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Sunday, November 09, 2008


  It is the strangest feeling ever NOT to be writing a novel this month. National Novel Writing Month 2008

It's National Novel Writing Month! (

I've already sent them money and earned a halo for this year!

I have plot ideas!!

I have successfully "won" NaNoWriMo for the last four consecutive years by completing a 50,000 word draft within the month of November!

But... I will not have access to a computer regularly for more than half of this month, so it will simply not be possible to participate. I will have a useful substitute activity, which I will report on as soon as it begins, but... It's not the same.

Best wishes to all of you who are lucky enough to be writing this year: Write On!


posted by Arlene (Beth)6:36 PM

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


My novel isn't complete, but I've reached the glorious, glorious point known as 50,000 words

Official NaNoWriMo 2007 Winner
And that is enough for tonight. I mean this morning.

Wait, when did it become this morning?

(For NaNos only: Purple bars! Purple bars! They really are beautiful, and they really do taste like artificial grape soda!)

Thank you, Mel, for the encouragement. Thank you, Ruthlessbatty and Swaziloo, for talking me into this four Novembers ago. Thank you, Steven, for putting up with my glares when you want to tell me something while I am trying to write and understanding (65%) why I won't listen. Thank you everyone who has smiled indulgently. Thank you, Pixies, for writing the song Little Eiffel, so I could get Boogie Wonderland out of my head after hearing it both in Happy Feet and on the Emery-Go-Round within the space of a few days.

Thank you, Office of Letters and Light and everyone else at National Novel Writing Month, founded here in my beloved Bay Area, for encouraging thousands of us to do the improbable and believe in ourselves enough to be recklessly creative for thirty glorious, sleepless, caffeinated, precious days. I love you all.


posted by Arlene (Beth)12:05 AM

Sunday, November 25, 2007


Final NaNoWriMo 2007 Weekend, and the arrival of Sweet, Sweet 47k

Official NaNoWriMo 2007 ParticipantAll week I have been keeping notes about all of the things I want to blog about. Epic weather; visiting my folks in the Central Valley; relationship tips; anti-fashion tips; sake cravings, and how to cure them; remembering how to really SWIM, and the strange double life I led in my teens... And my plan was that, as soon as I hit 47,000 words, I would be allowed to finally blog again, and write about all of these things.

Today I dedicated myself wholeheartedly to writing my novel. I had a phenomenal 9,803 word day. (Yes, nine thousand, eight hundred and three words.) And now I must rest.

I hope to finish the novel by Wednesday. Yes, it's going pretty well. And I came up with a new setup for the presentation of certain key plot devices... I'm looking forward to having more of my life back. I'm also looking forward to e-mail from my NaNo friend Flyingbeta, who sent me this last year, when I was crazy enough to write my novel in just ten days:
Subject: Don't make me stage an intervention!

I'm speaking to you from the heart, as a friend: PLEASE stop snortin' that wicked cocaine, just to get your word count up. 50k isn't worth having the white snow monkey riding your back.

[heartfelt praise omitted, lest I blush and fail to accurately convey the hue in HTML]
I'm pretending that I'm more sane this year, but when writing a novel in a month, that's a really relative idea.

This year's cumulative progress:

11/3: 4,439 words right out the gate
11/4: 7,474
11/5: 9,287
11/8: 9,492
11/11: 15,126
11/13: 16,694
11/15: 18,448
11/17: 23,126
11/21: 24,870
11/23: 31,760
11/24: 38,122
11/25: 47,925

I'm not writing this because I think you care: I'm writing this because this particular form of madness fascinates me, and I'm wallowing in it. Bear with me. In a few days, this shall pass. Or all will be revealed in the fullness of time. Or something. And we'll return to my OTHER, more regularly-scheduled, often-food-related self-indulgences.



posted by Arlene (Beth)9:30 PM

Monday, November 19, 2007


Third NaNo Weekend.

Official NaNoWriMo 2007 ParticipantIt's a lovely, lovely evening, cool and fresh. I am sitting in front of my computer with a small bowl of pineapple chunks, the last chunks from a fresh pineapple I sliced up about three months ago and immersed into a large jar of white rum. This is sooooooo tasty. It's one of those "why didn't this occur to me earlier" sort of recipes.

Amon Tobin's "Easy Muffin" is playing on Limbik Frequencies (, my favorite web radio station. I'm trying to figure out if I love downtempo electronica because I grew up on New Wave, or if there is something else to it, something about how... naturally urban it sounds to me, how appropriate it sounds coming through my computer.

Despite the fact that electronic music is so mechanistic and jazz is so improvisational, the music gives me the same sort of mood on some nights. "Nights" is the key, I think. Electronica comes from dimly lit computers, jazz comes from dimly lit city nightclubs, and I sit in uncomfortable chairs, staring forward in both places. (I'm so romantic.) I believe the natural habitat of jazz is: cities at night. It is not the same in daylight; it is not the same surrounded by orchards...


My NaNoWriMo word count stands at 23,126 words as of Saturday evening. I have complicated my recent writing sessions by (a) daydreaming excessively, (b) spending much of the weekend listening to Portishead's remarkable album Portishead and then pondering its drama, (c) walking on gorgeously fog-bound Ocean Beach, collecting a perfect mussel shell with the wet membrane still covering it, and being haunted by all of the notably absent seabirds, (d) being jealous of my wonderful cousin, who had spent the previous day removing oil spilled from the container ship Cosco Busan from our local beaches, and (e) engaging in other forms of not-writing.

I am considering adding that to my list of pastimes: not-writing. (This would be a more convincing pastime to list if I were not currently blogging about it. I'll keep that in mind for next time.) I am certainly spending more time thinking about writing. Now that I'm approaching the halfway point of my NaNoWriMo goal, other stories are coming to mind. Stories of love and obsession. Stories of old women who think they control the weather (and who cannot be persuaded otherwise). Half-dreamt phrases that I want to use in books ("seamstress of fog"). Phrases that I'm happy I don't have to use in song lyrics, because it would be difficult to rhyme anything with them ("I look like a cut rate Medusa.") Most of these things only make any sense in the context of the storyline I was daydreaming about at the time... But that's what this month is for.


The only non-non-writing news I'm willing to disclose is that it appears the rumors were true: my healed elbow does seem capable of predicting rain. It hurts in a special way inside shortly before rainclouds arrive. I was convinced that this morning's ache was a false alarm, but it rained shortly after I arrived at work. My friend P. suggested that my elbow does not merely predict rain, but may actually CAUSE rain, which was one of those great suggestions that people who drink at Peet's are often willing to burst forth with.

God bless great coffee.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)7:42 PM

Sunday, November 11, 2007


Second NaNoWriMo Weekend

Official NaNoWriMo 2007 ParticipantLife is a really full thing, even without employment, don't you think? My non-work activities are so intense that I feel like I've created some consuming, self-perpetuating internal flame that constantly exhausts and then renews me.

It's a happy kind of crazy. A good, life-being-thoroughly-lived kind.

My NaNoWriMo word count is now at 15,126, which is nice. 20,000 would be nicer, but I really enjoyed going out and socializing with my dear office colleagues this week after work. I had really great time, and rested both my fingers and my eyes from my relentless novel fanaticism. Also, I made up for some of my novel-writing-slackery (is that a word?) by making an obscene number of longhand notes, which will supply me with all sorts of details in just over a week, when I get to the part that those details are needed for. As an added bonus, I get to enjoy the encouragement of my NaNo friends during this time, and nothing is as wonderful as people who are making the same crazed creative journey that you are making. It is such a beautiful thing. They make me feel all warm and fuzzy to have this particular form of creative insanity.

Being the fanatic that I am, I didn't JUST stop at cranking out another 5,000 plus words this weekend. (Or, more specifically, this afternoon.) I made some ferrotypes this weekend, perhaps my best so far. I helped Steven with that pie for that pie event. And I took naps. And I watched clouds blow over. And I wondered idly what friends I don't see often were doing with their time. And I remembered the way the moon rise looks on the side of Mt. Everest from Tengboche, and what my favorite noodles taste like when I'm backpacking and have really earned my hunger for them... I'm a lucky, lucky woman.

Write on.


posted by Arlene (Beth)8:33 PM

Sunday, November 04, 2007

  Official NaNoWriMo 2007 ParticipantSteven is making fun of me for blogging as a break from working on my novel for National Novel Writing Month.

"Taking a break from writing by writing! Bah!"

"I never said I was sane," was my response.


Random conversational snippet from the week:

S: Little white dogs like that one [indicating fluffy, small dog waiting for its guardian in a car] are like the rabbits of the dog world.
Me: Meat dogs?
S: Yes.
Me: Dogs that exist solely to make eagles feel good about themselves?
S: Yes. But when an eagle catches one, the other eagles say, 'THAT isn't a dog. It doesn't even count.'


I started working on my novel yesterday afternoon, and got in 4,438 words. My novel is starting off darker than I expected, and I'm noticing a pattern. Each of my novels is basically about employment (though this was less direct in the third novel), and there are a variety of rather harsh criticisms I make of the current economic, political, and class systems that are more stinging than you would expect from an office worker in the legal profession who owns her own home. I'm theoretically one of the success stories of this system, and yet my near-future representations of the working world have remarkably bleak edges.

I hadn't really thought about it until Steven read my second novel, and was nearly depressed by the city that my character lived in. Later, unfortunately, he started finding real news stories that he said would have fit perfectly into that dark world I was writing about, but which actually belong to our current world. Eek.

I'm going to try to make things brighter in this one as the novel evolves, and that will have a lot to do with the circumstances of the characters, which are on a certain course...

Did I ever post any comments about this year's novel? Let me quote from a message I sent to Steven and a fellow writer on October 10th:
This morning, on the train on the way here, I came up with an entirely new story to work on for NaNo this year.

I had been planning to write a story about a woman who writes for travel guides and lifestyle publications and suffers from the shallow commercial pressures that force her to talk up uninteresting places and inane people because they are officially "fashionable," while being bullied by her family and friends for not being "normal" and conventional enough. Peer pressure forces her into making a lot of choices that don't suit her, and she continually feels like a failure. She has a very clumsy (but fun) epiphany (involving being arrested for vandalism, of all things) about where she really fits in, winds up with a fun writing job, and breaks free from the suffocating and misguided influence of her loved ones.

I'll write that some other time. Instead, I'm going to continue on my "Divine Interventions" series.

Volume 1: The afterlife is a bureaucracy, and the way the world works can be adjusted mechanically.

Volume 2: Benevolent aliens invade earth, disrupting the "natural" systems of entrenched corporate capitalism and financial feudalism that dominate society.

Volume 3: War-caused mass economic collapse results in the restructuring of society on decentralized lines, giving rise to both religious states and eco-societies in the fragmented former U.S.

NEW: Volume 4: A group of temps find themselves getting increasingly bizarre paying assignments from their agency, from keeping people from boarding planes to spilling coffee on people who are on their way to an important date. Gradually, they discover that each of the employees in their small division have an odd number of experiences and background details in common. Are they really just working for a temp agency and its eccentric president?

The idea fits with the madcap series and suits my current style. I've already picked the old Federal Reserve Bank building as the agency's office, and I know it well enough from my Orrick days to describe it in minute detail. One of the characters will be reading The End of Eternity, which gives a hint of what's going on without giving anything away. I'll set it a few years into the future, so there can be even more senseless gadgetry than we currently have. The three lead characters will start out suffering through banal office tasks before things take an odd turn, and won't figure things out until about 3/4 of the way through the story; then they will struggle over whether to embrace their freaky situation or resist what looks like a well-planned destiny.

*plot tremor* I just had two more ideas pop into my head for my outline.

Oh dear.
I think that conveys some of my current madness.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:57 AM

Sunday, October 14, 2007



Official NaNoWriMo 2007 ParticipantYes, I've done it. I've refreshed my writer's profile in preparation for another November of frantic, hysterical, completely joyful, high-speed noveling. National Novel Writing Month is nearly here!

I think I've recruited THREE new writers to join so far, and am pressuring a past convert to not only participate, but to write more than just one day this time around.

I'm still in the system as "lene2000" for those of you who care.

And no, of course I don't have time to write a novel. I've never had time to write a novel... and I've written three so far as a NaNoWriMo participant. This isn't a practical thing to do - just like living passionately and fully isn't practical. Raise your standards!


posted by Arlene (Beth)9:35 AM

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

  Flying my Geek Flag High. YES! Yes! It is true! NaNoWriMo has author merit badges! (

I am SO ordering these. In fact, I just did. I can hardly wait to geek out one of my messenger bags.

Also, the t-shirts look really good again this year.

National Novel Writing Month is just weeks away!



posted by Arlene (Beth)11:00 PM

Saturday, May 12, 2007

  Hey, future playwrights! ScriptFrenzy's website is up and running, and looks glorious. And the calendar is ticking down the days until your script-writing adventure begins.

Go. You know you want to.

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posted by Arlene (Beth)10:01 PM

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