Speeding Up The Novel Development Process

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Now that I am zooming towards wrapping up the third draft of my first novel, I find myself wondering how I can speed up production of the next novel. I can’t spend years and years working on the next novel because I’m old and have a limited amount of time on the earth.

Mood.

As such, I think one way to speed up the development of my next novel will be to better game out what the novel’s story is. Now, at the moment, I actually have two novels I want to work on. One is the a direct sequel to my first novel while the other is a totally unrelated scifi concept.

The scifi concept is pandemic related and to me, at least, is seems like a very obvious idea for a novel. So obvious that I keep expecting to find out that someone else has already written a novel or screenplay with a similar conceit. But it hasn’t happened yet, so I’m going to go full speed ahead.

Not knowing what exactly the story I wanted to tell was one of the reasons why it took me so fucking long to get to this point with my first novel. Once I understood what the story was, everything clicked and began to move much quicker.

Of course, another problem was I have been drifting towards a general goal without realizing how much time was elapsing. My age kind of snuck up on me. But now that I’m in my 50s, I have every reason to buckle down and focus a lot harder trying to knock out novels as quickly as possible.

And none of this, of course, addresses the next stage of the process with my first novel — querying. As had already been proven, there is a good chance that anyone doing due diligence on me as part of the querying process is going to think I’m nuts and won’t want to have anything to do with me.

But while there’s life, there’s hope. I write because I have to, not because I want to. And the point of writing a novel in the first place — that of giving me a Big Project to think about rather than feeling sorry for myself.

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

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

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.

Mood.

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.

Mistakes We Knew We Were Making

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

The predicament I find myself in with my first novel is a prime example of what happens when you don’t have anyone around you to tell you “no.” The story I’ve come up with is compelling and intriguing enough — if you give it a chance — that you’ll finish it wanting more.

Mood.

But there are a few problems.

The most obvious one is, well, I’ve realized that it has a lot of “spicy” scenes in it because it deals with a woman who not only owns a strip club, but for the duration of the story, also, on occasion, is depicted stripping. If I had a wife or a girlfriend as a “Reader” there is a good chance she would put the kibosh on that particular element of the story.

It’s just too easy for the mythical “liberal white women” or the “woke cancel culture mob” to blanch at such a storyline, especially one written by a man. If I was an twentysomething undocumented trans woman then that would be a different story. (There you go, I’ve put all three of my running gags into one paragraph to trigger you when you do your due diligence on me.)

There are a few other problems with the nature of my first novel that are structural and existential so, lulz, I just have to accept them going forward. I really love this novel and the characters I’ve come up with and, I suppose, in the end, if nothing else, I’m the audience of the novel and as such am willing to expend the time and energy necessary to finish it.

I am WELL AWARE that if you don’t know me and you read this blog you will probably want nothing to do with me. Ok, I get it. So, in a sense, this blog is like online dating for me — absolutely no one will swipe right on me online, but if I was given the opportunity to use my “rizz” on you in real life, then maybe you might give me a date.

The last few days have been full of self-doubt about this novel. But I’ve concluded that the point of this novel is to prove a point to myself, if no one else. I know I’ve come up with a really good story, despite its obvious flaws, and I’m going to see this project to its completion.

Having said all that, I am still going to pivot — when I have some time — to a backup scifi novel that will be tailored specifically with marketability in mind. I need that type of insurance policy to give me the juice necessary to move forward with the main novel. I don’t like the idea of putting all my creative eggs in one basket.

The Final Countdown

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

I know I’m about to wrap this novel up because I’ve decided to ignore a structural problem that could only be fixed by pretty much starting all over again — it’s taken me so long to finish this novel that I should problem move its events from the mid-90s to 1999 -2000.

If this was three or so years ago, I would have throw everything up in the air and totally re-imagine the novel. But it’s way too late in the process for me to do such a thing. So, onward I go.

And there is another reason why I don’t want to change the period this novel is set in — I like the idea that the last novel in the series happens in the days leading up to the pandemic striking the US. So, there you go. I’m happy with the state of the novel.

What’s more, there is the issue of the other novels in this series are just planned and rhetorical at this point. No need to waste another year reimagining the first novel when there are no assurances this first novel will ever be published.

I do have a scifi novel that I hope to start to work on in addition to this mystery-thriller, so I can use some of my frustrating on the existential problem with the main novel to use as energy to make sure the back up novel gets some work.

Feeling Better About The Novel

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

A number of things have come together that give me renewed confidence with the third draft of the novel I’m working on. The last few days, since an editor I was hoping to work with begged off after they read this blog, I have been feeling a great deal of existential angst.

But things have changed for the better.

I feel a lot better. One thing that happened is a random woman I gave the first three chapters of the novel to read it and didn’t say she hated it. In fact, she said, “keep writing.” That makes me feel a lot better. I was really sweating it there for a little while because I gave it to her and she had not emailed me back any reaction.

Another is, I was reminded yet again that just because ONE person thinks I’m too much of a freaky weirdo to work with, doesn’t mean that it’s totally impossible for me to find someone, somewhere who will find my kookiness endearing.

Or something. Something like that. I just can hinge everything on rejection from one person — even if I fear she does give me some sense of what “liberal white women” might think of the premise of the novel. As I’ve said before, I got no beef with liberal white women, I just see it as something of a running gag.

Anyway. With all that in mind, I’m going to throw myself back into writing the novel. *I* really like the story I’ve come up with, even if some members of the woke cancel culture mob (wink) might be aghast that my heroine is a part-time stripper. Ok, I get it. But I do think that if you give the story a chance — which I know is, unto itself, a big ask — that you will enjoy it.

Having said all that, I am really going to work hard to use some of my spare time to develop the backup scifi novel that I have been working on some. It’s really cool and I just don’t feel comfortable putting ALL my creative eggs in the lone basket of the main novel.

I’m not getting any younger.

But the key thing remains — I have to prepare myself for rejection –a lot of it — as I get closer to the querying process.

Contemplating Failure

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

I have decided that as part of the process of adjusting my expectations with this novel, I have to accept that there is a chance I will fail. It’s possible that not only is this novel just too “racy” for both the liberal white women who make up the majority of literary agents and the “woke cancel culture mob” but that I’m just too old and weird to ever be a published author.

Mood.

It’s possible that, by definition, anyone who does due diligence on me will want nothing to do with me — even if they like my novel.

This is bitter pill, but one I have to prepare myself to swallow. It could be that I’m a little bit *too* unique for my own good. No amount of meaning well or being self-conscious and hyper aware of my kookiness will change the fact that “normal” people with careers and money just will be aghast at what they find out about me when they do the obligatory due diligence.

This is very disheartening. My only consolation is I’m gaming out a future that may or may not come about. But I have to prepare for such a nightmare. The fact that the very thing I feared would happen — someone I wanted to work with decided they wanted nothing to do with me once they read this blog — did, in fact, happen, has left me rattled.

And, yet, as I keep saying, this novel is existential. I write because I have to, not because I want to and, as such, I want the satisfaction of knowing that if people would just give me a chance that they would see that I am, a good writer and that I don’t suck.

I also am going to TRY to work on my backup novel so there’s a chance that if someone doesn’t like how “racy” main novel is, I will at least be able to show them a scifi novel with littler or no sex. The scifi novel would also fit the modern conventions of novel writing.

And, come to think of it, if I was, like, 25 years younger, I might take the idea of screenwriting a lot more seriously. But the learning curve for that is just too sharp. Would take me years to get to the point that I am now with novel writing. So, I’m kind of in a corner.

Novel writing it is.

That’s One Way To Fix The Problem

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

I am going through some scenes in the first half of the second act of the third draft of the novel and as I do it, I realize that, if nothing else, *I* like this novel. And since I’m the one actually fucking writing it, the squares and narcs who can’t handle my heroine being a part-time sex worker and just fuck off.

Believe.

Wink.

The story is interesting and compelling. Yes, it’s a bit “racy” as one Reader told me, but, so, too, is Boogie Nights and that’s one of the best movies of the last 30 years. I’m not comparing my novel to Boogie Nights, but the concept is the same.

And what is the point of a story but to be thought-provoking and interesting? Most of all, this novel, if I write it correctly, will make you feel something. You’ll — hopefully — become emotionally invested in my heroine’s obsession with owning a small town newspaper.

I hope to write a novel as popular and successful as The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo.

I can’t help that the fucking “woke cancel culture mob” wants us all to live in a sexless world where nothing ever troubles their tender sensibilities. The novel I’m working on tells a really compelling story — despite being “racy” — and, as such, I’m willing to throw myself into it so I can see it to completion.

I will worry about the reaction of the Real World once I’m done. And I’m fine with it never being published because of its controversial subject matter. Me getting anything published at this point would be something like winning the creative lottery, so, lulz.

‘User Error’

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Now that it’s clear that *I* am the problem going forward if anyone should do due diligence on me when I query the novel I’m working on, let’s go through what might be problematic.

Mood

My Comments About Transgender People
I will occasionally write something on this blog about how if I was a “twenty something undocumented transgendered woman” then selling my novel would be easier. I can see why such a quip might alarm some people who are easily “triggered” by statement that doesn’t fix the orthodox that has developed around trans people. What bothers me is that I am not being serious when I say this. I’m just pointing out the obvious — as one would-be reader of my novel (who promptly ghosted me) said, “The demographics aren’t on my side.” I’m not picking on trans people by my observation, just being realistic. And, I think, the bigger issue is that I even bring up this fact of life — even if it’s meant in jest.

My Comments on “Liberal White Women”
Another running gag on this blog is the idea that my novel will offend “liberal white women” and, as such, I’m screwed. I honestly don’t know one way or another what this mythical demographic will think. I just occasionally find myself full of angst over the part-time sex worker nature of my heroine and as part of that angst, I mention liberal white women. Just like with my comments on trans people, it’s more a testament to my sense of humor than it is me picking on the group. But we live in a humorless age without any sense of nuance, so I guess I have only myself to blame.

My Political Ranting
My politics generally fit within the center-Left “media narrative,” but I guess it’s possible that some of my edgier hot takes might alarm some people. You can never tell these days. People are just to touchy about any and everything that it could be that some people doing due diligence on me would think my political rantings are just yet another sign of what a fucking crank I am.

My Angst Over The “Woke Cancel Culture Mob”
If someone gets upset over this, then, I dunno what to say. My ranting about what I fear the “woke cancel culture mob” MIGHT think about my novel is just me being my usual angst-ridden self. And, I can see how if you were a “liberal white woman” with a clear set of goals for a story that me ranting about how much I fucking hate the Bechdel Test might be a serious turn off to the point you wouldn’t want anything to do with me.

The Part-Time Sex Worker Angle Of My Novel
This is a tough one. I find myself vacillating wildly between being overcome with self-doubt about this element of my heroine and thinking it’s pretty cool. It’s an interesting way to have built-in conflict for my heroine and helps with character development. And, yet, by definition, doing such a thing at all as a smelly middle-aged CIS white male is loaded and provocative to the tender sensibilities of some “liberal white women” who might be, in general, members of the mythical “woke cancel culture mob.” (wink.) I will note that I was doing some some editing today and re-reading the novel gave me renewed hope that maybe I’ve stumbled across a really interesting story.

Miscellaneous Kookiness On My Part
This is difficult because it’s not something I can pin down. There’s a chance that someone with, like, a career and reputation could read this blog and just blanch. They just wouldn’t like the vibe I give off. Add to this how much I retweet pictures of hot chicks on Twitter and…oh boy…I could totally see some “normal” person being turned off by…ME.

Existential Angst Over My Novel

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

I find myself really struggling with the fact that my nightmare of someone not being willing to work with me after doing due diligence on me has come true and its implications.

I keep wondering if I’ve made a huge mistake by having my heroine be a part-time sex worker. Talk about self-doubt! And, yet, the key thing for me is the story is coherent and cogent. There is a logic to why I’ve decided to do this. I feel as though it makes the story really different and unique — just like me — and I feel as though fuck it, it’s the story I want to tell.

But I have to accept that between the inclinations of liberal white women — wink — and the “woke cancel culture mob” I’m not doing myself any favors by doing such a thing. It’s a risky thing to do, especially as an aspiring first-time novelist.

Mood.

And I only add to this problematic situation by using more than one POV and writing from a female POV at times.

But I have my vision for this novel and I am too stubborn to do anything about it.

I am, however, going to really begin work on my backup scifi novel. I’m proud of the main novel I’m writing — risks and all — but I’m smart enough to know maybe it’s time to accept how difficult pitching such a “racy” novel may be. I’m going to start working on the characters for the backup scifi novel ASAP.

‘I Can’t Go On, I’ll Go On’

by Shelt Garner
@sheltgarner

Despite being an extrovert, I general lead a pretty isolated life. So I go about my business without a lot of interaction with people to give me some sense of how others perceive me. So, when my nightmare of someone deciding not to work with me on my novel after they did due diligence actually happened…it really rattled my cage.

I keep wondering if this is a sign that I should just give up. But the moment I think that, I am reminded that the problem probably isn’t the novel I’m working…but ME. The (young?) woman who did due diligence on me while considering being my editor probably didn’t like my musings about liberal white women or my ranting about this or that thing.

While, yes, obviously the fact that my heroine is a part-time sex worker probably made her blanch, the key issue is she thought I was a freaky weirdo. So, in a sense, there’s not much I can do — I’m going to have this particular problem no matter what type of novel I write.

So, in a sense this is kind of freeing. As long as I know the obstacles I face in my quest to get traditionally published then I can proceed as I was before. But I have to realize that, in a sense, I am creating just for the sake of creating. There’s pretty good chance that because of ME, I will never be published — ever.

Of course, despite this, I will have the personal satisfaction of having written a novel that *I* know is good, even if me being a kook prevents anyone with, like a career and shit, from ever giving me a chance. It helps that I have a huge chip on my shoulder about my writing ability and I want to prove the haters wrong.

Having said all that, I am determined to use some of my time on a backup scifi novel. Something that isn’t as “racy” as the main novel and fits the conventions of the modern novel better. It’s going to be difficult to do because, lulz, the main novel has completely consumed my life.

But, let’s rock.