I hope you'll forgive the tardiness of this post. I had promised to chime in and let you know when I finished the first draft of my mystery novel Coffee to Die For, but I wasn't able to check in with you until right now. I could give you a bunch of half-assed excuses, but the simple fact of the matter is that I've been incommunicado for the best possible reason: I'm already working on another book, and haven't wanted to divert myself away from it.
I'll tell you about the new project in a minute; for now, let's stick with Coffee to Die For. The first draft was completed earlier this month, with a final word count of 55,334 and a total page count of 236. That's a hair shorter than I predicted, but I'm quite sure both totals will increase in the second draft. I am under no illusion that my work is done. Coffee will require revisions, some of which will be substantial. Nonetheless, the story is pretty much there, and it makes sense if read from start to finish. Certain facets of the book aren't quite where I want them to be, but I have no doubt in my ability to get them there. If you'll indulge the ego of a proud new papa for just a moment, I'm very pleased with it.
In order to allow me to read and evaluate the book with something approaching fresh eyes, I have set the manuscript aside and have not looked at it for almost three weeks. I'll pick it up again in early June, probably after I see Prometheus, the upcoming Ridley Scott film about which I'm rather ridiculously excited. (Alien is on my Top Ten list of All-Time Greatest Movies.) The film's release date will mark roughly one month since I completed the first draft, and I figure that's enough of a break to allow me to roll up my sleeves and get back in there.
What have I been doing in the interim? Well, I'm so glad you asked. I've started writing a sequel.
I had always intended Coffee to be the first book in a series, but I had no idea I was going to plunge directly into the second book so quickly. I'm not complaining, mind you--the plot of the second book sprang full-blown into my head as an apparent gift from the cosmos, and last week I sat down one morning and typed out an opening paragraph to test the waters. Before I knew it, I had pounded out the entire first chapter of Book Two with virtually no effort whatsoever. Although it's early in the writing process, it seems like this new book is far more eager to be born than the first, and is doing everything in its power to help me along. If this is my new writing paradigm, I could get used to it.
What's the new book about? Well, I'm not going to tell you yet. But I will tell you that the tentative title is The Phantom of Mulberry Street, a name I actually love because it captures the pulpy mystery tone that I'm shooting for, yet also implies comedy, sounding as it does like the name of a Scooby Doo villain.
(Oh, speaking of plots: I've gotten perhaps half a dozen e-mails since my last blog post, asking what Coffee to Die For is about. I've actually answered that question here, at least in a very general way. I'll have more to say about it later, but as someone who dislikes the fact that movie trailers give away all the best parts of a film months before it even comes out, isn't it fun not to know too much ahead of time? You're welcome.)
So the first draft is complete. What did I learn by writing it?
The most important thing is: I can write a novel. It's not sorcery. It's just work. It requires dedication, and chipping away at your word count a little bit every day. Stay faithful to your goals, and keep writing, even when you aren't sure how to get your protagonist out of a corner. You (or more correctly, your characters) will figure out something.
And pay attention to this: If I can write a novel, you can write a novel. You just have to want it.
One other thing: after owning the domain name joebarlow.com back in the mid-'90s, I stupidly let it lapse. For the past decade, I have watched with incredulity as joebarlow.com became first a porn site (!), then the website for a fundamentalist Christian pastor who shares my name (!!), then a parked domain that served no useful purpose. Now, finally, the domain name has lapsed, and I have bought it back. There's nothing there yet, but in the weeks to come I'll be designing and building a web presence there.
The point? If at all possible, buy the .com version of your name. And hang onto it like a mama grizzly protecting her cub, lest your name become associated either with porn or fundamentalist religion. (I honestly can't decide which idea repulses me more.)
Any comments? I'd love to hear from you!