Wrimonia was indeed shinier than ever, but something felt different. As Mia explored the forums over the next few days, she noticed that everyone was as enthusiastic as ever about NaNo, but that enthusiasm didn’t rub off on her. Instead she wandered Wrimonia in search of inspiration, enthusiasm, and a helpful ear.
“You don’t understand,” Mia said, sitting in her own thread in NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul (formerly I Hate Myself And Want To Die). “I want to do NaNo, but I’m not super duper excited about NaNo like I was the first two years. This feels like last year when I had the new terrible job and the jerk of a boyfriend and the plot I hated and everything else crushing down on me. It was like the world was determined to make me lose NaNo, which was the worst feeling I’ve ever felt during NaNo.” She remembered last year’s experience in Wrimonia. The fog over everything in Wrimonia did a good job of making the forums and Wrimos and word counting robots less visible, not to mention hide my own muse and characters from me. Alaina wasn’t a fan of the fog, she had revealed to Mia, but Alaina did her best to pop in and out as she could.
“I’m allergic to this fog,” Alaina said one day in mid-November. “You don’t want me to die in it, do you?”
Of course Mia didn’t want her to die, and Mia didn’t want her characters to die in that fog either. The thought reminded Mia of her first NaNo where the metal pencil saved her characters from the bubble created by Writer’s Block and the Inner Editor. But this wasn’t a bubble that could be pierced by the pencil. The fog was unpiercable, and eventually she drowned in it, finding herself outside Wrimonia and in her non-noveling life without 50,000 words to boot.
But what if that happened again this year? What if the fog came back? Had anyone even defeated the fog before? Mia remembered filing a bug report for it, and no one could verify a site-wide fog. It turned out that the fog was only viewable to the individual, and while individual Wrimos offered many tips, none of them helped completely for her.
Mia recounted this experience to the bunch of Wrimos who were now listening in the forum thread. “How am I going to finish this year?” she asked. “Is it even worth trying again this year when I failed last year?”
“Yes,” a Wrimo carrying a bag with a mermaid wearing pants on it said. “You are a Wrimo. You are capable of doing wonderful things.”
“Who are you?” Mia asked.
“I’m leirali,” she replied. “I didn’t finish NaNo last year because I didn’t believe in my story, just like you didn’t last year. I haven’t finished a few times in the past either. But you know what? I believe in you, Mia. Look at those badges!”
leirali pointed to Mia’s participant badges below her nametag, to the purple 2009 and 2010 badges and the blue 2011 badge. “Those mean something, Mia. You have stories to tell. I have stories to tell. And this year we’re going to tell them.” A plot bunny started to nibble on leirali’s pants, and she scooped it up. “You can do it, Mia!” leirali said as she ran out the thread door, cradling the bunny.
A second Wrimo came in then, and Mia noticed her nametag read quixotic_hope. Mia also noticed the blue and purple badges attached to the nametag. Here was another Wrimo who hand’t finished before, and two years in a row at that.
“quixotic_hope, you haven’t finished NaNo before,” Mia said. “Should I even try this year?”
“YES,” quixotic_hope replied.
“But I don’t have a plot for this year! And I don’t have any ideas either.”
“They’ll come,” quixotic_hope replied. “November’s almost a month away, and Wrimonia is full of inspiration and entire forums to help you get an idea.
“But what if I don’t love my novel this year either?” Mia asked. “I might lose two years in a row and then what’ll happen? At least my life is a little better this year…”
“If you don’t love your novel, figure out what you don’t love about it,” quixotic_hope said. “And then make it the novel you want to read.”
“What if I can’t do that?” Mia asked, thinking back to the monstrosity of the year before.
“I know you can do it,” quixotic_hope said. “Embrace all the ideas you have and write what you want to write.”
Write the story you want to write, Mia thought. She would keep this in mind.
Over the next few days Mia continued exploring the forums in search of a plot. The plot bunnies that had nibbled at her feet in past years didn’t do so this year, instead nibbling at the feet of other Wrimos, and Mia suspected that the plot bunnies were conspiring against her in their inspiration of other Wrimos. Even Alaina the muse wasn’t around this year as she had been in the past, leaving Mia alone to explore the lands of inspiration for a plot. Alaina wasn’t a fan of last year’s fog, and Mia wondered if the fog would keep Alaina again this year.
But the forums weren’t as inspirational as they were in the past. Mia wandered into the Adoption Society forum in search of a plot one day and found only plots that she knew she could never write, plots that reminded her of her first NaNo and her first trip to that forum. That was why she never returned to the Adoption Society in future years. That forum was not for those writing serious literature, despite the non-seriousness of her first novel.
Still, there was something missing, and Mia couldn’t figure out what it was. One day a bullhorn sounded across Wrimonia, a new feature from 2011’s redesign. All attention turned to the square, where a chariot pulled by something invisible entered the square. On the chariot stood three people in pale blue capes: Lindsey Grant and two men Mia didn’t recognize. One of the men carried a megaphone, and Mia looked up. Who was this unfamiliar man and why was he wearing a blue staff cape in Wrimonia?
The man held the megaphone to his mouth and spoke. “Greetings, Wrimos!” the man said. “My name is Grant Faulkner and I am the executive director of the Office of Letters and Light. Some of you may not recognize me as this is first NaNoWriMo that I’ve served in this position, but I’ve also served on the OLL Board of Directors. NaNoWriMo is a wonderful program that has served hundreds of thousands of writers over its going on fourteen years of existence in its adult and youth programs, and the expansion of these programs is faster than ever. But building Wrimonia doesn’t come for free, and Wrimonia is primarily run by donation by Wrimos like you. Our halo vendors are ready to affix halos to you in exchange for your generosity, and our Fund-o-meter is ready to show how close we are to achieving our fundraising goal this year. Thank you for everything, and I look forward to noveling with you. And now, NaNoWriMo Program Director Lindsey Grant with a special announcement.”
Grant handed the megaphone to Lindsey.
“Thank you, Grant,” Lindsey said. “Welcome, Wrimos! And for those returning, welcome back! For those who don’t know me, I’m Lindsey Grant, your program director and guide through your November noveling adventure. It’s been a great four years, Wrimos. From guiding you as community liaison to stepping up as program director, I’ve watched this program grow by leaps and bounds and watched you make new friends, write many stories, and go on big, fun, scary adventures.
“Next year I’m going on my own big fun scary adventure. This January I’m stepping down as Program Director and writing full-time in Switzerland.” A collective gasp. “Don’t worry, Wrimos; you’re still in good hands. Chris Angotti here is coming from the Young Writers Program to take my spot as director of all NaNoWriMo programs. He’ll introduce himself in a minute, but I just want to thank you for all the wonderful NaNoWriMos from the staff side of things here. I’ll still be around Wrimonia, but as a regular Wrimo, and I hope you’ll keep in touch.”
Applause. Lindsey handed the megaphone to Chris, the man who hand’t spoken yet. “Good day, Wrimos,” Chris said. “Some of you may not know me. I’m Chris Angotti, director of the Young Writers Program and soon to be new director of all NaNoWriMo programs. Before coming to NaNoWriMo I was a classroom English teacher, and I’m a current fan of burritos and dogs. During my time overseeing the Young Writers Program I’ve watched thousands of young writers achieve their goals and learn the novel-writing process. Lindsey will be training me in the best program directing initiatives before her departure in January, but unfortunately she’s not skilled in Old Norse. So good luck to you, Wrimos, and I look forward to noveling with you!”
A good chunk of Wrimos cheered. Mia did not; she frowned at the change that was happening right in front her eyes as the chariot flew off into the sky. First Chris Angotti left, then Lindsey Grant, then Grant Faulkner. What could she rely on to stay the same in Wrimonia?
As Mia wandered around the forums later, she realized what was different about the place.
Chris Baty was nowhere to be found. Oh sure, she didn’t see him every day in past years, but that was because he was busy taking care of higher level things of importance to Wrimonia. Now, however, he was nowhere to be seen, even as a regular Wrimo. Was he hiding from Wrimonia? Was he trying to take all the excitement Mia felt for NaNoWriMo with him?
This didn’t appear to be the case for other Wrimos, who chipped along quite nicely as if Chris Baty had never left in the first place. Mia found her way to the All-Ages Coffee House forum and set up shop in a new thread. “Do you think Wrimonia feels different without Chris Baty?” she asked. She sat down on a purple cushion and waited for replies. None came for a bit, so she kept waiting.
Finally a Wrimo whose name Mia couldn’t read entered the thread. “Hi,” Mia said, trying to get a glance at the participant badges but could only get a glimpse of purple.
“Honestly, Chris Baty kept this place in order,” the Wrimo said. “I don’t know what’s happened since he left, but I remember things being a lot calmer. Fewer community conflicts in threads. Less whining about crap that didn’t matter. Not as much flimsy flamsy stuff about rebelling instead of cheating and fanfiction being a genre.”
“But fanfiction isn’t a genre,” Mia said. “It takes on the genre of the original–”
The Wrimo cut Mia off. “It has its own genre forum!” she said. “Just like fantasy and mystery and chick lit and erotica. Why doesn’t steampunk have its own genre?”
“Because there are already plenty of genre lounges,” Mia replied. “I have enough trouble navigating them all as it is, and that matters for once since I don’t know what genre I’m writing this year.” This was a lie; she figured she was going to write mainstream or lit fic like she did every year. Nothing was going to change there… right?
“Yeah, but more whining has happened since Baty started getting less directly involved,” the other Wrimo replied, changing the subject back to that of the thread. “You need to pay attention to notice, but things are a-changing around these parts.”
Another Wrimo entered then. Her nametag read brionyjae. She listened to what had already been stated and said, “Look, NaNoWriMo and Wrimonia are never going to be exactly the same without Chris Baty. He created this wonderful program for us to write novels in to start with! But we are NaNoWriMo, and without us wonderful Wrimos the wonderful place we call Wrimonia will fall apart. NaNo’s no better or worse without Chris, just under different leadership. That’s all.”
Mia nodded, but brionyjae still didn’t convince her. Chris Baty was gone, Lindsey Grant would be gone soon, and Wrimonia still felt different. Mia knew what she had to do, and there was only one person who could fix this.
Here we go, Part Two. I remember other Wrimos wondering whether things would be different without Chris Baty. Mia wondered the same thing. More on Wednesday.
Fun fact: I had to edit part of this section because a couple of paragraphs were written in first person instead of third. Oops.
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