EXT. – DINER – EARLY MORNING
The camera moves across a parking lot with big sky in the background and sunrise clouds, toward a diner with a plate glass window. Through the slightly misted window we see A MAN sitting alone at a table looking down into a steaming cup. A WAITRESS approaches with a plate in one hand and a pot of coffee in the other. She puts the plate on the table. We see her ask the man something. He shakes his head. She goes away and he continues sitting in the same position.
Who is the man? Why is he alone in the diner? How long has be been there? Is he waiting for someone? What did the waitress ask? And, perhaps most importantly, What happens next?
This is the seduction of the first scene, the first few pages, the first chapter. For viewers or readers, it’s the moment of intrigue—the hook that draws them into the story. For a writer, it’s like falling in love. You never get back that anticipatory excitement and that sense of endless possibility. Anything can happen. This is why writers—or at least why I—begin new work again and again, despite knowing the fleetingness of initial infatuation and how difficult it can be to sustain a commitment.
Now, like so many living through these interesting times, I want a reason to wake up every morning. So I’m starting something new—actually, two new things—despite being in the middle of a book launch and not yet finished with the novel that sneaked up on me almost three years ago.
Thing #1 – Another novel. I know. The world needs another novel like… like a hole in the head. Oh, wait. Maybe we do need more art in the world. This novel promises to be both political and personal, both real and magical. As with everything I start, I am unsure whether the finished result can ever hope match the vision in my head. But that’s no reason not to try.
Thing #2 – A screenplay. I’ve decided to date against type and try my hand at screenwriting, in collaboration with another novelist I met at the Sonoma County Writers Camp last summer. We thought it might be fun to try writing a script. To some, this may sound equivalent to, “I’m driving needles under my fingernails—just for fun.” What can I say? I’m a writer. I’m looking forward both to learning something new and to the process of collaboration.
I sit at the brink of two new affairs. Who knows where they will lead? I’m excited now, though also fully aware that the intensity of infatuation will fade. My work and I will grow to loathe each other. We’ll want a divorce. We’ll kiss and make up. Eventually our relationship will come to its natural end and I’ll move on to the next thing.
Writers, how do you feel at the start of a new project? Dizzy with anticipation? Trembling with anxiety?
And readers, what do you like best: beginnings, middles, or ends?
- The Bureau of Lost Earrings, my latest story appearing in Pithead Chapel and short listed for the 2016 Larry Brown Short Story Award.
- The opportunity to get an advance copy of What Remains Unsaid for review (sign up here) or help spread the word as a book ambassador.