Joe Barlow Writes

Quirky Books for Quirky People–New Thoughts on Writing and Publishing in the Digital Frontier

Category: General

Reflections on 2014

Christmas flat

Happy holidays, everyone!

It’s the end of another year, and as usual, I find myself in a reflective mood. This year, that reflection is tinged with sadness and regret, because I dropped the ball in 2014. Not just once, but over and over again.

It’s been ages since I’ve updated this blog. That’s because I’ve had nothing of note to report. I made great strides on two novels early in 2014, then stopped running a few hundred yards before I crossed the finish line. Coffee to Die For, my first Clayton Gyler mystery, still isn’t finished, even though I’ve done three complete drafts. And don’t even get me started on the sequel, The Phantom of Mulberry Street. That’s even further from being done, although I do have a complete first draft.

What happened? Oh, the usual: crippling self-doubt, and unplanned detours into self-loathing. “Who do you think you are, Joe? No one cares about what you write. Sure, you can write non-fiction and technical copy just fine, but nobody’s interested in your characters.”

Stupid, right? Yeah, I know.

It’s the curse of the creator. Being a writer is a peculiar combination of arrogance (obviously we think our work is worth sharing, or we wouldn’t write it) and crippling insecurity (what if the world hates what we create?). It’s a contradiction that makes no sense, but it has utterly derailed me. Things got so bad that every time I thought about working on Coffee to Die For, I’d have a mini freak-out.

So I ended up doing nothing at all. Not blogging. Not starting a new project. Just basking in inertia, because that was easiest.

Well, enough.

Early this month I started a brand new project, and I’m happy to report that I completed the first draft yesterday. I wrote over 2,000 words each day, with the word count on the first draft totaling around 32,000. Novella length, basically. This was my Christmas present to myself.

I’ll tell you more about it soon. I’m very excited, because this isn’t just a new project; it’s a whole new way of storytelling that I’ve never tried before. Not a novel, and not truly a novella, despite the length. It’s its own thing, and I’m super proud of the concept behind it.

Watch this space. If you haven’t done so, please sign up for my mailing list over on the right, so you can be notified when I have more to share.

I’m looking forward to 2015. This year is going to be different; it’s going to be the year I take control of my life and make it work for me.

How about you?


P.S. Due to a recent influx of spam comments on the blog, I have temporarily disabled comments. Sorry about that. I hope we’ll be able to turn them back on soon. This is why we can’t have nice things.

So, a formal introduction, then…

tubesAs we all know, the Internet is a series of tubes. Every computer in the world is connected by a mixture of twine, plastic, and wax, allowing cybersurfers to slide from one digital destination to the next, like wind passing through the gap in a first-grader’s smile.

Or something. I’m not very good with this technical stuff.

Because of the digital sorcery that allows us to teleport all over the planet simply by typing random subjects into a search box, there are many possible ways you may have found this site:

Perhaps you’re a writer, interested in reading about the ongoing adventures of another writer. If so, welcome.

Perhaps you’re a mystery fan, looking to find out more about the types of novels I write. If so, welcome.

Perhaps you’re a spambot hoping to share with me the exciting news that I’ve won ten million pounds in the UK lottery (which, judging from the amount of notifications I receive, I seem to do about twice a month, despite having never been to the UK). If so, welcome! I don’t discriminate against machines. Robots kick ass.

No matter how you might have found me, I’m pleased to meet you.

On my previous writing blogs, I typically discussed the business of freelance writing. I’ve been writing professionally since 1997, both as a corporate tech writer and as a newspaper/magazine freelancer. I made a living doing that for many years, but it wasn’t always the type of work that satiated one’s muse.

That’s why, after a bit of soul-searching two years ago, I promised myself that I would write a novel within 12 months. Although I like many genres, mystery is by far my favorite, and that’s where I set my sights. More specifically, I envisioned a detective story that gently satirized, yet also revered, the hard-boiled crime tales of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett.

I got busy pounding the keys, and although progress was sadly held up by a death in my wife’s family, I completed the first draft of that novel, Coffee to Die For, about eight months later. I’m already hard at work on the sequel, tentatively titled The Phantom of Mulberry Street, while Coffee percolates (no pun intended, I promise… oh, alright, you caught me, I intended it) for a while. Soon I’ll pull it out of the metaphorical desk drawer and begin work on the second draft.

[UPDATE: Since the time this post was originally written, over a year ago, I’ve completed the second draft of Coffee, and I’m nearly finished with the third draft as well.]

That, in a nutshell, is why I’ve started this blog: to chronicle my fiction-writing pursuits, and to hopefully connect with others who are interested in doing the same.

And now you know a little bit about me, if you didn’t already. No doubt we’ll learn more about each other in the days and weeks to come.

Thanks for reading. Don’t forget to sign up for my mailing list if you want to stay notified of my various writing projects!

Now remember, kids: it’s a great big world out there. Let’s go break some stuff.


The Phoenix Has Risen

Joe Barlow - Apple Pic

Hello, world. Nice of you to stop by.

Let me admit something right off the bat: this isn’t the first writing blog I’ve ever had. In fact, by my count, it’s no less than my fourth. Three times before I’ve stood at the brink and leapt, only to find that I couldn’t flap my arms hard enough to keep my aspirations airborne.

So why do it all again? Why set myself up for failure once more?

Simple: this time, I’m not going to fail. Too much has changed. My head feels like it could split open with all the ideas that are beating around inside it, like moths slapping against a window, trying to reach the light bulb on the other side. I need an outlet for them, to preserve my sanity if nothing else.

Words have served me well over the years. I’ve made a reasonable living from stringing them together in various ways. I’ve worked as a technical writer for perhaps a dozen corporations and small businesses. I’ve been a grantwriter and a ghostwriter. I’ve composed sales copy, served as a web editor for any number of organizations, and even earned my living for a brief but glorious time as a film critic, back before the Internet (and, more specifically, blogging) erupted into the public consciousness and eradicated the notion that writers should get paid for their opinions online. (Happily, I did publish a collection of film reviews some years back, and it’s still in print. We’ll talk more about that in future updates, I’m sure.)

But that’s not where my main interests lie these days. You see, I want to tell stories.

I’ve always dreamed of being a novelist. Back in the ’90s, I wrote two absolutely heinous novels, both of which were mercifully slaughtered in a hard drive crash several years ago. I’ve written five feature-length screenplays (one of them got optioned by a small production company, although that’s where its journey to the silver screen ended). And I’ve written and published a few short stories over the years, though I’m sure you’ve never heard of the outlets in which they appeared.

But despite the hardships, the dream has only grown stronger. And it’s time to indulge it.

You see, in the past year, I’ve written two additional novels. Happily, they’re substantially better than the two I mentioned above. And although they’re not quite ready to be unleashed on the world, they’re not too far off. So I thought it would be fun to start this blog, to chronicle my journey towards publication and make the process a little more transparent.

Thanks so much for taking the trip with me. I’m honored to be sharing it with you.