because you want to make people’s lives better. For me, I write because I have to, not because I want to. And the idea of having to stand on one leg and pat my head because of a creative requirement first articulated in a comic of all things, is just a little too much.

I say this as someone who loves writing female characters and is very self-conscious about how I portray women. The representation in my art is organic and I try to do it as much as possible. But don’t tell me how to tell my story because of your Leftist — or Rightist — preconceived notions of what makes a good story.

My responsibility is to tell a great yarn. If, by telling that great yarn, it just so happens to pass the Bechdel Test, that’s great. I will be pleased. But don’t deduct points from my story if it doesn’t.

Developing The Second Novel

by Shelt Garner

This weekend, in an effort to switch things up, I’m going to develop the second novel in the five novel series. I have a really good beginning and ending, but I have no idea what happens in between. I have a pretty good idea of what the mid point is, but I don’t know what happens other than that.

The first two books of this five novel series deal with the infancy of my Lisbeth Salander like character.

I have a big, vague void between the beginning and the end of the novel. But that’s the fun part of all of this, figuring out how to create a plot out of whole cloth. Things are really beginning to get good with these series. The issue is, I have to put in the work.

But using the weekends to develop is really speeding the process of finishing these five novels up a great deal. It also helps with cooling me down after running creatively hot by the Thursday afternoons. I don’t want to burn myself out. Just doing something, anything, other than focusing on the first few chapters of the first novel’s outline will help.

Anyway, this weekend I’m going to continue to read and develop. I hope to throw myself back into the first novel come Sunday afternoon. But it’s very relaxing to flip the script some every weekend.

I hope to get as close as possible to finishing all five novels within about a year as I possibly can. I’m prepared to give myself no more than about two years because that will be the 20 anniversary of my first arrival in South Korea in 2004.

But I hope to wrap things up well before then. I love writing five novels because if all else fails, I can bounce to a different novel in the series and struggle with it instead of struggling with the one I’m working on. I really need to hurry up, though.

I’m not going to live forever.

People Always Underestimate Me

by Shelt Garner

I’ve just finished what I believe is the second draft of the first chapter of the first book in a five novel series. At least, that’s what I am aiming for. It is very easy for “normal” people to take it for granted that I’m just another bonkers Internet crank.

And, I guess, to some extent that is true.

My literary hero, Stieg Larsson.

But also I know that the very “eccentricity” that leads “normal” people to dismiss me is also my secret weapon. I can be very, very focused if something strikes me just the right way and these five novels have done just that. Each of the five novels is a compelling story.

The issue is I have to work harder, faster and smarter. I’m not going to live forever and I’d like to wrap up all these novels a lot sooner than you might otherwise think.

If Stieg Larsson can write three novels and sell them, I can write five novels and sell them. Hopefully, of course, I won’t drop dead of a heart attack right after I do so. That’s the plan, at least.

But I really need to put up or shut up. I’ve talked way, way, way too much about the process of writing these five novels over the years, but I can’t go back and change all that. I’m 100% extroverted and I have no friends and no one likes me, so sometimes — maybe a lot of the time — I sometimes need to let off some steam by writing about writing.

Write, write, write.

I love to write — I do it like shedding skin, without even thinking about it. So, really, the issue is just to stay focused. I hope to use the weekends to bounce around the other four novels in the series so I will have some forward progress on all five novels instead of just fixating on the first one.

I have got to do something to speed this overall process up if I’m going to finish in the next, say, two years or so.

We Have A Beginning!

by Shelt Garner

Well, if nothing else, I have a stable first few lines of the first novel in this series. It’s really, really good. Everything else the last few days, however ,has been in a severe amount of flux. I’ve rearranged the order of the first act a dozen times in the last 48 hours.

My literary hero.

What’s more, after making such a huge deal of how I was making the chronology of events tighter, tonight I turned around and made it exactly what it was to begin with. But at least I have a reason for doing so — I’ve realized that if I’m going to do bad things to character, I probably need to give them enough page time so you like, actually care about what happens to them.

That’s a huge flaw in a lot of thrillers — they open with a dead body and the reader hasn’t even had time to take their figurative coat off in the figurative theatre yet. So, my first act now gives a lot more page time to two characters that are going to have something bad happen to them.

My struggle for me as the writer is to make you character about these characters in a way that is interesting enough that you’ll keep reading even though in real terms Nothing Is Happening. (I’m being a little harsh on myself — a lot is going on, but if you had no emotional attachment to the novel going into it I could see you thinking that in some respect.)

I’m supposed to get my cast off tomorrow, so that will be something of a New Era for me. As such, I’m pretending to myself that I’ll stop fucking with the outline and actually get back to writing one a second draft. I’ve really, rearranged things. The story flows a lot better now and there’s a lot more room for character development.

But there comes a point when I’ve got to stop fucking around and get back to writing. Breaking my ankle has definitely reminded me that I have a limited time on this earth and death be no proud, as they say.

Anyway, I’m really, really pleased — with the first novel’s beginning, if nothing else. I’ve got to power through and wrap up this second draft as soon as possible. I think I’m going to continue to use the weekends to read and develop the other novels in this series.

I just have to keep an eye on the calendar. If I don’t get more serious, it will be year from now and I’ll still be struggling with the second draft of the first book. Ugh.

Having A 5 Novel Series Means You Can Flip The Script & Stay In-Universe

by Shelt Garner

I’m really beginning to enjoy the ability to bounce around these five novels I’m working on at the same time. The last few days, I’ve been running kind of hot creatively and the idea of pretty much starting from scratch with the second novel is a relaxing way to flip the script and stay in-universe.

I’m beginning to toy with the idea of going through and figuring out the plots and outlines of all them before I go back to writing. That would be a way to come back to the first novel with fresh eyes after without wandering off into a new story.

As I’ve said before, I’m really digging deep into my personal history to write these five novels. Should I sell them and they become popular enough that a lot of people read all five, oh boy. I’m kind of running emotionally naked through these books and it will be kind eerie to hear people talk about different elements of the series knowing they’re pretty much critiquing my personal life.

Anyway, like I said, I was kind of in danger of wearing myself out, fixating on the first three chapters of the second draft of the first novel. So, I’m going to switch gears for a little while and figure out the plots and outlines of the other novels before I come back to the second draft of the first novel again.

And, of course, I really, really, need to read a lot.

Figuring Out Novel #2’s Plot

by Shelt Garner

This weekend, I’ve decided to start a new routine of reading a lot and doing development work on the other books in this series. So, as such, tonight I’m going to root around the plot of the second book in the series. Not that I’ve finished the second draft of the first book yet, at least writing it, but I want to switch things up by while still staying in-universe.

I have a great ending for the second book, but everything else at the moment is up in the air. I have a general idea of what happens, but it’s going to take some time to figure out the details. I know the basic building blocks of a thriller now I have to figure out how to put them together in a specific way so this second book is worth reading.

My hope is that I can come back to the first book with fresh eyes in about 24 hours and the writing will go a lot faster. The outline of the first novel is pretty stable at the moment, which makes me very happy. And, in real terms, having an ending established for the second book is a great cornerstone to finishing the novel up a lot faster than you might think.

But I definitely feel like I have a deadline. I want to have these five novels finished and ready to go no later than, say, around my 51 birthday. That will be the 20th anniversary year of me going to South Korea the first time and that changed my life — maybe finishing and selling five novels will change my life as well.

A five novel series dedicated to a character that looks just like you, baby.

At least, that’s the plan. I’m just very self-aware of how old I am and my own mortality. Currently, my only claim to fame is a failed monthly magazine for expats in Seoul. I know, I just know, I can pull another rabbit out of my hat. I just have to work really hard, do a lot of reading and be as creative as I can when it comes to my writing.


I’m Like The Jerk & The Phone Book With Barbara F. Walter’s ‘How Civil Wars Start’

by Shelt Garner

I’m really excited to read Barbara F. Walter’s book “How Civil Wars Start” because well, I think there’s a 50 / 50 chance of one starting in the United States between now and January 2025.

I listened to her interview on The New Yorker Radio hour and, well, oh boy. While she made a lot of salient points, I totally disagree with her on one thing: she proposes that if there is a civil war in the United States, it will be more like rolling political violence found with The Troubles.

To me, if there is a civil war in 2024 – 2025, it will be because, on a state level BLUE states leave the Union, starting with California. That will set off a chain reaction whereby other Blue States do the same thing. A series of alliances will form and, before you know it, WMD will be used by each side and away we go. So, I believe any civil war in the United States will be catastrophic and set off, on a global scale, WW3.

Now, I could see rolling political violence that is marketed as a “civil war” if, say, Trump somehow shuffles off this mortal coil between now and 2024. MAGA would instantly assume he was knocked off by the Deep State and act accordingly. Then, they would begin to blow shit up to make a point.

Otherwise, though, if we pick civil war instead of autocracy in 2024 – 2025, things are going to be organized at the state level like in the first civil war and everything is going to go to hell in a hand basket pretty fucking quick.

My Storytelling Is Improving Dramatically

by Shelt Garner

After a number of years of spinning my wheels, of wondering if I would drift in the middle of a creative sea forever, not to ever reach any sort of storytelling land, I finally have landed on something. (Talk about an extended metaphor!)
The point is — I’m now within shouting distance of at least being taken seriously by the gatekeepers.

I know this because I’m getting better at writing “sequels,” or the connector scenes that aren’t as flashy as as a scene. I’m getting pretty good at writing sequels, in fact. But I’m also just getting better in general.

My literary hero.

I’m very pleased. But one thing I have to do is get faster. I have four more novels to work on and hope to finish by the time I’m 50. And turning 50 is a lot closer to me than I dare think about. I just have to put the work in. I’m in a very unique situation where I can write a lot and that just can’t continue. All good things must come to an end and this will be no exception.

But ever once in a while I’ll finish writing something with this first novel and I’ll lean back and go to myself, “Uh, not bad.”

Because for way too long, whenever I asked someone to read my work, they gave me the worst insult possible — silence. But I think I’m getting ever so close to writing well enough that people will at least give me an opinion, any opinion about what I’ve written.

I’m trying to chill out for about 24 hours. I need to do something, anything other than obsessing over the first three chapters of the first book in a five novel series. I hope to come back to this first book with fresh eyes in about a day and hopefully, hopefully, both the development and writing will go smoother and faster.