Mia looked at her calendar. Day thirteen. Crap, she thought as she looked at her word count: thirteen thousand, five hundred forty-seven words, and not a single one of them written yesterday. She stared at the computer screen, thinking that maybe if she willed the words to appear, maybe they actually would show up magically. If everything else around here worked by magic, why wouldn’t the writing itself be magical?
The mysterious date still hadn’t shown up, either in her novel or in Wrimonia, and neither Alaina nor her characters were anywhere to be found. Mia grabbed a piece of candy and unwrapped the wrapper, stuffing the piece of candy in her mouth. It wasn’t chocolate for once. Mia had eaten far too much chocolate over the past week while trying to solve her plot problems, and she wondered if any health problems resulting from NaNoWriMo would also translate to health problems outside of NaNoWriMo. Then she berated herself for thinking this. She was only twenty-three, after all. Why should she be thinking about the fat that clogs her arteries?
She walked toward the NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul forum but didn’t enter. Many other Wrimos were milling in front of the forum as well, trying to type away at their novels but failing miserably, biting their nails, or (for a few) setting their printed manuscripts on fire and starting over.
“Can I quit now?” Mia yelled out to no one in particular. Her characters, perhaps? Alaina? The other Wrimos were still trying to type, some finally succeeding and finding a groove in their novel, but one Wrimo turned Mia’s way.
“Quit?” this Wrimo, a short Wrimo wearing mostly black, asked. Mia noticed that her name tag said Satan.
“Yes,” Mia said, looking at this Wrimo’s blue bar. She was a little bit behind. Not by much, but not as behind as Mia was. That counted for a lot. “I want to quit. I can’t think of anything to write, and my muse hasn’t stopped to call in days.”
“You know,” Satan told her, “I used to be just like you.” Mia finally looked at Satan’s participant badges: seven blue badges, indicating participation but no wins.
“But what happened?”
“Here,” Satan replied. “I’ll tell you. In song, even.” And Satan stood on an eraser bench and began to sing. A spotlight shone on Satan as she belted out her tale. As she did so, a Wrimo on a nearby eraser bench took out a blue ukelele and started to play along.
On the Internet highway, surfing links to links
Discovering new things, getting sucked in time sinks
Up ahead in the distance, I saw the Wrimonia sign
My head then perked up, and I looked ahead
I’d heard this through the grapevine
There were writers all over
Trebuchets and pell mell
And I was thinking to myself
“This could be heaven or this could be hell”
Then I noticed Wrimo Hall, and I walked on that way
There were voices all around the square
I thought I heard them say
Welcome to the Hotel NaNoWriMo
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely pace
Plenty of plots at the Hotel NaNoWriMo
Muses near and dear
You can find them here
But there were no plots to be found, at least none that would play nice
All I had come November first was some bad advice
How they write on their laptops, tales to beget
Some write to remember, some write to forget
So I called up the forums
“Can I please resign?”
They said, “We haven’t had such quitting here since 1999”
And still the editor’s calling from far away
Poking me in the middle of a war
Just to hear me say
Welcome to the Hotel NaNoWriMo
Such a lovely place (such a lovely place)
Such a lovely pace
You give up your soul at the Hotel NaNoWriMo
Kiss your time goodbye (kiss your time goodbye)
Kiss your life goodbye
Staring at a blank screen
Two more K would suffice
The mod said, “Take some dares, Mr. Ian Woon, and a plot device”
And in the steel cage of doom
They tried to get ahead
They stab it with their steely sporks
But the editor’s not dead
Last time I tried to write, I was
Untangling my plot
I pondered quitting once again
Just like all those years not fought
“Don’t quit,” said Chris Baty
It might be a reprieve
You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave.
As Satan sang and the Wrimo with the blue ukelele played (year_seven, Mia noticed as she looked that way), Mia noticed that all the other Wrimos in the vicinity were looking their way, many of them holding up their lit laptops or (unlit) manuscripts in the air. When Satan finished, cheering filled the square. Year_seven approached Satan and Mia.
“Don’t give up,” year_seven said.
“But my story’s not going anywhere,” Mia tried to explain to year_seven, but she wouldn’t have any of it.
Year_seven clutched her ukelele. “Just because you’re stuck doesn’t mean you have to be,” she replied. “Your characters will come up with something.” But before she could say something else, another Wrimo interrupted her.
“Don’t quit!” one Wrimo in the crowd yelled to Mia. “It’s not worth it.” This Wrimo stumbled to the front, and Mia noticed that she too had also not achieved a NaNoWriMo win yet. “You can do it. Look at Satan and me. We come back every year for that cherished NaNo win despite not finishing in past years. You’ve only been here once. Never say die.” And this Wrimo fell back into the crowd, presumably to work on her novel.
Satan looked at Mia. “Seriously, I’ve written more this year than I have all my past NaNos combined.”
“What are you writing?”
“Fanfiction. Okay, I’ve already started it, but I’ve written as much on it this month than I have for as long as I’ve been working on it.”
“But doesn’t that mean you’re cheating?”
Satan stared at Mia. Clearly Mia had never heard of NaNo Rebels. “I guess,” Satan replied.
Mia studied Satan for a moment. “So there are a bunch of people working on stuff they’ve already started?”
Satan shrugged. “Yeah, I guess,” she replied. “But seriously, don’t quit. You could be one of those crazy people who win every single year but pull a win out of their ass at the last minute. It’ll be great.” A bright blue bird flew past them. Satan gazed at it, finally abandoning Mia to chase after it.
Mia sat on the eraser bench that Satan had stood on, staring at her novel. NaNo rebel, huh? She had plenty of work that needed to be finished. Mia opened her bag and pulled out her notebooks, flipping through all the unfinished works contained within. Couldn’t she just use November to finish those instead of writing a novel she hated?
Mia turned to a work that sounded surprisingly similar to the one she was working on now. It concerned a single mother who was discovering deep dark secrets of her mother’s past after the mother’s death. This one, designed to be a short story, remained unfinished at five hundred words. Another story about an artist whose gallery is destroyed sat at a thousand.
Why were these works unfinished? Mia asked herself. And what’s stopping me from finishing them now? She ran around the square, hunting for Satan, but Satan was nowhere to be found. Probably chased the blue bird, Mia thought. Instead she found a small forum resembling a rather large cottage with a plaque reading NANO REBELS. Rebels, Mia thought. Surely this is the place for me. She entered and saw two sticky notes, one asking where their halos were and another reminding the rebels of etiquette. She stepped into an empty room and wrote “Help, I think I want to rebel” on the door and waited, poking at her novel while waiting. A Wrimo entered the room as Mia finished typing a sentence, unfortunately only the second that day.
“Hi,” the Wrimo, whose name was satori, said. “So you want to be a rebel?”
“I think so,” Mia replied. “My novel’s not cooperating. I’ve written two sentences on it in the last two days, and I looked through my old stories and found all this unfinished work. Can I finish those, or is there some unwritten NaNo rule that says you can’t?”
Satori looked at Mia’s blue bar. “Are you wanting to work on these unfinished stories just because your current story’s not working or because you really want to finish your stories?”
Mia looked down. Both, really, she had to admit to herself, but the stories could wait. “I’m just behind on my novel,” Mia replied. “I’m almost ten thousand words behind where I should be, it’s not working for me, my characters are nowhere to be found, and it’s just so hard to write, and it’s so terrible.”
“That’s not a reason to drop your novel,” satori replied, and Mia noticed that satori had done NaNo since 2001. “Novels are always hard to write, and first drafts are always bad. That’s why I’m a NaNo rebel this year. I’m rewriting my 2007 Nano novel.”
“Really. Now get back to writing. We’re not even halfway through the month. I’ve pulled some wild victories out of nowhere, and you can too.” Mia smiled. “There’s nothing wrong with being a Nano Rebel, but it sounds like you’re doing it for the wrong reason.”
Mia looked back at her laptop. The next scene was coming, and it would be a good one. “Thanks, satori,” Mia said as she typed the next scene.
Ah, another familiar scene for those who read this site and the forums regularly. Fun fact: This is the first (and as far as I know, only) scene in which I have met all the named Wrimos in person. This was completely unintentional. In case you’re curious: Satan and I wandered around Atlantic City for a night, year_seven writes a bunch of cool songs, some of which are NaNo-related, and one of which got her on the front page of the NaNo site, and satori is the one Wrimo in my region who has done NaNo longer than I have, and I like her anyway.
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.