Mia wandered around the forum, looking for a source of inspiration. Well, inspiration wasn’t quite what she was looking for. It was more like someone to share her joy with. Finally a large forum whose rooms moved really quickly and whose plaque said SHOUTOUTS piqued her eye, and she entered. She ran down the hallway. Five thousand, one thousand, twenty-five hundred, four thousand… Four thousand! That’s where she was.
“Four thousand!” she yelled, stumbling into a room of Wrimos celebrating their achievement. “Woot!”
About five other Wrimos were also in the room celebrating their achievement. “We’re on track!” another one exclaimed. “We’re not behind.”
“I know,” Mia replied. “It’s a good feeling.”
“Hell, we’re even ahead for now. That’s just a thousand words to write tomorrow,” a Wrimo nursing a drink replied. She stirred her drink and took a sip. “I think I’ll celebrate by taking a break on the rest of the forums.
“That sounds like a plan,” Mia said. “But I saw one for five thousand on the way here. Are people really that far ahead?” She looked at everyone else’s blue bars. They were filling up slowly but surely.
“Oh, Mia, you haven’t seen anything yet,” the Wrimo with the drink said.
Mia was confused. “What is it?” she asked.
“Let me show you.” The Wrimo led Mia out the door. “By the way, you’re Mia?” Mia nodded.
“What’s your name?” Mia asked, even though she could have just looked at the Wrimo’s name tag. Keeping the conversation going was essential, especially since she had no clue what she was about to see.
“Oh, I’m theliteraryomnivore,” the Wrimo replied. Mia peered into the mug and saw that it was, in fact, water and not something less innocent. “Let’s go.” Theliteraryomnivore led Mia to the end of the hall and up the stairs to another set of rooms. They looked around. “No, they must have shifted again,” theliteraryomnivore said. “Let’s go back downstairs.” They pushed back the Wrimos climbing up and down the stairs in search of the thread of their choice and finally found some of them.
Ten thousand. Twenty thousand. Thirty thousand. Fifty thousand.
“Fifty thousand?” Mia asked, completely astounded. “But that’s all we have to write all month.”
Theliteraryomnivore nodded. “I know. But some people are crazy enough to do that in two days or even one.”
Mia stared at the door. “50K! Woot!” the door said. “Is that even possible?” she asked. She looked down at her hands. Sure, she was a fast typist (the office she worked at during the summers in high school loved her for it), but she couldn’t type that fast.
“Sure, if you can type about four or five thousand words an hour and do it all day,” theliteraryomnivore replied.
“I have to see this,” Mia said. “Maybe they can give me some tips.” They stepped inside.
Inside the room were several Wrimos. Some were celebrating their achievements, and Mia noticed that they had green bars over their heads. Others, however, were still blue-barred, and were staring at the Wrimos with green bars in astonishment just like Mia was. Green bars? What did that mean? She posed this question to theliteraryomnivore.
“Oh, that means that they’ve already reached fifty thousand,” theliteraryomnivore said.
“So they’ve already won?”
“Not quite. You win when you verify your word count. You can get an official count now, but it doesn’t count as winning until the twenty-fifth. Then the bar turns purple if it counts more than 50,000 words. So their green bars will stay green for the rest of the month until they verify.”
Mia stared at the green bars. She couldn’t help but notice that some of these Wrimos, green bars and blue bars alike, had halos over their bars. “And what do the halos mean?” Mia asked. She had noticed them the entire time but never bothered to ask until now.
“Oh, running Wrimonia isn’t cheap,” theliteraryomnivore replied.
“Cheap?” Mia asked, looking around. This was a whole land they were talking about here.
“Yeah, it costs a lot, really. So people are asked to chip in if they feel like they got something out of NaNoWriMo. Those who do get halos.”
“But what if they don’t want a halo?” Mia asked. She couldn’t imagine that everyone wanted a halo floating over their word count. Heck, some people were probably devils.
“Well, they can go to Wrimo Hall and get it removed if they change their mind. There’s a surgical process, but I hear it doesn’t hurt. Or so they say.” She lowered her voice as she said it. Another halo-less person with a blue bar entered the room and looked at everyone with green bars.
“Cheaters!” the new arrival yelled. Everyone gasped.
“Hey now,” one of the Wrimos with a green bar yelled. Mia glimpsed her name tag. Kateness. Mia also glimpsed her word count. Sixty thousand words already. This girl was insane. “You do know it’s against the rules to call someone a cheater, right?”
“Who’s that?” Mia asked.
But this time it wasn’t theliteraryomnivore that answered. Someone else with a blue bar arrived and answered.
“Oh, that’s Kateness,” the newest Wrimo, Hype, replied. Mia couldn’t help but notice that Hype had already written over ten thousand words. “She’s been overachieving obsessively–well, compulsively, really, since she got here in 2005. I hear she’s going for a million words this year. And she’s not the only one.”
“A million?” Mia looked toward Kateness. “But how many words is that a day?”
“Over thirty thousand,” Hype replied. “My wrists hurt just thinking about it.”
Mia had to admit that her wrists hurt thinking about it too, and Kateness was telling the others that yes, it was possible to write that many words in such a short time. She quickly explained her techniques and then left the room in a rush, probably to write more.
“She has to go through this every year,” Hype explained.
“I can see why,” Mia replied. She could see how people could type faster than her, but that much was just astounding. She looked at her own fingers. Were they really capable of typing sixty thousand words in two days? And today wasn’t even over yet.
Several other Wrimos with green bars remained in the room. “Yeah, welcome to NaNoWriMo,” Hype said. “I’m Hype, by the way. You haven’t seen anything yet.” She led Mia out of the Shoutout forum and into the square, where a few green bars intermingled with blue bars. Not many, but enough so that it was noticeable. There was Kateness, of course, typing away at her laptop, but there were a few others as well. They walked toward Wrimo Hall and entered.
“Hello,” a Wrimo with a black hat and a badge that said STAFF said. Her name tag said Lindsey Grant. “How may I help you?” She sneaked back to her laptop to type a few words.
“We’re here to see the word count scoreboard,” Hype replied. Hype knew where it was, of course, but she asked anyway for Mia’s sake.
“Third floor,” Lindsey replied. “Just up the stairs.” Hype had seen it before, but she led Mia up the stairs.
“This is where you search,” Hype said. “It’s separate from the robots for reasons that nobody knows. But it’s pretty cool. So if you want to search for word count, you just hit search.” Mia stared at the wall as Hype hit the search button. It was one of those touch screens that she remembered seeing on a GPS or in the checkout stand at stores when she paid with a credit card. Pretty nifty, Mia thought as she looked at the huge wall. Suddenly a huge list appeared.
“These are all the Wrimos listed in order of registration date,” Hype said. “You’re pretty late on the list. I’m earlier since I signed up in 2006.”
Mia looked at Hype’s badges and saw a purple 2004 badge. “Then how’d you get that?” Mia asked, pointing at the oldest badge.
“I changed my name,” Hype said. “You can’t just rename yourself here. You actually have to discard your name tag for a new one.”
Hype reached up and clicked one of the buttons, then waited again. “So I just hit the sort by word count button, and now we wait.” They waited for a minute, and then the results appeared with all the Wrimos sorted by word count.” Both of them looked at the results. There were just a bunch of zeros. “Oops,” Hype said. “It sorts the other way first. Let’s fix that.” She hit the same button again, and then the top to bottom results appeared.
“Here we go,” Hype said.
That’s when Mia noticed several people who had entered 999999 words. “They can’t be real,” Mia said, pointing at those word counts.
“No, they’re not,” Hype said. “Do the math.”
Mia shuddered. She didn’t dislike math, but the math professor she had in college was in a class of his own. He always wore mismatched clothes and said that anyone who wasn’t good at math was unworthy to do anything in life, and said that everything was inferior to math. Way to make me dislike math, Mia had thought. But she got out her laptop and opened the calculator.
“So even if we assume that they’re typing all the time, twenty-four seven up to this point, they’re typing much faster than the world’s fastest typist, according to Google,” Mia said, suddenly thankful for her ability to procrastinate. “I think it’s pretty safe to call them fakes.” Hype nodded.
“Me too, Mia, me too.”
“But what about these non-999999 people?” Mia asked.
“Oh, we can discard a lot of them too. I like to use Kateness and people with similar word counts who are known as baselines. Common sense also helps.”
“Why yes, yes it does,” Mia replied, though based on the looks of this crazy Wrimonia place, common sense might have to go out the window for about a month or so.
They left Wrimo Hall and returned to their novels. Mia knew that there were people with higher word counts than hers, she had to admit to herself as she sat down to write. But people with word counts that high? It seemed almost crazy. So crazy, in fact, that she had to try it.
“But first I have to write fifty thousand,” Mia said to herself as she pondered what to write that day. “Overachieving can come next year.” And with that she began to type the adventures of Amy Cramer the art company publicist.
I remember being in Mia’s place. Now I am one of the people who is viewed as an overachiever, though certainly not to the level that some Wrimos overachieve. Sometimes it’s hard for them to believe that I was in their place too–I was at 25k at the end of the 25th my first year and still finished.
Seriously, though, Wrimos, don’t get discouraged by the high word counts of others. It’s yours and yours alone that matters, and looking at the word counts of others isn’t going to make yours increase unless you let that motivate you.
On another note, tomorrow’s my birthday! I currently have no plans thanks to being poorer than poor and thanks to possible snow tomorrow. (You think I’m kidding. I live in Georgia. Snow is serious and rare business here.)
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.