Four hours later Mia emerged from her planning with a rough outline of her novel, complete with crossouts and doodles. NaNoWriMo would start in just over half an hour, and Mia finally felt ready. There was one thing that still wouldn’t resolve itself.
Mia kept finding herself turning around to see who was following her around. The first time she turned around she saw a group of Wrimos talking about their plots, none of them with word count bars above their head. The second time, a few minutes later, Mia turned around to see a Wrimo with a rising word count bar typing away at his laptop.
None of these people were concerned enough about Mia to have been following her around for the past few weeks. Why was she so concerned about finding whoever it was?
But as a long-haired Wrimo with no word count bar passed Mia and the clock ticked ever closer to midnight, Mia found herself wondering whether or not the idea she had was such a good idea after all.
It happened every year. Mia would have a plot all planned out and think about backing out at the eleventh hour because the plot wasn’t good enough or well planned enough or wordy enough to reach the magical fifty thousand. She found herself doubting the plot of her novel and how good it could be if it had zombies because come on, zombies. When was that ever a good idea?
But the clock ticked ever closer to November. Half an hour to November… twenty minutes… Mia’s outline was there. But was it ready?
More word count bars were popping up over Wrimos’ heads, and blue bars were filling up. Mia watched a Wrimo as his blue bar went from 674 words to 1023 words, a jump of over three hundred words. How long did it take them to write those words?
Ten more minutes…
Wrimos in the time zone slated to start in ten minutes, as Mia’s was, were already crowding around the square ready for the midnight bullhorn that would guide them into November. This was also a new feature; Mia remembered no such thing during the first two Novembers of her NaNo experience. This new Rails thing was definitely a good thing.
Seven more minutes…
Five more minutes…
And that was when Mia noticed something new in the square. It must have been sitting there for awhile, but it wasn’t big enough to get her attention for awhile. That is, until now.
It was a large ball, and it was pulsating. No one dared go near it. Mia thought about going near it, and she watched as Wrimos tried to walk near it, but they always walked back away. What caused them to walk away?
“What is that thing?” Mia asked the nearest Wrimo. “That wasn’t here last year, was it?”
“That’s the countdown ball,” the Wrimo next to Mia replied. Mia looked at her nametag and saw that it said rubyfruit. “Someone else explained it to me since it’s so new, but you know those countdown things for New Year’s Eve?” Mia nodded. She was quite familiar with those, having watched lots of balls drop on New Year’s Eve with her family as a kid. It wasn’t the most exciting way to spend New Year’s Eve, but it was a way to spend the event. “Well, this ball doesn’t fall on November first. It just expands. And according to someone in the tech help forum it’s full of words that will inspire you as you start to write.”
Words? Inspiration? This was certainly relevant to Mia’s interests.
“So how do I catch one of these words?” Mia asked.
“I have no idea,” rubyfruit replied. “They didn’t go into that much detail. I’m guessing that you can just catch a word or let it hit you on the head the same way you might do it in the word war forum. Make sense?”
It sort of made sense. Mia remembered all her word wars with BattleJesus in that forum in past years. “And what happens if you don’t catch a word? Does that mean you’re destined to not finish NaNo or something?”
Rubyfruit shrugged. “Again, no idea,” rubyfruit replied. “This is the first year anyone’s done anything like this. Maybe you’ll win NaNo (though I hope you do), maybe you won’t, but you’re sure to have a heck of a time doing it, right?”
Mia decided that rubyfruit was right and she waited for those final few minutes for midnight to strike and for November to begin.
At the one-minute mark the ball grew so big that it took up almost the entire square and pushed a bunch of Wrimos out of the square. The ball continued to grow bigger in the final few seconds as Wrimos took out their writing implements. Laptops and notebooks and Alphasmarts and even the occasional typewriter came out on the square.
And finally, the final few seconds arrived, and everyone counted aloud. Mia looked around at these Wrimos, none of whom had word counts yet.
“Ten… nine… eight… seven… six… five… four… three… two…”
Mia continued watching the ball of what Rubyfruit said contained words. It was now pulsing up as if it was going to explode up into the air.
The ball jumped up and down as if by its own accord.
A bullhorn sounded, and cheering erupted in the crowd. Despite Mia’s lack of confidence in her plot, despite her nondesire to write zombies this year, and despite everything else that could be holding her back, she cheered with everyone else.
That cheering distracted her temporarily from the explosion.
Where there was once a ball now laid words of all kinds. Mia spotted nouns and adjectives and adverbs and big words and small words, Latin-derived and Greek and words of unknown origin. The words of unknown origin were the worst, Mia decided, at least when you were trying to spell them. There were no sound tricks to help you figure out how to spell them.
Mia looked up then and saw words falling from the sky. The words weren’t falling in a way that meant war like the words with BattleJesus during those word wars, but in a more celebratory way. If there ever was a way to have word confetti, this was it, except this confetti probably wouldn’t have to be cleaned up the next day. Words of all sorts landed on the heads of various Wrimos; Mia watched as “defenestrate” landed on rubyfruit’s head.
The word landing wasn’t as painful as Mia had expected; in fact, Mia was already settled on an eraser bench and booting up her computer before someone pointed it out.
“I know you’re writing, but you still have a word on your head,” a Wrimo sitting at the next bench said, turning to Mia.
“Oh, do I?” Mia asked, feeling her forehead.
“A little higher,” the Wrimo said, whose name turned out to be ororo. Mia reached to the top of her head and felt a soft word bouncing around. “Wait a minute,” Mia said. “That’s not a word.”
“Yeah, it is,” Ororo replied. “It’s still there bouncing around off the top of your head.” Ororo pointed to a space over Mia’s head.
“But wouldn’t I feel it bouncing around?” she asked. “surely I would.”
“Not necessarily,” ororo said. “You don’t feel every word in a word war, do you?”
ororo had a point. Sure, Mia felt some of the words in a word war, but she never felt all of them, probably because she was too busy writing to notice.
“It’s just… bouncing around…” ororo said. “It’s kind of cute, to be honest.”
“But how do I get it off me?” Mia asked. “Do I just grab it?” She reached for a space over her head in an attempt to grab the word.
“I tried doing that to my word too and it didn’t work,” ororo said. “It didn’t work out too well. But no, what you need to do is to write that word into your novel. Forms of the word are fine too from my observations.”
“So I can make something bounce? Or make something look like it bounced? Or maybe…” Mia turned back to her computer, which was already fully booted up and ready to accept a novel. Ready or not, it was time to write.
Happy November from Wrimonia! We’ll find out how Mia does with the zombies.
Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to NaNo if you’re so inclined.