Sometimes, You Guys Are A Real Mystery

by Shelt Garner

As I keep saying, I monitor my Webstats extremely carefully. I study them constantly throughout the day because, well, I have no life and I live in such oblivion these days that anyone showing me any attention for any reason is something to take note of.

The biggest mystery I find in my Webstats is when someone, out of the blue, appears interested in something I wrote without there being any obvious explanation for how they came to the post. They didn’t search for it and they didn’t come to the site via Twitter.

The only thing I can think of is there may be a lot of pings to this site that I just don’t see — probably because my Webstat software registers the visits as those by a bot, as opposed to a “hard” hit by a person. Or something. I have no idea.

The only reason it’s of note beyond me being sad and having no friends is if I had a better understanding of what people were interested in, then I would know to write about those subjects more. As an aside, it seems interesting to me that some people — who I assume are “VIPs” definitely seem to come to this site either in the very middle of the night or really early in the morning. It gives you some insight into the Web usage of powerful people.

But anyway. Welcome everyone. Except for the few stalkers I have — apparently — who are a little bit TOO obsessed with my meaningless writing.

‘Dreams Of Writing The Great American Pop Novel’

by Shelt Garner

In general, the sweet spot for a novel — especially a first novel — is about 100,000 words. Anymore than that and the costs of physically printing the Goddamn thing begins to become an issue. Add to this particular situation the cold, hard fact that any literary agent worth their salt is going to do “due dilligence” on me discover — surprise! — that I’m a drunk crank and, well, oh boy.

I need to keep this first novel at around 100,000 words. This pains me to no end. I say this because, for some reason, the story I want to tell keeps creeping up towards 120,000 to 160,000(!) words. But even I have to admit that things are getting much, much better now that I’ve changed the structure of this first novel to something far more traditional.

My inciting incident is just about where it needs to be and we pretty much get into the story in the second chapter. I’ve noticed in Gone Girl that the inciting incident is in the second chapter with that book so I feel on pretty stable ground on that front.

Now that I’m slowly getting past years of living in delusion about this novel and getting into the bare knuckled phase where I actually have to convince a human being with money to invest in my dream … YIKES. Now that I feel I have a shot at not only not embarrassing myself but coming within shouting distance of getting a literary agent — this first draft of the novel is really good in my opinion — I have to start really dwelling on the practical issues of word count, etc.

I’m still on target to wrap up the second draft at some point in the spring of 2023. That gives me the summer to improve the story to the point that I can querying in fall of 2023.

Now, obviously, what I’m probably going to start doing is start a new novel just as I finish the second draft so I can keep getting that creative rush that developing and writing a novel gives me. But I’m going to be so satisfied when I wrap up — at last — a second draft.

Having a sold second draft done is when the real fun — and hard work — begins. I’m going to need beta readers. I’m going to have to figure out where the money for an actual editor might come from.

Things broke my way with ROKon Magazine for a few months, maybe they’ll break my way with this novel, too. Who knows?

‘It Was A Dark And Stormy Night’ — Reflections On Writing A First Novel

by Shelt Garner

I have to hurry up. I have to set deadlines. Absolutely no one cares about this first novel. I’ve alienated pretty much anyone who has shown any interest in it by talking about it all the time.

I have gotten a lot better about that, but the damage is done. And, honestly, I’m just not someone who has a lot — if any — friends. All my friends are the ones I make up at the moment.

Though, I need to make some of my “friends” bit more nasty at the moment. While this novel’s story is…interesting….it’s just not really as action pack and dark and scary as one might imagine a thriller to be. It’s a very, very easy read, very accusable but whenever I compare it other books in its genre…oh boy.

There is one specific book I’m thinking about which pretty much wants to do what this novel aims to be — something that if you like Stieg Larsson you will enjoy. I want this novel series to be an old brown shoe for readers of Larsson. The high concept is literally, “Stieg Larsson meets Mare of Easttown.”

At least, for the first few novels.

Then the series will become a more obvious and direct homage. I want to create a heroine of the ages. And, what’s more, if I don’t manage to drop dead of a heart attack, I’d like to think that readers will really enjoy being able to see my POC American Lisbeth Salander grow up, look exactly like Zendaya and become a crime fighter.

There is, of course, a dabble of female James Bond in my vision as well.

I like the idea of taking all the dumb tropes of Trumplandia and twisting them, turning them upside down so I can give MAGA a fuck you while using their own deranged conspiracy theories. That’s a lingering aim in this series, at least.

Anyway. Tonight I got a huge amount of work done. I keep moving things around in a very ad hoc, slipshod kind of way. But since I have no idea what I’m doing, it’s all I got.

First Novel Endgame: To Query in Fall 2023

by Shelt Garner

I’m feeling pretty good about being able to meet my goal of querying this novel as part of the fall 2023 querying season. I hope to finish a second draft in spring 2023 and spend the next few months after that editing in some sort of coordination with beta readers. And, if I fall into some money, maybe even some sort of editor.

So, I’m feeling a lot of self-imposed pressure at the moment. I need to hurry up. I’m not getting any younger and I have to stop moving scenes around and start to actually cobble together a first draft of some sort. But we’ll see, I guess. I have to believe in myself.

And I should happen not to succeed this time, then maybe the next novel or the one after that will be my big break. But I’m having a lot of fun at the moment. I’m working really, really hard to make this the best novel I can within my skillset.

I still need to read more, though.

Well, At Least I Think This First Novel Is Getting Really Good

by Shelt Garner

There is a lot I don’t know about how other people develop and write novels. And, as such, I need to read other works other than just one novel over and over again. But the novel I continue, despite everything, to use as my “textbook” is Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Played With Fire.

Even though I continue to feel as though there is something — maybe a lot of something — that I’m missing as to how Larsson wrote his novels, his writing is at least at the far end of my ability. In other words, I can only reverse engineer what he did so much. There comes a point where my own innate ability — or lack thereof — determines what the end product looks like.

But, in general, I’m feeling quite content with what I’ve managed to come up with to date. I’m very much a plotter, rather than “pantser” and I STILL struggle getting this thing done. I know the story back and forth like the back of my hand and things continue to change rather dramatically as I go through and write the scenes out.

And, yet, like I said, I think, I’ve come up with someone pretty cool. If nothing else, I’m not going to embarrass myself. Which was the whole point of this project to begin with — to learn how *I* develop and write novels and to also prove to myself that all those people who think I suck, who won’t take me seriously because I’m a (drunk) kook that, if nothing else, I really can tell a great yarn.

James Bond’s Future

by Shelt Garner

The world is descending into fire and brimstone at an alarming rate, to the point that we may not live to see the next James Bond come out. But, just for fun, let’s mull how we might revamp the storied franchise.

A new Lisbeth Salander in the Bond universe?

The obvious “woke” answers are — a female James Bond. Or a black James Bond. Or an Indian female James Bond? But I think all those ideas kind of miss the point and might even kill the franchise.

What we need to do is for three movies turn Bond into the bad guy — sorta.

Use his status as the ultimate “legacy brand” to allow you to wallow in all the unwoke elements of his character one last time before even Bond is finally enveloped by the all powerful embrace of Hollywood wokeness.

Here’s how I would do it.

Have Bond up against a woman who wants the same McGuffin that he wants — or whatever. Someone who is his equal. While I think it would be neat if his foe was a Indian woman named Raj, I still believe that pulling Lisbeth Salander into the Bond universe would be a great way to juice the franchise in an interesting way.

My favorite Bond.

Get some young, tiny actress to play Salander and then let these two de facto superheroes have at it for three movies. I could see the whole thing being based on some sort of misunderstanding between the two of them. Bond does his usual Bond shit with a Bond girl…but…he’s a little too rough with her maybe? And this accidently roughed up Bond girl complains to Salander who decides to come after Bond with everything she’s got. Throw in them both wanting something from SPECTER then you really do have a three movie franchise on your hands. It would be so cool!

Given Salander’s absolute moral code, having her fight it out with the old school, rakish Bond would be very entertaining. Salander could be a proxy for “woke Hollywood” sensibilities. Or something.

Anyway, the point is, doing something to put Bond in a bad light and then have him fight it out with the equally alienating Salander would be really fun because you could have people who took Bond’s side and people who took Salander’s side. In the end, of course, the misunderstanding is fixed and the two former rivals come to respect each other as they go their separate ways.

So Much Work To Do On This Novel

by Shelt Garner

I find myself reviewing Stieg Larsson’s writing and I’m taken aback by the difference between what he writes and my own ability. He’s so much better at putting his novels together in a coherent manner that I wonder what I’m missing.

The hardest job you’ll love.

What about how he did development am I missing? Did he do extensive character studies? Did he write a huge treatment the use that as the basis for his stories? I just don’t know. I’ve tried to reverse engineer what he did to the best of my ability, but it still seems like there’s something he did that I’m missing.

Though, to be fair to myself, I have to admit that my writing and storytelling abilities have gotten much, much better. All I seem to do these days is develop and write on this first novel in a projected six novel project….so something is bound to improve on the writing front eventually.

But I really need to buckle down and see if I can finish something — specifically a second draft — but sometime in spring 2023. That then gives me some slack to find beta readers / be a beta reader so I can querying in the fall 2023 querying season.

I am well aware that just finding a literary agent will be a huge deal — one of the greatest events of my life to date — and anything past that will be icing on the cake. But you have to believe. I really believe that I’m beginning to enter a new, more exciting phase in this project and some pretty cool stuff is just about to begin.

I hope. Of course, we could have a civil war just about the time I’m hoping to get this novel on shelves.

What To Do About James Bond (& Lisbeth Salander?)

by Shelt Garner

The core issue with Lisbeth Salander is, well, she’s not very nice or endearing. And to have her done right, she needs to really alienate the audience — the definitive anti-heroine. Then there is James Bond, who is, as a character, in something of a transitional phase.

Alicia Vikander

So, work with me here, why not have a three picture cross-over between Lisbeth Salander and James Bond? Have, for three pictures, Bond and Salander do some sort of twisted cat and mouse thing, where they both go after SPECTER for some reason.

Something that would cause them to hate each other but ultimately have sex in some cool way. Or something. Something that would make the audience go ooo and ahhh as the story progressed. As for who to play Salander in such a hypothetical three picture cross over, I think Alicia Vikander would be the perfect new version of Salander.

My favorite James Bond.

Now, some context.

If you REALLY wanted to get edgy, you still make Bond’s foe a woman, but you make her an Indian woman name Raj who hates Bond and all things British because of the legacy of colonialism.

Anyway, I think it would be cool to pit Salander against the new Bond for three movies. I think it would be a way to sort of ender a very interesting, but unlikeable character — Salander — to a new generation of audiences.

Thoughts On The Ebb & Flow of Novel Structure

by Shelt Garner

Well, it’s happening again. I think I have everything sorted out with this novel and then, as I actually sit down to write it…things start to change. Which, I think is probably a good thing. I means the story is dynamic and flexible — or that I’m dynamic and mentally flexible enough to finish a novel.

But it can be really discouraging because it means that this latest version of the novel is going to be it’s own thing. I can’t just coast through it, changing a little bit here and there as needed. It’s going to be totally different in some respects.

Add to this that I am now reading other people’s work — specifically Stieg Larsson — and I am really beginning to feel sad at how much I suck. And, yet, the point is to just tell the best story you can tell relative to what you can produce.

I can’t be expected to dramatically and suddenly produce Larsson quality copy, given that he was a professional journalist in Sweden when he sold three novels and I’m definitely more towards the “failed journalist” end of that particular spectrum.

I just can’t fake myself out. I have to move forward. I have believe in myself and get something done. I guess I’m just annoyed that I’ve done all this work and writing and I’m STILL not set in stone on some pretty basic elements of the story. I continue to play things by ear going forward.

It’s very annoying.

Man, I Don’t Know How To Feel Like A Woman

by Shelt Garner

I’m re-writing this first novel AGAIN, and I’m being really, really careful with this scene I’m working on where I describe my female protagonist. It’s so hard. I don’t want to look like either a leering, dirty old man or someone who is so clueless about how women might think about their bodies that female audience members throw the book across the room.

It’s tough. Really tough.

But I have decided to try to read other examples of men describing women — specifically, of course, Stieg Larsson depicting Lisbeth Salander describing herself from her own POV. It is helping, even if I keep being reminded at how much more talented Larsson obviously was than me.

And, yet, I can feel my storytelling and writing ability getting better. Larsson was, after all, a successful Swedish journalist when he wrote the Millennium series. As such, I can only be so hard on myself.

Things are getting so much better with this story overall. Each time I start a new iteration of this first novel, it gets just a little bit better. And there have been many, many versions of this story so far. An embarrassing number.

I just have to keep believing in myself. I have to stay focused.