As much as she tried poking at the novel the next day, day nine saw an addition of zero words to Mia’s novel. Alaina was woefully absent, and Amy, Ian, Brenda, and everyone else associated with the novel was nowhere to be found. Only Writer’s Block figured Mia around, and no matter she tried to hit him over the head with the traveling shovel of death, he still would not die, so Mia accepted his presence and wandered the forums in search of something to do and (she hoped) inspire her to write more.
A new forum stood in front of her. GAMES, DIVERSIONS, AND OTHER EXCITING FORMS OF PROCRASTINATION, the plaque at the door read. Mia examined the plaque and noticed that it was graffitied with words whose order she couldn’t quite make out. Kitten. Cat. Cute. Aww. Sad. Tears. Cry. Baby. She could sort of see the association, but why was it written here? In another corner of the plaque, someone had written “Last Post was here 10/1/2009”, and in the back, “Long live the Lounge. May the cabana boys be resting in peace and drinking their own martinis.”
Mia pushed the door open and entered the forum, along with a crowd of other NaNoers. A few of them ran out, characters and muses chasing them out of the forum. “Write, write, I tell you!” a muse yelled to a Wrimo. “You’re going to get way behind on your novel if you stay in here!”
“I’m going!” the Wrimo replied as she ran out of the forum. “You don’t have to yell.”
Mia should have listened while she still could, but instead she pushed the door to the first sticky thread open.
“Threads with over 500 posts will be closed,” the door read. Mia entered the room to see what it was all about. No one was in the room, but the room explained (via writing on the wall) that this forum was extremely active and that threads that got extremely crowded would be closed. When Mia wondered why, some writing appeared under that which she had just read. “It affects the stability of all of Wrimonia,” the writing read. “It helps keeps Wrimonia up for everyone, and extremely long threads in this forum helped contribute to a crash several years ago.” Mia nodded in agreement and left the room, entering the first non-sticky room she saw.
Several Wrimos were in here, and if the nonsense the people in the dares thread were shouting at each other were crazy, this was worse. “Soft drink!” “Soda!” “Pop!” “Tart!” “Sweet!” “Salty!”
Mia stood and watched for several minutes, trying to find the connection between all these words.
“So do I just yell out the next word that comes to mind?” she asked the nearest Wrimo, whose name tag read _fatguy.
“Pretty much, yeah,” he replied. “Give it a try.” Someone yelled “Recycle!” and Mia took this chance. “Reduce!” she yelled.
“Reuse!” _fatguy yelled back. Mia grinned. She was getting the hang of this. The entire time, Wrimos were entering and exiting the room, probably going to other threads in the forum. She noticed that several of the same people kept coming back as they played.
“We get a lot of regulars here,” _fatguy explained. “I didn’t really become a regular until recently, but some people come here a lot. Some of them haven’t been around much in November. That probably explains their word count.”
Mia nodded, thinking of the people she had observed with high post counts. Was this the secret? “So what else is there here?” she asked.
“Come with me,” _fatguy said, and he led her out of the word association thread, though Mia didn’t know that was what the thread was called.
“What are these, anyway?” Mia asked.
“Threads,” _fatguy replied. “Threads just like any other thread on the forum. Of course, most threads on these forums are designed for discussion, but this one is more along the lines of diverting yourself from your novel. And boy, are some of us good at it.” _fatguy led Mia toward the next door on the forum, and they entered. “This one’s not as wild as word association,” _fatguy said.
“Yeah, that’s what the last thread was.”
“So what’s this one?” Mia noticed that there weren’t as many people here. In fact, there were only a few. In fact, a single Wrimo stood there, and when he saw who had entered, he looked slightly disappointed.
“Hi, Shiral,” _fatguy said. “Who did you think would be next?”
“I was thinking never_fade_away would be next, but apparently she’s not. Ah well. Who’s the new person?”
“Shiral, this is Mia Wonnor,” _fatguy said. “Mia, this is Shiral. She started the Useless Superpowers game.”
“Useless superpowers?” Mia asked.
“Yeah, you grant the person above you a useless superpower. It’s like a real superpower except it’s useless or silly. So I can grant you the superpower to control the weather in space.” Mia laughed. “See? It’s great.”
“I’ll have to check that out,” Mia said.
“I’m going back there myself, actually,” Shiral said. “Someone left me a great superpower earlier, and I want to see who I get to bestow a superpower to now.” She ran out of the room, waving to Mia and _fatguy on the way out.
“So who’s going to be next?” _fatguy asked.
“I don’t know,” Mia replied. “I don’t know who these people are here. I mean, I know a few people on the forums, but not many, and I don’t know if they come here.”
“Well, try them anyway,” _fatguy told her. “You might be surprised.”
“I word warred with thegrumples earlier and did miserably,” Mia said. “So I’ll say she’ll be next in here.” They waited. The room was empty except for the two of them. A minute later, the door opened. Thegrumples was not the person at the door. Instead, a Wrimo with a purple banner and a moderator badge entered.
“You’re not thegrumples,” Mia said. “I predicted that she’d come in next.”
“No, sorry,” the Wrimo replied. Mia noticed that the banner that this Wrimo carried also contained the titles of all her past NaNoWriMo novels. “But I’m Lauren E. Mitchell. I’m one of your mods for this forum.”
Mia gulped. “Am I in trouble?” she asked.
“Of course not,” Lauren E. Mitchell replied. “I’m just playing this thread like anyone else and happened to stop by. How’s the writing going?”
“Uh…” Mia paused. “I haven’t written at all since Sunday.”
“And today’s just Tuesday,” Lauren E. Mitchell replied. “Come on, you’re at 13,000 words. You can catch up on that. The month is still young. Now go write!” She paused. “Oh, and I think the next poster will be littlesweetiepuddletoes.”
“I guess you’re right,” Mia said, looking down at her bag. The laptop rested in it, and her characters and Alaina were still nowhere to be found. “I’ll give it a try now.” Out the door Mia went, but she didn’t leave the forums. Instead she opened another door. “Last Post 3,” the thread read on the door.
“Three?” Mia asked herself, and she entered the room.
A statue sat on a table in the middle of the room. It didn’t look like anything in particular to Mia; to be perfectly honest it looked like a three-dimensional amoeba to her. She walked toward the blob and noticed that sticky notes in all colors covered it with messages.
“Mine now!” “No, mine!” “Neither of you can have the Last Post because I’m taking it to bed with me, so nyah.” Mia took in this sight of sticky notes on an amoeba-shaped statue for a little longer, wondering why a three-dimensional amoeba with sticky notes all over it would be sitting in the forum. Then the door burst open, and a Wrimo named nuwanda entered.
“Sorry, it’s mine now,” nuwanda said as she scribbled on a sticky note and applied it to the blob.
“Wait, why do you want this thing anyway?” Mia asked. In all the classes she took for her art history minor, she never studied anything resembling this. Was this some new movement in art? “It’s ugly as all fuck goes, and it’s full of sticky notes.”
“Oh, sit down,” nuwanda replied. “Let me explain.” They sat down on the floor, the sticky noted blob above them on the table. “These forums don’t exist just because of the mods and staff and tech crew to keep them together,” she said. “They exist because of us, because of Wrimos like you and me who build the community in this forum to be the best online writing community that it can be, brick by brick, post by post.”
Mia nodded. “But what about this… thing?”
“Oh, that. Well, you see, some posts are more special than others. When you’re commenting on a high-traffic blog, the first post is highly valued in some circles, as you know. But when the forums are open year-round like they are here, the last post is more valuable. Anyone can get the first post by starting the thread. But when the forums close shop in late September to be wiped clean for new October forums, no one knows who’ll get the Last Post in a given thread. And that’s why this thread was started, to cherish the pursuit of the Last, the Unpredictable.” Nuwanda looked at Mia. “Any questions?”
When Mia shook her head no, nuwanda got up. “Now I have some word association to play,” nuwanda said. “But if you claim the Last Post as yours now, I’ll be back.” Nuwanda smiled and ran out the door. Mia looked around the room. Nuwanda’s post-it note was still there, sticky all over. Mia walked toward the Last Post and wrote, “But now it’s mine… mwahaha” on a Post-it note before sticking it on the Last Post. Then she ran out the door as well toward another thread in the forum, only to be greeted by a door that said “A surprise.” She entered, and several Wrimos stood in there, among them nuwanda.
“Congratulations and good to see you again,” nuwanda told Mia. “You just lost the game!”
“What game?” Mia asked, looking at everyone else. They too were grumbling that they had lost the Game.
“The Game,” nuwanda said.
A Wrimo by the name of jarofdirt882 stepped forward. “You are always playing the Game,” jarofdirt882 explained, stepping forward from the pack. “Everyone is always playing the Game. When you think about it, you lose.”
“But you can’t win,” Mia said. “That’s silly.”
“That’s the point,” nuwanda pointed out.
“Actually,” a voice said. Mia looked up and saw a Wrimo named mattskywalker was standing next to a poster. “It’s okay!” He pointed to the poster on the wall. “You just won the game,” it said. “Congratulations! You’re free!”
“But if I won the game, and I thought about it, that means I lose the game by default,” Mia pointed out. “That’s the biggest brainfuck I’ve ever heard of.”
“It could be worse,” the_mystical_moose, a Wrimo who hadn’t spoken yet, said. Mia noticed that the people accompanying the_mystical_moose weren’t Wrimos at all, but characters. “You could be dreaming about your novel.”
“Oh, thank goodness that hasn’t happened yet,” Mia said, and she left the forum before she could lose the Game again.
Every year people wonder about my high post count at the NaNoWriMo forums (4000 and growing at this point, but not quite as quickly as it did during the NaNo season). The procrastination forum is one secret, but I think the entire NaNo forum is a procrastination tool. The procrastination forum is a good way to increase your word count and meet some cool people along the way, though, as are a lot of the threads I feature 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.