On October seventeenth signs went up all over Wrimonia declaring the day to be NaNo Prep Day. “Join your fellow Wrimos in planning your novels during Wrimonia’s first NaNo Prep Day,” one of the signs near Wrimo Square said. “Look for free novel planning resources in the pop up tents around Wrimonia all day today.”
NaNo prep? That would be great if Mia had any idea what to write about.
Mia spotted a tent near the Rules and Regulations forum and walked toward it. Wrimos crowded around the tent, and Mia wondered whether this tent would run out of novel prep resources before she got there. What if everyone else took them first?
A group of Wrimos walked away from the tent, a Wrimo with long dark brown hair bringing up the rear. Mia approached the tent and waited as the Wrimos in front of her collected their prep materials.
“What if they run out?” she asked a Wrimo next to her.
“Don’t worry,” this Wrimo, whose nametag read MSRenfrow, replied. She had blue and purple badges from 2002 and beyond. “They always seem to get more somehow. Must the be the Wrimonia elves working day and night before NaNo to get everything in order.”
“But I have no idea what to write about,” Mia said. This person had a lot of NaNo knowledge in them; surely they would have a good answer. “Is there even any use in doing NaNo Prep Day stuff if I have no plot?”
“You’re talking to a pantser,” MSRenfrow replied. “No Plot is No Problem. I live by that motto.”
“But how can you write a book if you don’t have a plan?”
“You make it up as you go along. Ever done something on the fly outside of noveling? It’s fun. You should try it sometime.”
MSRenfrow had a point, but Mia still liked to plan things outside of noveling as well. Everything in life went better with some semblance of a plan, even if there were some blanks left in the plan at points. The plan could even be a skeleton, one that could be filled in at points, but at least the basic parts were there, leaving some idea of what was going to happen. Noveling was the same way. There were people out there who didn’t plan their novels before writing it?
“But how does that work? How do you think of all the things that are going to happen on the fly?”
“Have you ever driven a car at night?” MSRenfrow asked. Mia nodded. Of course she had drive a car. She didn’t live in a large city, so owning a car was a necessity, even if her car was now about ten years old and was prone to breaking down. At this point it would probably be less expensive to get a new car, but it was Mia’s first ever car and the thought of giving up her first was almost unbearable. You never forget your first.
“Well, you can’t see all the way to your destination, right?” Mia nodded again. Of course she couldn’t see to her destination all the way. But someone said this at some point. You can see only a little bit, but you can make the entire trip that way. That’s what pantsing is like. I don’t have to know what’s going on fifteen scenes from now, even if I have a skeleton plot. I can know what’s going on in the next scene or the next two scenes. And knowing that every time will get me through the whole book. And if all else fails, ninjas. Every time.”
Mia remembered the invasion of the busty lesbian cabbage pirate ninjas from her first NaNo. Did MSRenfrow use those in her novel as well?
“That sounds like you’d get really far behind really fast if you don’t know what you’re going to write about,” Mia pointed out.
“Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. 40k Week Fours are my specialty, and sometimes I don’t finish at all. That’s how NaNo is for me, but I keep coming back so I can kick that new novel’s butt. You know those overachievers who write 40k or 50k in the first week? I’ve found myself pulling that off in the last week more than once.”
There were now very few Wrimos in front of them.
“So why are you even picking up planning stuff to start with?” Mia asked.
“Oh, I wasn’t,” MSRenfrow replied. “I was just talking to someone else who was getting these, and they got distracted and left, and then you started talking to me.”
“It’s okay. It’s not like I have any planning to do anyway.”
They found their way to the front of the line. A table sat under the tent, and on this table sat copies of No Plot? No Problem! and Ready? Set? Novel! and stapled copies of the Young Writers Program workbooks. On the table also sat stacks of paper containing writing and outlining resources. Mia picked one up and skimmed it. Some of these resources included Write or Die; Written? Kitten; and the snowflake method, as well as the #NaNoprep hashtag on Twitter.
A marathon runner stood behind the table. “How can I help you?” he asked.
Mia examined the items on the table. She noticed price tags next to the copies of No Plot? No Problem! They weren’t free? She needed to know this reasoning behind no plot being no problem and how to get ready to novel. But a nagging voice went off in her head. Why would they be helpful if she had no plot to speak of in the first place? She would be trying to plan something that wasn’t there, and how does one do that?
When Mia didn’t say anything the marathon runner said, “All the funds from the book sales go back to funding NaNoWriMo and Wrimonia.”
Mia looked around and made sure no one was listening before making her confession. “But what if I don’t have a plot yet?” Mia whispered. “I have no idea what to write about in November.”
“That’s okay,” the marathon runner replied. “I don’t usually have an idea before November either.”
“Wait, you’ve done this before?” Mia asked.
The marathon runner nodded. “This is my second year,” he said. “It’s my second year interning as well.”
And that was when Mia recognized him. He was a marathon runner last year! There was a lot of turnover among the marathon runners, Mia realized then. None of them stayed as a marathon runner longer than a year or two, but they did stay around as regular Wrimos.
“Wait, you can intern in Wrimonia?” Mia asked. Why didn’t she know this when she was in college? This would have made a great internship. Better than the one at the magazine where she fetched coffee and made copies instead of reviewing and editing submissions like the job description said she would.
“Absolutely,” the marathon runner said. “Applications go out over the summer, and it’s usually current students and recent graduates. It helps to know about NaNo and what it is and even to have participated before, but that’s not required. A lot of marathon runners slash interns have never done it before and that’s okay. Enthusiasm is what really matters.”
“But I can’t be an intern anymore,” Mia said. “I graduated years ago and I have a real job that isn’t awful. Or isn’t worse than my last job anyway. I’m just cursing myself for not knowing about you guys when I was in college.”
“That’s all right; everyone does,” the marathon runner replied. “It just happens. Now anything you wanted from the table?”
Mia looked around. “What’s No Plot? No Problem?” she asked.
“It’s a book written by Chris Baty,” the marathon runner explained, and hearing Chris Baty’s name hit Mia right in the gut. “It explains all about how to write a novel in a month even if that month isn’t November, but it’s pretty fun for November too. I reread it every year before NaNo for inspiration.”
Mia picked up the top copy of No Plot? No Problem. The red letters called to her, and she noticed the subtitle: “A low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days.” Low stress? She could use that. Mia turned to the table of contents.
Panning for plots? Exuberant imperfection? And Chris Baty himself wrote it; maybe this book would contain some hint for finding him…
Mia dug through her bag for her wallet and saw the cost of the book. She handed a credit card to the marathon runner, who rang it through her card slider and handed a receipt for Mia to sign. Mia scribbled her name across the line and handed the receipt and pen back to the marathon runner before walking away with her newly acquired goodies.
The clock is ticking to November, and Mia still doesn’t have a plot. Will she find one in time?
The scene keeps going, but I’m posting it on Monday because this one was getting long and the one following is also very long. You’ll also get more to read that way.
Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to NaNo if you’re so inclined.