Posts Tagged ‘NaNoWriMo’


In Uncategorized on December 9, 2013 at 8:52 pm

As of sometime between 6:00 pm and 9:00 pm on Wednesday, November 20, I passed the goal of 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo. I did this at a blessedly quiet write-in at the Livermore Public Library. It was at this write-in that I made some other writers laugh for the first time, won a lobster (who even now is nesting in the left hand pocket of my vintage French military greatcoat), and met a NaNo who is the embodiment of the human incarnation of the Last Unicorn. I also learned that there was a write-in the following Thursday — as in, the very next night — at the Panera in Dublin, CA.

Now, everyone in my region had received messages from our NaNoWriMo Municipal Liaisons about these things, but sometimes an event doesn’t quite seem real until one finds others who are planning to attend. So I frothed myself up and attended the Panera Write-In the very next night.

I think I got one sentence written. It was not an evening of writing. From what I understand, these Panera Write-Ins are perhaps more dedicated earlier in the month. And apparently they’re also year-round. Since that night, I have attended one more Panera Write-In, and the majority of the group was playing Munchkin. That’s an awesome game. I was entertained as I ate a tasty sandwich.

No writing done.

Clearly this is an issue of self-discipline. I should go to these and sequester myself behind a house of cards. Perhaps adding a team of trained sea otters who will cavort at my command and distract the other writers. Blah, blah, blah. It would distract me, too. Only a few of these writers seem to have the discipline to write while a game of Munchkin is going on. I must find a way to do this. The two most obvious assistances are music and headphones; I have headphones and a superb playlist on Spotify. Unfortunately, the WiFi connection at Panera in Dublin seems spotty at best.

My computer does not like having a lot of sound files in it, as I learned when I produced an audiobook through ACX.com. So I’ll have to tinker a bit. And none of this should really matter terribly much, because I won NaNoWriMo. I still need to finish my novel and edit it, but I am a winner. In spite of the fact that of my grand plans to get a bunch of extra writing done on specific days didn’t really come to any form of juicy fruition.

Here’s why:
1) Between Day 3 and Day 4 I jumped from 8,000-ish words to 12,000-ish words; by Day 6 I was holding steady at 15,000-ish words; on Day 9 I jumped to 25,125 words.
1a) Here’s why: on November 6 I started not mowing lawns for nothing resembling a living, as well as never helping out with the cleanup and prep of a house here in Livermore that needed to be put on the market asap. So on 11/6, 7, 8 I wasn’t tearing shelving out of a garage, mowing lawns, using a leaf blower for the first time (fun!), and doing all sorts of other stuff that has blended together in my memory as a gasoline-scented montage of hunger fumes and Red Bull. So when Saturday, November 9 rolled around, with its all-day Write-In, I was at the computer by 7 am and wrote until we stopped to watch some Dr. Who around 7 pm; when the show was over and my lovely fiancée went to sleep, I wrote until just before midnight.
1b) Having lost entire days, you see, to not working outdoors and prepping that house for sale, I was very worried that I would not make my goals. So the days when I leapt forward by several thousand words were days that followed periods of exhaustion and near inactivity. Turns out I have a smidgen of self-discipline, as long as I make it clear to certain people (Maxwell and the fiancée) that I need an entire day, and that there shall be no Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on the television during that time. The leap to 25,125 words kept me well above my goals for the rest of the month. By Day 16, I was over 42,000 words. (This should have been exhilarating. However, it became clear to me at that juncture that I was not going to finish the novel by the time November 30 rolled around, and I began to freak out a little bit. I wanted to finish the novel, not just meet the goal. Alas, my story does not fit into a tidy, tiny 50,000-word format. And when I realized this, I felt like a complete failure. Ridiculous, no?)

Even though I had surpassed my goals and had the beginnings of something fabulous on my hands, I was convinced I had somehow failed. I posted embarrassing things on Facebook, along the lines of: “I’m already at 42,000 words halfway to the deadline, and there’s no way my novel will be complete by the end of the month! WAAAAAAAAAAA!”

Laughable as it is, I was seriously distraught. And the root of my distress I found buried in a box of confusion at the crossroads of the NaNoWriMo Goal and My Personal Yardstick Of Success. I was trying to write 150,000 words in 30 days. And that’s quite possible. I may have done so if I’d not been not mowing lawns. But my unemployment checks are tiny — well under Minimum Wage, if one calculates the amount of time I have been putting in to job searches [prior to NaNo] and considers the checks payment for that time, which is how I like to think of it — and without my work outdoors last month, we’d have been short my half of the rent. So the work I was doing was useful. And what I realized was this: people who are fully employed and / or in school and still manage to get 50,000 or 30,000 or 20,000 or even 5,000 words written in a month are the real winners.

An unemployed actor who occasionally doesn’t mow some lawns and has oodles of time on his hands? Meh. No big surprise.

By mid-November I was getting notices from EDD that they were going to cut off my meagre supply of money. I started putting more things up for sale on Craigslist.

Nothing sold. I stopped applying for jobs and figured I’d just keep mowing lawns and writing.

Then, sometime around 11/24-ish, I received a notice from EDD that they would still be paying me. I filled out the form and was about to put it into the envelope when I noticed an X in a box with a phrase near it, the gist of which was: bitch, you’d better offer proof that you’re applying for jobs! Because we watch, motherfucker, and you haven’t been on our shitty website searching for jobs in weeks!”

Commence frantic search of e-mails for proof of jobs applied for: company, contact info., person contacted, etc. Results: many applications, no responses. Even though in my mind I had utterly stopped, the difference was this: I had stopped signing onto CalJobs to look for work, because their website is creaky and clunky and counter-intuitive. I am pleased to have found enough applications made during November to fill in those early weeks.

However, I didn’t get any responses from several of the places to which I applied. Some of them should have been automatic, given my resume (big fish) and their overall talent pool (shallow). I’m not being conceited here, friends, this is actually something I’ve done in the past and have revived of late in order to keep my chops up: audition for small companies who can’t afford to pay me a living wage.

It may be kind of a dick move when one considers the torment to which I will possibly subject some of the directors, but here’s the thing you don’t know about theatre companies: in order to be able to survive at all, just about every established small / community theatre company has at least one person to whom they can go when they need the money for an emergency expense. If the director wants an actor badly enough, and the actor can’t do the job without a living wage, there is occasionally a secret agreement reached whereby the actor appears to take the same piddling $250 stipend as the rest of the cast, when in actuality she is getting a living wage.

This doesn’t happen everywhere. But it’s how I’ve made much of my living since 2007.  Of course, if the director is not impassioned in her argument, and if the backer is a dick, and if the theatre company is poorly managed, and if there’s a butterfly in a rain forest who hates Sondheim, I probably won’t get a living wage from the small company for which I auditioned this past Saturday.

That audition only happened because I sent a second e-mail with headshot and resume attached, along with a polite post-script inquiring about the earlier e-mail. So I have sent several similar e-mails in the past week or so, and have learned that many of the missives I sent in the early weeks of November just did not arrive.

Mercury Retrograde much? Maybe not. You’d be surprised how many butterflies hate Sondheim.

In the meantime, I am signing up for general auditions galore and looking at a local Masters Program in Holistic Psychology. We’ll see what happens. Auditions and rehearsals take time away from writing.

[Did you read this? Are you a human being? Consider commenting below. Many thanks!]

NaNoWriMo 2013

In Writing on October 31, 2013 at 9:09 pm

Last November, I joined NaNoWriMo.  For those of you who have trouble navigating the Intrawebnets (my parents), that means National Novel Writing Month. At the time, I was thinking something along the lines of, “Golly, I’ve been writing Notes From The Future since April 22. I should try my hand at writing an actual novel.” So I signed up about two weeks in to NaNoWriMo and read all the stuff: 1,066.66 words per day, goals, pep talks, things and thingnesses. Sure, I was two weeks into it, but I was certain I could make it work.

I started writing Down With Dogs. Here’s the synopsis I put on NaNoWriMo: “Classically-trained non-union actor trapped in the East Bay of the SF Bay Area takes a job teaching youth theatre in order to finance his return — read, escape — to the East Coast.” As one attentive reader has recently pointed out elsewhere, my claims at avoiding biography are transparently false. To be clear, it’s writing a bio about myself as an unpublished author that I find daunting. And depressing. So I can’t take it seriously. Some might counter that with the statement that I am published via these various blogs. And that would mean something if a) I was making any money at it, and b) anyone other than bots or very close (read: obligated) friends would comment on my work.

Seeing my word count not quite meet what I thought it would, I began to worry. Then, for shits and giggles, I pasted everything I’d written for NFTF into OpenOffice and did a word count. As of November, 2012, I was well over 250,000 words. I’ll be honest: I seriously considered taking down the blog, putting Down With Dogs on a back burner, and sneakily replacing it with NFTF. However, my approach to ethics is tinged with remnants of my training as a Boy Scout. That tinge creeps in to much of what I do. Not everything, but a fair amount. So, rather than falsify my results, I let Down With Dogs languish (I did eventually write and post some of the first chapter, which the curious reader may find here). I had Thanksgiving upon which to focus, anyway: preparing two turkeys plus stuffing and gravy for 40 people, with basically no help in the kitchen whatsoever. AND a bunch of people arriving with dishes that required “just fifteen minutes” in the oven or on the (single, four-burner) stove. Which, for the record, TOTALLY FUCKS WITH THE TIMING OF GETTING THE TURKEY TO THE TABLE.  (More idiot me for not demanding Kitchen Minions.) And, while the turkeys were tasty, I believe that much of the food was cold by the time it reached the table. Big, drafty loft + no food warmers + no kitchen help + 5 last-minute warm-ups = cold Thanksgiving dinner.

By this time, I was deep into planning for The Three Musketeers at Solano College Theatre. Or, as the Administration of Solano Community College would prefer it to be called, some random classes at Solano Community College that don’t actually matter. When I am acting or directing, the project takes over my life. Which would be awesome if it always paid a living wage or was close enough to home to make it financially viable. Long story short: I poured my heart, soul, blood, sweat and tears into that production. No longer under the thumb of uber-controlling Solano Youth Theatre, I intended it to be a masterpiece. It very nearly was. However, it was not enough to convince anyone that I was the right guy for the Full-Time Theatre Faculty position recently vacated by George Maguire. Within a couple weeks of the show closing I learned that I had so vastly failed at just about everything that I was not even considered worthy of a second interview. So, there you go: my talent is not enough to get me in; the only thing that matters is whether or not I have a MFA or a PhD. So, rather than having a neatly finished NFTF to show to the world, I was surviving on tiny unemployment checks as I applied for menial jobs. Every potential employer has rejected my applications, assuring me that I am either over-qualified or utterly unqualified.

An amusing example: I am unqualified to work at Orchard Supply Hardware (hereafter OSH). Here’s the response I received:

“Dear Edward,

Thank you for your job application for the Sales Associate position received on 9/22/2013.  We regret to inform you that after reviewing your application, we have decided to pursue other candidates.

Thank you for your interest in Orchard Supply Hardware.

Talent Acquisition Team”

When I went to OSH several times last week in preparation for our annual Hallowe’en party, I was unable to find anyone who could answer my questions or help me. The one person who did almost assist me was vague, uncertain, never made direct eye contact, then promised to find the answer I sought. He left and never returned. I waited for twenty minutes. But I, with twenty-five years experience as an actor and director, a superior grasp of the English language, and direct eye contact galore, I am not worthy of pursuit by the Talent Acquisition Team.

Same with REI. Same with everywhere else I’ve applied.

So, fuck it. I’m doing NaNoWriMo. We’ve nicked a financial artery and we’re bleeding out, but fuck it. I’m putting all my eggs in this basket, blissfully typing away as my car needs repairs I can’t afford, we’re weeks late on rent, Veronica is taking out monthly paycheck loans to get groceries and make car payments and pay medical bills and insurance. Lovely. Fuck it. This is what I’ve got right now.

I finished Notes From The Future on October 14, 2013. My final post received 4 +1’s via Google, two comments via Blogspot, and absolutely no shares via Facebook or Twitter. Somehow, as of today, I have 16,732 pageviews of that blog, but only 237 comments. The pageviews and comments are for all entries, for all the time I’ve been posting there, not just for NFTF. However, the majority of the comments are for NFTF. And most of those are from three people who know me. So. Here’s hoping that what I produce in November is better than NFTF.

Which brings me to my NaNoWriMo project for 2013: The Faerie Garden. I am writing 1,667 words, minimum, per day, no matter what. There will be some days when I am unable to do so: November 6, 7, 8; November 11; November 28. In preparation for those days, I write double the amount needed: 3,334 words per day, minimum, on November 3, 4, 5, 10, 27. During the next month, I am focused almost entirely on this project. The almost is reserved for Thanksgiving and a couple other slight distractions: a callback for a short film movie-musical about time travel; a medical appointment; a day of prep for that appointment; a day when an old friend is in town from Europe.

I am also leaving time open for the only thing I can see as an earning option at the moment: Tarot readings. I’m pretty darn good at this. And I really need money. So if you’re interested, I’ll charge one dollar per card for your first reading; this can be either a 3, 5 or 10-card draw. Your second reading — as in, the second set of cards drawn — is $25.00. I don’t have a working car at the moment, so you need to come to me for this. I can walk to a local coffee shop if you think that this is all a clever ruse to lure you into my house and murder you, cleverly posted publicly on my website where no one will see. Muah-ha-ha-ha, he wrote, wondering if this would actually scare away business but kind of not caring, because anyone stupid enough to fear that I will murder them is probably not the ideal candidate for a Tarot reading. Then again, I really need the money. Dilemma. Resolution: I promise not to murder you and will walk to the closest coffee shop. No murder. I promise.

Share your thoughts and reactions in the comments, please. Messages on Facebook or via e-mail are disheartening to this lowly writer, who wonders why his blog is not good enough to warrant your direct commentary thereupon.