Last week, I started on what will someday be my third novel. The second one, Try Everything in a Cartoon Romance, is pretty much done, but it’s time to begin a third one while I decide what to do with the second.
When I was in graduate school, I wrote a screenplay called Right of Way that I always intended to revisit and rewrite as a novel in order to explore the characters and issues more deeply than a screenplay allows. I’m using the old script as an outline while I get started on the story and reintroduce myself to the characters.
It starts in Austin in 1995. It’s about Larry and his younger brother, Chip, who has battled cancer on and off his whole life. After relapsing at age eighteen, Chip decides he’s not going to go back for treatment.
He runs away from his home in Houston and shows up at Larry’s doorstep in Austin wanting to “just try living for once.” He’s never really lived except in the books he read in the hospital and so with a head full of Kerouac, Thoreau, Hemingway and London, his own private wish-upon-a-star is to get to know his brother (who is ten years older and was all but forgotten by their parents who were perpetually focused on the sick kid) and travel to see the Grateful Dead, living the kind of adventure he’s read about in books.
Needless to say this is all quite a complication for his more strait-laced and settled older brother who wants to help Chip, but doesn’t know if helping him involves taking him on his grand adventure or getting him back to treatment.
That’s the story in broadest strokes. Even though I’ve already made major changes from the script I do have most of the story plotted out. I am, however, permitting myself to make as many changes as I want. Including the title, which for now is Short Time to Be Here, a modification of a line from the Grateful Dead’s “Box of Rain.”
I’m on page 15. It’s not really flowing yet. That comes later, when the characters truly start talking. The beginnings are always the hardest for me, but eventually the whole thing will come alive and then it just flows. I love when that happens.