November first, the clock read when Mia woke up. The atmosphere was oddly still as she turned on her laptop and looked at where she had left off, all five hundred thirty words that she had written. So much for writing the daily quota before going to bed. Ten o’clock, the clock read. Mia walked around the square, laptop in hand, looking for a robot to update her word count, realizing that she had forgotten to do it last night, but none were in sight. At least none that appeared to be in a condition to update Mia’s word count.
Maybe they’re at Wrimo Hall, Mia thought as she walked on that way. The atmosphere was still oddly still, and something felt funny. Then
Mia looked around. What was formerly calm before–writers tapping away on laptops, characters and muses and plot bunnies roaming Wrimonia, the signs all over Wrimonia standing upright and giving Wrimos tips and tricks for reaching fifty thousand words, robots buzzing around–were all in disarray. Even worse, the robots that Mia originally thought were just a little ill (if robots could get sick, they would probably get viruses, and Mia figured that these robots were probably afflicted by a virus… but what?) were actually waddling across the square. She approached one of the robots.
“Excuse me, I need to update my word count,” Mia said to the robot. Its eyes were much more glazed over than usual, and the meter on the robot was ticking toward empty in the same fashion that a gas meter did. But the robot didn’t respond. Instead it beeped loudly and eventually fell toward the ground. That’s when Mia heard it. She must have heard it earlier but tuned it out thanks to her preoccupation with finding a robot to update her word count.
Footsteps. Not just one set of footsteps or even the footsteps of her characters, but a stampede of footsteps. If Mia didn’t know better, she would have thought it were the footsteps of a stampede of water buffalo, but that certainly wouldn’t have struck her as abnormal in Wrimonia anymore. Nothing would strike her as abnormal anymore.
Hordes of people sprinted toward the Wrimonia square, all of them with writing implements in hand. Some had laptops, others had Alphasmarts, other brave souls carried hefty typewriters with both hands, and still others carried paper and pen. Mia stared at this last group. How would they write an entire novel with just paper and pen? She knew that she could never handle that. Her hand would cramp out after awhile.
“To NaNoWriMo!” one of them yelled. Mia looked for a safe shelter to hide in. What if all these people ran over her? She looked at their nametags. Some of them wore nametags indicating membership in Wrimonia, but others were guests.
“I need to update my word count!” one yelled. “I forgot about Wrimonia until just now, and those two hundred words will be mine. Mine, I tell you!”
“I just found out about NaNo!” another exclaimed. “Sign me up!”
The forums should still be safe, Mia thought, and she ran toward the forums, passing ill robots, signs that had been knocked over (Editing is for December!), and benches in disarray until she arrived at the nearest forum: the All Ages Coffee House. She pushed the door open, expecting the door to open easily just as it had all those other times in the past.
But the door wouldn’t open. “Open up!” Mia yelled. “There are a ton of people coming in and I don’t want to get crushed!” She kept banging on the door, but no one let her in. She made sure she was actually at a forum as opposed to a random building in the square. No, sure enough, the plaque outside the building actually said ALL AGES COFFEE HOUSE, although it had been tilted over slightly; how, Mia had no clue. Someone had to work awfully hard to tilt that rock over.
Another Wrimo walked out. Her name tag read syaffolee, but Mia couldn’t catch the door in time to enter as Wrimos and guests alike rushed past them, some rushing toward Wrimo Hall, others trying to coax the nearly dead robots to life to update their information.
“What’s going on?” Mia asked syaffolee. She noticed that syaffolee had a badge that said Municipal Liaison.
“It’s the annual November first forum crash,” syaffolee replied. “Everyone storms Wrimonia because they’ve just heard about it, or because they want to update their word counts, or for some other reason entirely. Syaffolee looked completely unconcerned about this.
“Why aren’t you worried?” Mia asked. “They’re destroying the place! The robots will never be the same.” As Mia said this, a Wrimo near them asked a wobbly robot to update her word count.
“Please?” the Wrimo asked. “I have three thousand words. Just add that to my profile, won’t you?” Normally the robot would have complied, but this robot had seen too much for today, or ever, really. It collapsed on the ground. The Wrimo fell to her knees and clutched her laptop.
“What did I do?” she asked. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.” She leaned over and touched the robot’s head. “Are you okay?” Mia and syaffolee walked over to this Wrimo, who was now clutching the robot’s arm and staring at it. “All I did was ask politely.”
“It’s not your fault,” syaffolee said, and Mia noticed that this Wrimo too was new; she had no badges of seniority like syaffolee did; in fact, syaffolee wore purple badges indicating that she had won for the past eight years. “It happens every year.”
“It does?” the Wrimo asked, looking up at syaffolee and noticing all her winner badges. “Every single year?”
“Honestly, if you think this year is bad, you would have given up on updating your word count last year,” syaffolee replied. “But it’s just beginning.” syaffolee looked around, and more robots were falling over as Wrimos were running around the square, trying to convince the robots to update their information. They walked toward Wrimo Hall together, the third Wrimo grabbing her laptop before they left the other robot in peace.
“Should we do something about it?” she asked, and Mia finally glimpsed her name tag: VictoriaRF.
“They already know,” syaffolee replied. “Besides, we can’t get into the tech help forum anyway. “Or if you can, it’s out of luck.” The three of them stood outside the Tech Help forum together, and sure enough, they weren’t alone.
“The site’s down!” “The forums are broken!” “I get an ugly database thing on the door when I come back to the forum!” People were yelling all around the center of the square as they marched around. “Bring back the site!”
A man wearing a black hat with a badge that said STAFF and TECH HELP on it ran past them. He was panting, and he carried a tool kit, but everyone cheered nevertheless. “It’s Dan!” someone yelled.
“Dan?” Mia asked syaffolee. VictoriaRF also looked confused.
“The tech guy,” syaffolee replied. “He’s the reason the site isn’t worse.” She also cheered, and Mia and VictoriaRF joined in.
“I’m working on it!” Dan yelled to the crowd. “It’s going to be okay!” He ran away from the crowd around the Tech Help forum and toward a dying robot, poking it with various tools in his tool kit. As he did so, more people stormed the Wrimonia square. Mia noticed that she was pushed closer and closer toward her fellow Wrimos.
“This is silly,” Mia said after several minutes. “I could be writing right now.” She pushed her way through the crowd, elbowing her way through Wrimos and characters and muses until she could breathe again, and then started to look for a place to sit. Then she noticed that the literary fiction forum nearby–Mia’s genre of choice–looked pretty desolate. After a minute of debating whether to write or give the forum another try, she ran toward the forum and opened the door.
The door opened as if nothing had ever happened to it, and she entered, looking around. The forum was crowded once again, and Mia entered a room that looked interesting. “What’s your plot?” the question on the door said.
Everyone else in the room discussed their stories, ranging from dead family members to stream of consciousness to love stories. “It could be romance or chick lit,” the character writing the love story said, “but I think the way I’m telling it puts it in the lit fic category. What about you?” she asked, turning to Mia.
“Well,” Mia said, not expecting to be addressed this soon. “My characters’ parents are dead, and the daughter is raising her younger brother. Everyone thinks the daughter is the son’s mother and not the sister. This causes some interesting problems growing up.” The other Wrimos in the forum nodded their approval, and Mia asked about the plot of another Wrimo who hadn’t spoken yet.
BANG. The door shook. Nay, the ground shook.
“Should we take cover?” Mia asked.
“No, it’s fine,” the stream of consciousness Wrimo replied. “But we should take cover. It looks like another crash is on the way.” Apparently this forum didn’t have an emergency shelter, as everyone ran for the door and pushed it open, running out of the thread one by one. Mia followed everyone else out and ran out the door, looking for a safe place to sit down and write. Perhaps today wasn’t the day to browse the forums.
Before she could find that safe place to write (and while she walked past an eraser bench), a voice spoke from the Wrimonia sky.
“Attention Wrimos,” the voice said. “Wrimonia will be closed for maintenance for about twenty minutes or so in an hour. Attention Wrimos: Wrimonia will be closed for maintenance for about twenty minutes, beginning in an hour. Please follow us on Twitter for updates. Thank you, the Management.” Mia looked up and noticed bright blue birds flocking to other Wrimos and chirping to them.
Wrimonia will be closed? Mia thought. She ran toward the Tech Help forum, which was still surrounded by Wrimos holding up signs, and asked this to the nearest Wrimo with participation badges.
“It just means you won’t be able to access the forums, the robots, or Wrimo Hall,” the Wrimo replied, who Mia noticed was named Thekherham. “You can still sit on the square and write, but you can’t go in any of the buildings. That’s the really taxing part of Wrimonia.”
“Oh,” Mia said. “Thanks.” She noticed that Thekherham had already written many more words than her mere five hundred thirty words, and finally she sat down on an eraser bench that hadn’t been destroyed and opened her laptop.
Anyone who has ever been on the NaNo site on November first knows about the great forum crash. This year the real crash didn’t happen until a few days in, but making it happen on the first is truer to the spirit of the event. Fun note: I read a shortened version of this scene at my region’s first TGIO party.
Feel free to link this on your blog, Twitter, whatever. Just don’t pass this off as your own, and we’re cool.
I highly encourage you to donate to the Office of Letters and Light, the nonprofit organization that runs NaNoWriMo, if you enjoy this tale of noveling madness. If you donate in the new year, your donor goodies will appear in the month before the event you donate to (NaNoWriMo or Script Frenzy).
If for some strange reason you’re really into giving money to Internet strangers who write somewhat humorous things, I won’t complain. You can do that at the link below.