Day fifteen arrived, and Mia knew that there was no way she was going to get to the halfway point by the end of the day because she couldn’t write seven thousand words in one day. There was no way, she told herself as she walked around the square that morning. The sky was much brighter than it had been for the past week. She never noticed it before, as the ominous clouds of the past week almost became habit. Too habitual, she told herself as she looked at the bright white clouds in the sky. The sun wasn’t out yet, and as was the weather outside of Wrimonia, Wrimonia’s weather was also unpredictable when a new streak came in. Only when a new trend settled in could one figure out the pattern for the week.
More and more people walked around the square with green bars floating above their heads, and even more walked around with blue bars filled up much more than Mia’s was. Mia looked up at her own blue bar and noticed that a chunk of it was filled, but not as big a chunk as should be at this point, according to the standard “Where should you be?” signs all over Wrimonia. People would crowd around these signs, comparing their own word counts to the counts on the signs and bemoan the difference between the two if their count was much lower, only to have other Wrimos come by and encourage them. Encouragement was always a good thing, but Mia couldn’t find it in her to encourage too many people, especially when she was so far behind herself. How could she tell people that they could finish fifty thousand words when she wasn’t sure she could do it herself? Sure, she had already decided that she wasn’t quitting, but that didn’t mean much, now did it?
She wandered across the forum and was about to enter the word war forum again to give the word war a second try when Chris Baty’s voice filled Wrimonia once again. The marathon runners with pencils (Mia now knew better than to call them running men) would soon pass her, and she stood at attention. Finally, an excellent way to put off writing!
“Greetings, Wrimos, and welcome to Week Three!” Chris Baty said. “Remember last week when I told you to get prepared and stock up on words because Week Two was going to be the worst of the four weeks?” Quite a few Wrimos around Mia nodded. They looked slightly beaten from the experience. Mia looked at herself. She didn’t look physically beaten, but her hair could use a wash, her armpits were turning into a jungle, and her legs might now be mistaken for Fuzzy Wuzzy. I could be doing those things instead of writing! Mia thought to herself, but instead she let Chris Baty’s insightful voice fill her mind.
“I hope you followed my mission,” Chris said. “If you did well, then you should have a nice word count reserve entering into Week Three. Congratulations. That word count will carry you through the rough times and enable you to sail even more quickly through the remaining weeks of NaNoWriMo, and for you American Wrimos, Thanksgiving.
For the rest of you, the month is still yours. There is still a huge reserve of words to be gathered, but only you can tap into it. So today I have a mission for you, dear Wrimos. Two, actually. If you’re not at twenty-five thousand words today, get there by the end of today. It’ll make the next few days and the coming weeks so much easier and will make the noveling base so much more exciting. If you’re struggling to get through the daily word count, then try to get there by the end of tomorrow and get back on track by the end of this week. You can do it, Wrimos! I’m struggling this year, too, but together we can.”
The car passed the area where Mia was standing, and this time no one asked whether the marathon runners were in fact men. In fact, everyone cheered as Chris and the battalion of athletes passed.
“I’m so far behind!” Mia called out, along with several other Wrimos. One of the marathon runners, a woman with cropped hair, ran up to Mia.
“Hi,” the woman said.
Mia looked up. “You broke from the group,” she said.
“It’s okay,” the woman replied. “Everyone’s supposed to do it right now.”
“Really. Look.” Mia looked toward the car containing Chris. She could actually see the paint on the car now, and she saw that the logo on the car said National Novel Writing Month in brown letters. Someone had painted the Viking shield on the hood.
“Why are you here?” Mia asked. “I don’t need an eraser right now. I’m having a hard enough time writing the story.”
“Oh, these aren’t erasers,” the marathon runner said. “This entire pencil is something special, and we give these out every year.”
“What does it do?”
“Sit down. You’re not going to believe it.” Mia and the woman sat at the nearest eraser bench, and the woman laid the pencil across their laps. “Once upon a time, NaNo was suffering a case of Inner Editor-itis. People were cramming their characters in little boxes and not letting them go anywhere.”
“But I’m not having that problem,” Mia protested. “My characters are controlling me, not the other way around. I try to tell them to do stuff, but they usually go the other way unless I do something drastic to them.”
“Like what, kill them?” the marathon runner asked. She brushed a lock of hair out of her eyes.
“Something like that,” Mia replied. “I only killed one person in my novel so far, and he didn’t even get a name.”
“A nameless murder?” the marathon runner asked. “Woman, you are cruel.”
A pause. “Oh, sorry,” Mia said. “Keep going.”
“Anyway,” the marathon runner continued. “Several Wrimos were asking about how they could capture their inner editors and force the editor into a state of submission for the month of November.”
“But that’s not what I need,” Mia protested again.
“Is it?” the marathon runner asked. “How do you write, anyway?”
“Well, I think,” Mia said. “And then I write it down, and if it doesn’t sound right, and it usually doesn’t, I backspace and write it down again, but sometimes my characters won’t let me backspace it because they think it works best that way.”
The woman shook her head. “Oh my,” the woman said. “We’re going to need an especially hard case for you.”
“Then what does the pencil have to do with it?” Mia asked, poking the eraser end of the pencil, which was lying in her lap. She noticed then that it wasn’t an eraser at all. There was no rubber in this eraser, but metal instead. A bright pink metal. She knocked gently at the metal and noticed that it sounded slightly hollow.
“Play with it,” the marathon runner said.
Mia knocked at it again and finally leaned toward it. Someone was speaking inside the pencil.
“Do you hear it?” Mia asked.
“Hear what?” The marathon runner looked completely unconcerned about the fact that something inside the pencil could speak.
“There’s something talking inside the pencil.” Mia tried to unscrew the cap but was extremely disappointed to find that it didn’t work.
The marathon runner shook her head. “Sorry, that doesn’t work,” she said. “I tried the same thing once and was just as disappointed as you are today, but it’s okay. We all have to learn the hard way.”
“Then how do you get it out?”
“It’s an adventure, just like all of NaNoWriMo.”
“But I don’t have to carry this around just like you did, do I?” Mia asked.
The marathon runner laughed. “Oh no, of course not,” she said. “The pencil’s only that big because of a redesign a few years ago. Someone thought it’d be funny if a few NaNo experts dressed as marathon runners to guard Chris Baty while he gave pep talks. The idea just stuck, even after we were retired as the official mascot.”
“So wait, are you a mascot or a Wrimo?”
“Both, sort of,” the woman replied. “I still do NaNo, but people can come to me with any questions they have. If you don’t see a staff member or mod around, just call, and one of us marathon runners will come.”
Mia looked at the woman in awe. Clearly this woman knew all the secrets of NaNoWriMo. “So what’s in this pencil? And how do I carry it around?”
“That’s for you to find out. Just know that I too had to figure out the contents of that pencil,” the woman said before disappearing into Wrimonia and into her novel.
Mia looked at the pencil. After a few brief taps at the pencil, she discovered that the entire pencil was made of metal. She kept tapping it, and discovered that the writing end was not made of graphite and wood, as most pencils are. It too appeared to be metal, and this surprised her to no end. She stared at the pencil and tried to figure out what on earth could be inside such a contraption.
She set the pencil to her side and got up. The pencil was still as big as ever, but suddenly it didn’t seem like such a big burden to carry, and she lifted it up. The marathon runner was right. It wasn’t so heavy after all. Mia lifted it and stuffed it into her bag along with her notebooks, her laptop, and the traveling shovel of death. Surely this pencil would have a use as well, she thought as she headed into the word wars forum.
Mia decided to try a word war against herself that time (a sprint, she decided they were called, as she wasn’t really competing against anyone else), and she got comfortable outside on an eraser bench with her laptop.
BattleJesus approached her. “Ten minutes?” he asked. He was still wearing the same outfit he wore last time. Mia nodded. “One minute to go,” he said, giving the promised warning. Mia wrote down her final word count before this war and sat at her laptop ready for the sprint to begin.
“Go!” BattleJesus said, shooting a gun full of words into the air, and Mia began to type. BattleJesus ran toward another group of Wrimos who were warring.
The words were actually flowing this time, and Mia found herself rather impressed with this. She started writing about how Cole noticed the pawn missing from the chess set he had built, and how he asked the gallery manager about any other visitors, and of course, since he didn’t know Amy’s name, he had to go find her.
“All I know is that she keeps saying her son is her brother,” he said.
“Oh, I know someone who’s raising her little brother,” the woman replied. “But that’s all I know.”
“And he’s actually kind of charming for a little kid. I mean, he looks about four or five, and you know how those kids get, but this one just looks so smart.”
“Because you can really tell a child’s intelligence by their appearance,” the woman said dully. This man deserved to be smacked, she thought. Sure, he makes great art, but sometimes he can be kind of an asshat.
Cole walked away, and Mia was tempted to chase him, but she didn’t have time. Eight more minutes remained, and she had to figure out something to write about. Think, Mia, think. Why would Amy take the pawn? There has to be some wonderful symbolism here. Is she making Cole a pawn in her devious dating game? Is she saying that Ian’s a pawn in her trying to get to Cole?
Or could it be both?
What if we assume it’s both? Mia asked. We can ignore the fact that Amy has a date with this other guy the next night, but how on earth is she getting all these dates?
Of course. Brenda. She sets up Amy with…. whom? Where would Brenda work that would give Amy a huge audience of datable men?
Mia sat back and thought on this. Surely there had to be an answer, and surely there had to be–
Aha! Brenda was a barista. That was easy. It’s a fun job to write, you meet lots of people, and at an indie coffee shop it’s easy to get to know people and assess them before sending them to your best friend.
And Mia could practically hear Brenda in her head right now. “Amy, you have to meet this guy,” Brenda would say. “He’s been coming by Javaland over the past few weeks, and I think he just moved here. He likes coming by in the late afternoons. You should come by, oh, after work one day and see what he’s like.”
Amy nodded. “I’ll see what I can do.” She had no plans whatsoever on doing that, as she planned on going back to the gallery and taking another pawn of Cole’s, one off the exact opposite end of the board. But if that didn’t go as planned, she could always meet up with Brenda and Coffee Boy.
Battle Jesus entered again. “Time!” he yelled. “How many words did you write, missy?”
Mia checked. It was a lot better than she did last time! Well, the last war was fifteen minutes, but this war was over two thirds that total. Mia told him this.
“See, I knew you’d get better,” BattleJesus said.
“Actually, can I do another one?” Mia asked. “I’m in the middle of a scene.” BattleJesus started the timer again.
This nearly didn’t get posted. I tried to open this installment in my usual text editor (gedit on Debian), but it said, “Nope, sorry, I won’t open you.” I tried opening it in every other word processor I had on that computer, but for some reason it wouldn’t open. Weird. I turned to Notepad on my laptop, and lo and behold, it opened. Strange.
Also, I don’t know if you noticed, but you can now bookmark individual pages on this site (including, of course, Wrimonia installments) through the link at the very bottom of the entry! It’s easier to share than ever.
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