Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty-Eight: Victory

Mia typed the final words of the legends, then stared at her laptop. Should she validate? Could she validate with both works adding up to fifty thousand? Wasn’t this cheating? And what day was it, anyway?

Mia passed the NaNo Rebels forum, remembering the people she knew who rebelled from the NaNo rules. She had never been a rebel herself, but after knowing them, maybe this was her year, writing a novel that was less than 50k in length.

“Can I do this?” she asked. “My novel ended at forty-six thousand so I wrote something else for the rest of the words, and now I don’t know whether or not to validate.”

A Wrimo by the name of Kataja approached Mia, and Mia noticed the moderator badge on Kataja’s nametag. “It’s up to you,” Kataja said. “If you think you’ve won NaNo, then by all means go ahead and validate and win. Lots of rebels validate every year. No one’s making you do anything, whether that means to validate or not to.”

Mia smiled. “I’ve won this,” she said. “I’ve earned this victory.”

“You have, but you haven’t done it officially yet,” kataja said. “You need to validate first. But hurry!”

Mia ran out of the NaNo Rebels forum toward the nearest unoccupied validation robot, who unleashed a USB cord and hooked it into her laptop. It hummed as it counted her words and announced, “Fifty-one thousand, four hundred seventy-two words.”

She did it. She really did it. The robot printed out a certificate and badges for her, which landed in Mia’s hands. Mia clutched them for a minute while she reveled in her victory.

Mia couldn’t believe having come back from a loss the year before. But there was one more thing she needed to do before leaving Wrimonia for another ten months. She ran across Wrimonia and down the path toward the archives.

Sushimustwrite was there, tapping away at her laptop. Mia watched Sushi’s fingers for a minute, almost hypnotized at how someone’s fingers could move so fast and still create words, how someone could still make words in their brain and type them out at the same time. “Good, you won,” Sushi said. “I was wondering. I can finish this now.” She continued typing.

“Look, I have the legends,” Mia said.

“Then print them out,” Sushi said. “I have a book to finish.” Sushi pointed to a printer in the back of the archive room, then took another gulp out of a red mug.

Mia ran toward the printer, hooked everything up, and waited. A few minutes later the printer spit out only the pages containing the legends. Mia handed these pages to Sushi, who pointed to the binders.

“Put it on the shelf.”

Mia punched some holes in the pages and slipped them into a binder, then grabbed a permanent marker. What was she supposed to title this? Sushi looked up.

“Might I suggest a title?” Sushi asked, not looking up from her typing but slowing down a little.

“Go on,” Mia said, open to any suggestion she could get.

“How about Legends?”

“No, too dull.” Mia paused. “How about Legends of Wrimonia?”

“But that’s my title!” Sushi exclaimed.

“So? I finished first. That deserves some kind of titling authority.”

“Okay, fine. But I’m the author so I get final say here.”

Mia penned “Legends of Wrimonia” on the cover in her best handwriting, then set it on the shelf next to The NaNoLand Chronicles. The latter looked much fancier, but this cover would have to do for now.

“Thanks for everything, Sushi,” Mia said as she turned to walk out the door.

“Thank you, Mia,” Sushi said. She felt around for something in the desk, then emerged with a pair of headphones. “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a book to finish.”

Of course Sushi had a book to finish. Even high word counters wrote until the end of the month. Mia walked out of the archives and back into the forums with a purple bar and her third winner’s certificate. As she found herself walking out of Wrimonia, she thought back to all the memories of NaNoWriMo over the years. This year was no exception. And even though next November was so far away, it would still be jam packed with memories as well.

Sometimes being a character in someone’s book wasn’t so bad after all, Mia decided as she walked down the brick path and toward the rest of her non-noveling life.

***

The end!

I’ve been puzzling over what to title Mia’s legends for quite some time, finally deciding to leave it to when I posted this segment.

Will there be a threequel? Who knows? I have no ideas for one at the moment, but I’m not eliminating any possibilities.

As always, share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty-Seven: So Close, Yet So Far

Mia wasn’t sure why Chris Baty gave her his Viking helmet, but whatever the reason was, it had to be for something. She hopped on the pony and galloped back to Wrimonia.

Though now that she thought of it, writing here in the hills would be really peaceful…

She jumped off the pony and walked toward the top of a nearby hill, this one not as large as the one she and Chris Baty rolled down together and certainly not as large as the one Chris Baty rolled down himself.

But it was a hill, and this gave Mia a ridiculous idea. She looked down. The pony was still at the bottom of the hill, munching away at some grass. It wouldn’t notice, would it?

Mia laid down, Viking helmet still perched atop her head, and rolled down the hill. The helmet rolled off her head about halfway down the hill, but this didn’t matter. Mia bounced up, then forgot about how dizzy she was and stumbled around until running into the pony.

“Oh hi there,” she said. The pony neighed. Mia leaned against the pony for a minute before running back to fetch her Viking helmet. She placed it back on her head and mounted the pony again. Yes, it was time.

“CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGE!” she yelled, even though there was no one else there to charge with her. The pony neighed as if it was also charging for words. It was time to get stuff done.

Back in the forum area of Wrimonia, Mia typed away at her novel, Molly and Luke by her side. But they weren’t the only three people around. Molly and Luke had dragged two other people in chains around with them.

“How have they not bitten you yet?” Mia asked.

“Beats me,” Molly replied. She and Luke continued to clutch the chains. “But we found them.”

“Where?” Mia asked again, trying to figure out how on earth they had crawled out of this plot hole. Weren’t they just trying to figure out how to capture Molly’s parents the day before? Or whenever the last time was that Mia wrote?

Mia checked her word count. Forty-six thousand words. So close, yet…

She couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was going to run out of story.

“Say, you two,” Mia said. “You don’t happen to have anything else exciting up your sleeve, do you?”

“Define exciting,” Molly said. “Escaping multiple zombie hordes redefines exciting.”

Mia sighed. She knew she’d mess with their minds at least a little bit during the novel month. This was what always happened, wasn’t it? Sushi did the same thing to her, making Mia discover that she was indeed a character in a book, but what else was to be done? She needed to make things happen to the characters in order for plot to happen. wasn’t that what FireFallon had said about creating moral crises and dilemmas?

“You know, plot!” Mia said. “You guys do know you’re my characters, right?” she added as an afterthought, and then she thought back to all her other past characters. Did they have any idea? Or was that part of their minds warped to the point where they didn’t know whether they were characters in books or something entirely different? Maybe they were all living in the Matrix, and this was a crazy (though admittedly quite sane in the grand scheme of things) where people wrote novels in very short periods of time.

“Oh yeah, we’re definitely characters,” Luke said. “You think we didn’t know that?”

“I was hoping so. But never mind that now,” Mia said. “Let’s get on to some other things. I need to know how much plot you two have left.”

“Honestly, not much,” Luke said. “This is pretty much it. Once we kill off patients zero and one we’re done. We’ve already defeated all the other zombies.”

“All the other zombies? Seriously?”

“We managed to find a few folks we trusted and got them on our side. It helps when the government decides to kill the zombies off eventually. Well, after half of them become zombiefied themselves. But then the rest of the world got into it as well and said screw American law, the rest of the world is at stake here.”

“Especially when the zombies got into Canada and Europe and Asia,” Molly added. “That’s when we really knew we were screwed as a society.”

Mia nodded and thought of the real implications of a zombified culture. It wouldn’t last, would it?”

“So why were you still so dead set on finding the first two patients anyway?” Mia asked.

“Dude, they’re my parents,” Molly said. “You’d be dead set on it too. I was going to put them out of their misery and now even the government is urging me to. So much for the “life ends at natural death” government.” Molly snorted. “They want these two dead, and heck, I think they consider these two undead even at this point. But I don’t know. I mean, they’re my parents! They raised me from a young lass.”

“That’s normal,” Luke said. “Or at least I’d assume that’s normal, never having had zombie parents…”

“Luke, your parents got shot during the last zombie insurgency, didn’t you hear?”

“Oh.”

“The last pager call told me so. But at least you didn’t have to pull the trigger yourself. See, this is what I’m deciding now. Such big decisions!”

Molly looked at the creatures at the other end of the chains. They were now crawling toward Molly and Luke.

“See, normally I’d encourage you to go on about this at great length,” Mia said. “It’s good for my word count and I still need a few thousand more words to get to fifty thousand words. But given the circumstances…”

“Look, it’s shoot or lose the whole zombie battle, Molly. And no offense, but you make a better human friend than a zombie friend,” Luke said.

“I know, but they’re my parents!” Molly exclaimed, removing the pistol from her belt. “And I don’t know if there are any bullets left.” She checked. “Crap. One more bullet.” She looked toward her zombified parents. “I don’t know, Luke. It’s gonna be one or the other.”

“It doesn’t have to be that way.”

“We’ve lost. One of them get shot, the other turns us into zombies. We’ve come this far, Luke.”

“No, I know it doesn’t have to be this way. There has to be another way. Just choose which one you want to shoot–”

“CHOOSE WHICH ONE I WANT TO SHOOT? You realize what you’re asking me, right? You’re asking whether I want to kill my mom or my dad, Luke! That’s not a decision you make lightly!” She clutched the pistol more tightly.

“I know, but look, has one of them attacked more than the other?”

“I don’t know. How do you expect me to know this?”

“You seem to be the person who knows this sort of thing.”

Molly paused. “How am I supposed to know this? I can’t be everywhere.”

Luke turned to Mia. “I wasn’t talking to you. I was more talking to her.”

“Excuse me,” Mia said. “I am not just a Her. I am your author and if you don’t stop cooperating I WILL kill you off right now. Or worse, let the zombies eat you right now.”

“You won’t.” But the blood flowed away from Luke’s face.

“Oh I would,” Mia said as she typed out some words on her keyboard.

“No she wouldn’t,” Molly said. “You really wouldn’t. Don’t you need more words to finish this book?”

Mia looked at her word count. “Crap, I guess I need to keep on writing then, don’t I?”

Molly nodded and turned back to the zombies, who were now approaching her and Luke. Without thinking she aimed her pistol and shot it at the male zombie’s head. The male zombie fell over and moved no more.

“Well, now what?” Molly asked as the female zombie crawled slowly toward them. “We’re out of bullets.”

“No we’re not,” Luke said.

“What do you mean no we’re not? I just used the last one. Unless you have a stash of bullets you’ve been hiding on me.”

“That’s what improvising is for. And besides, who says you need to use bullets to kill a zombie?”

“We’ve been over this. There are other ways to kill a zombie, but let’s face it, not too many of them are effective. Unless you have a chainsaw or something. But we passed that abandoned hardware store days ago.”

“I knew I should have grabbed that sweet chainsaw when I saw it.”

“Well, there’s no time for that now. It’s now or never.”

“And he looks hungry,” Mia added, writing this as she said it out loud.

“Thank you, Captain Obvious,” Molly said. “But what now?”

“This.” Luke bent over and picked up a shovel that fell out of Mia’s bag.

“Hey, that’s my plot shovel! I don’t know how well that’ll work on a zombie…”

“It should work okay, at least,” Luke said as he sneaked up behind the female zombie. (Did zombies have a real gender? Mia found herself wondering. Zombies probably didn’t have enough sense of self to worry about gender issues, but certainly the zombie identified as female when it was human. That was enough to make it a female zombie, right?)

Molly continued holding onto to the chain, but she took an occasional step and chained the other end to the eraser bench.

“Whoa whoa there lady, what do you think you’re doing?”

“I’m not holding on to this,” Molly said. “Do I look stupid?”

“To be fair you’ve done your fair share of stupid things,” Mia said. “Luke’s done more, though,” she added, lowering her voice.

Molly chuckled. “Don’t worry, I won’t tell him.”

Molly returned to sneaking up behind the zombie with Luke. Neither one of them said a word. Luke thwacked the zombie on the head with the plot shovel. An instant later, there was no shovel but a chainsaw in Luke’s hand.

“Yes!” Luke exclaimed. He revved it up and ran it across the zombie’s head. The zombie and its head fell down without another moan and hit the ground with a thud.

“Is it dead? Like dead for real?” Molly asked. She turned to Luke, who was now holding a chainsaw. “And where’d that chainsaw come from?”

“I have no idea,” Luke said. “One minute I was holding a shovel, the next, a chainsaw.”

“That must be another superpower of the plot shovel,” Mia said. “But I better check the calendar. Last time i used the plot shovel it took two days away from me. Using it for something like that probably means it’s December right now.”

“Oh no, I don’t want to do that to you!” Molly said. “Surely the plot shovel can turn back time, right?”

“It’s not that fancy,” Mia replied. “But I can figure out something. First, we have a loose end or two to tie up.”

Mia sat there for a few more minutes typing up the end of her novel, and then she checked her word count.

Forty-six thousand. Forty-six thousand? But that was less than fifty thousand. Where did those words go? They were supposed to be in her document!

And most importantly, what was she going to do with the other four thousand words? She couldn’t be a winner at this rate.

Mia trudged her way to the Reaching 50,000 forum and browsed the forum. Surely someone else had already experienced the same thing she was right now. They had, but none of them addressed her immediate concern: wrapping the story up and coming up short. How do you come up with four thousand words of conclusion when the conclusion is already there?

So Mia started her own thread and sat in there for a minute. A small poster from Camp NaNoWriMo hung in this thread. A minute later a Wrimo by the name of Ceetee entered the thread.

“So your novel’s over, yes?” Ceetee asked.

Mia nodded. “And it’s over at forty-six thousand words too,” she said. “What am I supposed to do with that? I can’t go back and add an entire subplot like I could if it were over at twenty-six thousand.”

“Maybe write an epilogue?” Ceetee suggested.

“It’s a zombie novel,” Mia said. “Almost everyone’s dead.”

“Oh,” Ceetee said. “Have you thought about writing a prologue? What happened before that?”

“That could work,” Mia said. She thanked Ceetee and walked back outside the forum.

But when she returned to the nearest eraser bench, she cracked her laptop open and was about to open her novel when she heard a cry from above. All the other Wrimos in the vicinity also looked up as the voice burst into song.

“Ohhhhhh, we know you’re working hard to finish NaNo
But we have some things you might wanna know
Check your word count, make sure your novel’s nice and backed up
You don’t want any last-minute screams!”

Mia looked around. Who was singing this, anyway? She couldn’t spot the source of this voice, but suddenly it didn’t matter. The voice didn’t say anything else, and Mia returned to opening her novel.

But there was nothing else to add, she decided as she stared at it for a few more minutes. Sure, she could add a prologue, but why? It wouldn’t add anything to the story, and quite frankly, Mia was glad to see Molly and Luke and all those zombies go.

And then Mia remembered the unfinished legends.

And she hit enter a few times and started writing everything down. New documents could come later. Having everything in one document for validation needed to happen now.

***

Mia, you always cut it close.

Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty-Six: Mia Meets Chris Baty

Mia continued galloping on her pony through Wrimonia as she cruised in search of Sushi. This turned out to be much more efficient than searching individual forums and through WrimoRails, even if Wrimos did stare at her pony as she galloped past. But where would Sushi be? Mia even checked Sushi’s word count progress bar in Wrimo Hall. Sure enough, Sushi hadn’t updated it since the day before yesterday.

Sushi turned out to be buried in the archives again, this time flipping through books and occasionally scribbling something down in one of them. “Too bad you can’t count that toward your word count,” Mia said when she entered the archives.

“Who says I’m not?” Sushi asked. “Remember, I am writing about you this month.”

“But those books don’t have anything to do with me.”

“They have everything to do with you,” Sushi replied. “Indirectly anyway. Everything here has something to do with NaNo and Wrimonia, and you’re part of it too. Even if you’re–”

“Just in your head?” Mia asked. “What will happen to me when you finish writing me, anyway?”

“That’s a heavy question,” Sushi said.

“You say that about everything I ask you.”

“That’s because you have a tendency to ask me heavy questions. I can’t help that part.” Sushi turned a page in the book she was reading and added a few words to it.

“I need to know. What’s going to happen to me in December?”

“I can’t tell you that!” Sushi blurted out, nearly dropping her fountain pen nib down on the page.

“Why not? Whatever happened to being honest with me? Not that authors are honest with their characters to start with, what with their tendency to make terrible things happen and all.”

“Because it’d spoil everything! I may as well not bother to write the ending if I just tell you what happens now!”

A look of terror appeared on Mia’s face. “Oh no, you have to write the ending. I saw what happened to characters who authors abandon them halfway through. They die, Sushi, they die.” Mia leaned on the desk, her face in front of Sushi’s. “And they get buried in the character cemetery behind the NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul forum, never to be seen again except as possible names for future characters. Supernatural just started. I can’t die yet!” Mia looked at Sushi pathetically.

“I’m going to finish you,” Sushi said. When she saw the look on Mia’s face she added, “And by finish you I mean finish writing you. Not kill you. I haven’t killed that many people off in recent years.”

“In recent years?”

“Well, there were those years where my novel was just a killing spree, but that’s not this year.”

“Please, Sushi, I really don’t want to die. The archives can wait until December, can’t they? I can’t wait until December.” Mia paused for dramatic effect. “Do you know what they do in the character cemetery?” she whispered.

“I’ve buried a few characters there myself. Though I hear they made some improvements this year…”

“Just finish writing me, okay? And tell me where Chris Baty is and everything else about the legends?”

“Now you’re pushing your luck.” Sushi closed the book and returned it to the stack, then grabbed another book and cracked it open. “Timed Artistic Challenges,” Mia noticed on the spine. Realizing she wasn’t going to get anything else out of Sushi, she walked out of the archives.

But she didn’t head back to the forums of Wrimonia. Instead, she mounted her pony and headed toward the hills in search of ideas. Mia had never been to these hills before, and based on the looks of the hills, neither had too many other Wrimos, with the grass that looked a little too green and the flowers that danced in the wind. If she hadn’t already visited the inspiration garden, she would have pegged this place as it. The pony leaned down to eat some of the grass.

Mia gazed out toward the hills and saw a single figure rolling down one of the hills. “Giddyup,” she told the pony, and they galloped toward the lone figure rolling down a hill.

As they rode up and down the hills together, Mia noticed that this person was rolling to the bottom of the hill, then walking back up to the top and rolling down again. They probably took a break every now and then to recover from any dizziness, but Mia never spotted that. Even closer, Mia spotted a bronze Viking helmet with fur on this person’s head and that this person was male. And even closer…

“Chris Baty!” Mia yelled out. “It’s you!”

Chris had just reached the bottom of the hill. He got up and dusted himself off.

And that was when the embarrassment hit. Mia remembered that this was the person she tried to meet by attaching herself to the chariot. That wasn’t the best way to introduce herself or to create a good first impression. But Chris Baty knew who she was now, and that was the important part, right?

“Hi Chris,” Mia said. “Sorry about last time.”

“No worries,” Chris replied. “That was a long time ago.”

“I saw you rolling down the hill from a distance back there,” she said. “Why were you doing that, anyway?”

“That’s one of the ways I get ideas to write,” Chris explained. “I’m not quite sure how it works, but I think it shakes my grey matter around so everything gets exposed to something new.”

Mia nodded. “But don’t the horns get in the way?” She nodded toward the horns on the Viking helmet.

“Not too often,” Chris replied. “Every now and then the helmet might roll off, but that’s part of shaking everything up, isn’t it? Everything gets shaken up and the helmet is no exception. I just have to look around a little for it after getting to the bottom of the hill.”

Mia looked up at Chris Baty’s word count meter, which was behind, but she remembered his way of catching up from behind every year. His halo also hovered above the Viking helmet, occasionally catching on to one of the horns.

“Does this really work?”

“Of course,” Chris said. “Why don’t you try it? Uh, you might want to do it without the horse.”

Mia jumped off the pony, who munched contentedly on the grass. She and Chris Baty walked to the top of the hill. “How’s your month been?” Chris asked.

“All kinds of confusing,” Mia replied. “I don’t know what to do or think anymore.”

“Sounds like what a lot of other Wrimos feel at times. But November’s almost over, and you can win with a good bit of catchup. Both of us can do with some catchup.” They reached the top of the hill. Mia looked down.

“You mean we’re really going to roll down the hill?” Mia asked. She gulped.

“Absolutely,” Chris said. “It sounds like you’re a little stuck in your plot right now. Do you find that changing your environment helps you write better?”

“All the time.”

“New experiences do the same thing. You might not believe it, but something as silly as rolling down a hill invigorates you in ways you don’t even think about until after it’s done. You probably don’t roll down a hill every day, so doing something completely new that’s outside your comfort zone will shake your brain in new ways and maybe even make you think about your novel in new ways.”

“But do I have to do it myself?”

“Not unless you don’t want to. The hill’s big enough for both of us.”

Chris was right about that part, so he laid down at the top of the hill. Mia laid down to form a long line with Chris.

“And now we roll,” he said. And they rolled in the direction of the downward hill, rolling faster and faster until reaching the bottom of the hill, grass and dirt and who knows what else collecting itself on Mia’s clothes. She laid on the ground and watched as the world revolved around her, surely just a trick of the brain.

“Well, how was it?” Chris asked.

“Not as bad as I thought. But how’s that supposed to help my novel?”

“It may not help your novel directly, but the new experience gets you out of whatever rut you might be in,” Chris explained. “It makes you see new things you haven’t seen or thought of before, and that makes you think of new ideas that you otherwise wouldn’t have thought of.”

“Even if I’m just a character in a book? My experiences are pretty limited this way, you know.”

Chris looked at Mia. “You’re not just a character in a book, and you know it. You’re a person, one with lots of experiences and a background for your author to write about. You have interests and fears and passions and quirks that your author is loving the heck out of exploring for their novel.”

“But Sushi won’t tell me anything about what’ll happen after she finishes the novel!” Mia exclaimed. “Erm, sushimustwrite. And if she finishes her novel. All she’s been doing lately is poring over the archives and adding stuff and I’m pretty sure she’s adding stuff about the legends without telling me about it.”

“Maybe she doesn’t need to tell you anything,” Chris said. “Maybe she’s confident you’ll figure it out on your own. We’ve been talking for just a few minutes, but you do seem like a smart capable character and person.”

“But the legends!” Mia said. “I need the last pieces for the legends, and she keeps saying she doesn’t know it and I’m just a character and therefore I’ll never get it even though you’re right in front of me and Wrimonia isn’t the same without you and–.”

“Mia Wonnor,” Chris interrupted. Mia stopped short at Chris calling her by her full name, even though it was right there on her nametag. The pony neighed. “Do you remember three years ago when one of Wrimonia’s marathon runners gave you a yellow metal pencil?” Mia nodded. “It did something special, didn’t it?”

“Wait a minute, how did YOU know about that?”

“We save those pencils for very special occasions, so I hear when one of them is given out. Anyway, do you remember what it did?”

“Not much for most of the month,” Mia said. “Then at some point I started playing with it, and it opened up, and it spelled out the letters of my name. MIA WONNOR, it said. And the letters rearranged themselves to spell NANOWRIMO.”

“Indeed they did,” Chris said. “And do you know why that is?”

“Because NaNo is inside me or in my fate or something,” Mia said. “That was a long time ago. I don’t remember that well now.”

“NaNoWriMo IS in your fate. You’ve been spending the past two months trying to find me, haven’t you?”

They were still standing at the bottom of the hill. Mia couldn’t hear anyone else except the pony chasing a plot bunny. “How’d you know?”

“Oh Mia, the pep talk incident kind of gave it away.”

Mia sighed. “But what else? I tried not to make it obvious that I was looking for you.”

“Word gets around Wrimonia when you talk about stuff like this. People start asking others where I am, and next thing you know everyone is asking around. I even heard about it way up in my writing cottage.”

“I only wanted to find you for the power of good,” Mia said. “Wrimonia’s different without you, Chris. And there are legends to be written and I need you for them because no one else knows everything. You’re my only hope.”

“I’m not the main figure of Wrimonia, Mia,” Chris said.

“Yes, you are. Don’t even try to deny it. You’re the one who created NaNo in the first place.”

“Well, I am, but I’m not the person who cultivates the community and how tight-knit it is. I’m not responsible for noveling nirvana or the inspiration garden or even the Pit of Procrastination.”

“Then who is?”

“You are, Mia.”

“But I didn’t dig the Pit of Procrastination. I have spent a lot of time in it, though,” she added as an afterthought.

“That doesn’t mean you didn’t help build it. And I don’t mean build as in literally dig.”

“Then what do you mean?”

“Come with me. You might want to bring the pony with you.”

Mia didn’t mount the pony, lest she leave Chris behind while going to an unknown destination. Instead, she led the pony as Chris led her to the highest hill in the meadow, possibly in all of Wrimonia. It wasn’t too far away, and the three of them climbed the hill, heading to the very top of the hill. Climbing the hill started to feel more like climbing a small mountain, Mia decided when they were about halfway up. How tall was this thing, anyway?

“Do we have to go all the way to the top?” Mia asked.

“This is where the good stuff happens,” Chris replied. “Do you want to be where the good stuff is?”

“Absolutely.”

“Then come with me.”

They continued onward to the top of the hill. This was not a hill to roll down.

“This is what your month has felt like, yes?” Chris asked.

Mia gasped for breath before nodding, even though Chris couldn’t see her nod. “Yep,” she finally replied.

“Novel-writing has two things in common with climbing this hill. One, it gets easier with practice, something a Wrimo who has done NaNoWriMo for a very long time can tell you. And two, most of it is an uphill climb, but man, is the view from the top gorgeous. We’re almost there,” Chris said as Mia noticed the land starting to flatten a little.

Chris stopped short. “This is good,” he said. “Now look around, Mia.”

Mia looked in the same direction as Chris did and saw an expanse of hills, some of which she had just traversed. But further in the distance she saw what appeared to be Wrimonia: buildings and rails and even WrimoRails zooming around.

“That’s Wrimonia,” she said.

“Indeed it is. Kind of weird seeing it from a distance, isn’t it?”

Mia nodded. “I’ve never taken it all in at once before.”

“Most people never do. They go from forum to forum, or they work on their novels, but they never sit back and look at the big picture of the NaNoWriMo community and what it represents. You’ve done that now, Mia, with the legends and your own novel-writing. You’ve done something extraordinary and you should be proud of it.”

“But I haven’t done it yet. I still need you to tell me the rest of it.”

“You don’t need me for the rest of it,” Chris said. “You already know the last piece of the puzzle.”

“You’re going to have to explain like I’m five because I really don’t know.”

“You make NaNoWriMo what it is, Mia,” Chris said.

“But I’m just a character!”

“It’s not just you. I can’t put that much pressure on one Wrimo. But you and that Wrimo over there who will have twenty thousand words tomorrow and decide to make an epic comeback to win. And the group of Wrimos who put on a musical about NaNo. And everyone cheering each other on regardless of their November goal, no matter how far behind they are. That’s what make NaNoWriMo so magical. I couldn’t have built that myself. That was you, Mia.”

“Me and everyone else?”

“Yes!” Chris took off his Viking helmet and set it on Mia’s head. “You’ll probably want this. You have a book to finish.”

“Isn’t this yours?”

“I think you need it more than I do.” And he rolled down the big hill.

**
A wild Chris Baty appears!

Apparently I never wrote about how I met Chris Baty, so here goes. It was at NOWD weekend in 2011. There’s a tea for the MLs that weekend (both attending and local to the Bay Area) that Saturday, and since I was an ML that year I was invited. I walked the mile from my hostel to the place the tea was taking place, and there was no way I was doing that in my nice shoes. So I wore my sneakers and brought my nice shoes in my Nano messenger bag for changing into. I got there, ran into another ML (NickiIV) who didn’t want to go in herself, so we went in together. I asked where a bathroom was, dashed in, and changed shoes and generally prettied up before the tea.

When I got out the folks who had gathered outside the tea area were discussing Nano and word counts, and what did I hear but “Ask what Sushi’s word count is.”

“What about it?” I asked. And then I looked up and saw Chris Baty himself.

It’s kind of weird but also KIND OF AWESOME not having to introduce yourself to Chris Baty, by the way.

Oh, and he wound up sitting next to me for this tea. This was completely by accident.

And that’s the story.

Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty-Five: The Character Cemetery

After leaving the archives Mia set to work on the legends back in Wrimonia, scribbling what she knew about the legends in a notebook. The inspiration garden… noveling nirvana… the Pit of Procrastination…

It was all a big mess, but it had to get down somehow, and Mia spent the next several days concentrating on this instead of her novel. Mia looked down at what she had scribbled down, then looked around for inspiration. But instead of inspiration she saw a sign declaring where she needed to be for the day.

Forty thousand words. Was it really day twenty-four already? It couldn’t be day twenty-four; Mia’s word count was at…

Good question. What was her word count, anyway? She looked up at her word count bar but then remembered she hadn’t updated that in a few days. Time for a full word count update. Mia started up her laptop and opened her novel.

Thirty thousand, five hundred sixty-eight word, her word count read. Well, crap. Time to get back to writing.

But instead of working on her novel, Mia found herself turning back to the legends that she was busy penning. She already knew parts of what she was going to write down, but other parts still had holes in them. Mia sighed and kept poking the words, which seemed to wiggle away from the page. She couldn’t be getting this sleepy yet…

But the problem wasn’t the words for a change. It was exactly the problem Mia was trying to solve for the past two months.

All the little details of Wrimonia started to shine over the next two days as Mia devoted her time to finding Chris Baty. “Do you know where Chris Baty is?” Mia asked random Wrimos as they passed her in Wrimonia.

“He’s probably catching up on his own novel,” a Wrimo wearing a hat with ears said. Mia noticed her nametag read autohaptic. “He tends to fall behind and catch up.”

Another Wrimo said, “You know how some Wrimos go into NaNo hibernation to catch up? He’s probably doing the same thing right now. Good luck finding him.” This Wrimo’s name was aggy c., and her characters followed right behind her.

Mia walked past the forums. That next scene was there, but it wasn’t there. This was a writer problem and Mia knew it. But how on earth was she supposed to explain this in a forum post?

Mia walked past the NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul forum, walking around it and toward the back. She had never been to the back of this forum before.

Gravestones stuck out of the ground, each of them engraved with something like “RIP Protagonist” or “You served me well, unnamed minor character”. Mia passed a Wrimo named murphyslawyer, who was digging a plot for one of her characters and cackling evilly.

“They have no idea what’s coming…” murphyslawyer muttered.

“Who doesn’t?” Mia asked.

“My character. Character torture is a hobby of mine, you see.”

Mia gulped and stepped away. Once murphyslawyer found out…

Another Wrimo with a shovel was busy digging a couple more plots, while a few more gravestones lay next to the plots.

“What is this place?” Mia asked.

“This is the character cemetery,” the Wrimo replied. This Wrimo’s nametag read FireFallon. “This is where we bury our dead.”

“Our dead?” Mia asked. “I have plenty of those in my novel.” She paused. “Not that I planned it that way, I mean! I swear most of these characters were supposed to live. The people in my novel are having a huge ethical crisis over this right now.”

“Excellent!” FireFallon said. “Ethical crises create a lot of plot and conflict and therefore add to your novel. That’s something to be proud of.”

“But my characters would take up a good big plot in your cemetery,” Mia pointed out. “That always happens in zombie novels.”

“That’s okay,” FireFallon replied, giving the grave another good dig. “We have all kinds of space here. And it’s not just for characters who die, either. It’s for characters in novels unfinished or characters the authors didn’t take time to develop, so they died a fledgling death.”

“Is this supposed to motivate me to finish my novel?”

“You could say that. I’m just the caretaker around these parts.”

“You don’t understand. I’m a character too.”

“That’s nonsense. We’re all Wrimos here. Sure, it makes us a little mad, but yes, we’re all Wrimos, all going for that novel month.”

“No, you really don’t understand. I’m a character in a Wrimo’s novel around here. You know who sushimustwrite is, don’t you?”

FireFallon looked confused. “Can’t say that I do. What about this Sushi person? And is this Sushi person edible?”

“She’s my author, and no, she is not edible,” Mia said. “I’m a character in her novel, and if she doesn’t finish my novel I could end up here too.”

“Then that’s a problem between you and her, isn’t it?”

Indeed it was a problem between Mia and Sushi, but how was Mia going to find Sushi and beg her to finish the story? Mia had spotted Sushi in Wrimonia over the last few days looking rather demotivated about her progress. Sushi’s word count bar didn’t budge thanks to already being over fifty thousand words, but her word count progress meter available in Wrimo Hall showed limited progress. But where would Sushi usually hang out?

Mia already deduced the Atlanta forum as a typical hangout but never found Sushi there no matter how often she visited. Mia tried to think of other things Sushi might like. High word counts, the Knights, the Atlanta Wrimos, the Church of NaNo… who else? Mia dashed back to the Knights of NaNoWriMo, remembering that she had in fact been knighted.

“Ahoy, Knight Mia!” rosiedoodle said aboard her mount. Mia noticed that rosiedoodle’s word count was also quite low. “How has your NaNo been? Your mount has missed you.”

And Mia looked toward the end of the Knights’ area, where her mount stood, tied to the forum. He did look rather sad despite looking well-groomed. And then she remembered.

“Oh no! I completely forgot I had a mount here.” She ran up to her pony and hugged him, then untied it from the forum. “I’m so sorry. He has been taken care of, hasn’t he?”

“Don’t worry, we have a Mount Caretaker here,” Lady Pendragon said. “But in the end your mount is your responsibility. It’s a hard life being a Knight, you know.”

Mia hopped aboard her mount. “Listen, I’m on a couple of very important missions here. Have you seen Sushi?”

Lady Pendragon nodded. “All over Wrimonia, of course,” she replied. “Why?”

“No no,” Mia said. “I know she’s all over Wrimonia. But have you seen her charging with all of you?”

“I wish I had been charging more this year,” rosiedoodle lamented. “Maybe my word count would be higher this year. But no, Sushi hasn’t been charging with us much this year. There’s been something in the NaNo air. I don’t know what it is.”

“I think I know,” Mia said. “I just need to find the last ingredient. But before that I need to find Sushi.”

“Well, best of luck to you,” Lady Pendragon said. “Let’s do a CHARGE before you leave, shall we?”

All the Knights present mounted their mounts. “Mia, shall you do the honors?” rosiedoodle asked.

“What honors?”

“Of leading the charge, of course.”

“But how do I do that? And why now?”

“You yell the first CHARGE, of course. It’s straightforward enough. And we all need a good charge right now. Have you seen how far behind I am? And you?”

“Besides, we’ve gone over this,” Lady Pendragon said. “Charging is what we do as Knights.”

Mia couldn’t believe it. She, a character in someone else’s book, was being asked to lead a charge.

“I think I can do that. Everyone secure on their mounts?” No one objected, so Mia pumped her fist in the air and yelled “CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGE!” before saying “Giddyup” to her pony.

“CHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARGE!” everyone else yelled.

And forward the Knights of NaNoWriMo went, charging in their novels, charging through Wrimonia to get those last words needed for fifty thousand.

**
One of the first scene ideas for this book was to have Mia freak out over landing in the character cemetery. Here it is.

Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty-Four: The Archive Hut

Noveling nirvana… Mia couldn’t believe she had finally experienced it, and now she had to decide whether to stay here a little longer and write, go back to the main part of Wrimonia, or continue her search for Chris Baty. She wound up staying in noveling nirvana for several more days, miraculously staying on track for that time, before making her way back to the forums of Wrimonia.

After she returned to the forums she found herself at a loss. She was back in the main forum area of Wrimonia, yes, but what now? She was now no closer to finding Chris Baty than she was before. In fact, she might be further than ever from finding him. He could be far from Wrimonia by now, safely ensconced in his novel with no one else around to bother him.

Instead of thinking about these things, Mia instead did what she discovered was the best thing to do in November: work on her novel. She sat down on an eraser bench near the square and watched as Molly and Luke came to life once again before her eyes. Mia tapped down a thousand words before spotting sushimustwrite running across the square, her long hair flapping in the wind.

“Sushimustwrite!” Mia yelled.

Sushimustwrite turned around. “Mia!” she yelled. “I’ve been looking for you.”

“Listen, sushimustwrite–”

“Call me Sushi,” sushimustwrite said.

Finally, Mia thought. “All right, Sushi. Listen, I need help. I think I’ve uncovered all the legends you’ve told me about. Now what?”

“Write them down,” sushimustwrite replied.

“Write them down?”

Sushi stared at Mia. “Seriously, Mia?” she asked. “You’re writing a novel in a month and you won’t write down a few legends?”

“But they’re the Legends of NaNo,” Mia replied. “THE Legends. I can’t write all the legends of NaNoWriMo! How am I supposed to start this?”

Sushi paused. “You know, you won’t be writing the first legends of NaNo.”

“I won’t? But what was the first set?”

“Follow me.” Sushi led Mia past several forums and past a halo vendor toward a path behind Wrimo Hall. Mia had never noticed this path before.

“How long has this path been here?” Mia asked, wondering how she had missed this path for so long.

“Since 2010,” Sushi replied. “So you’ve been around longer than it has.”

“Then why have I never noticed it?”

Sushi shrugged. “The path has never been this big,” she replied. “It was a teeny tiny path in 2010, then got a little more noticeable in 2011 when more people started traveling it to see what was there and wanting to see what was at the end of the path, and then even more people started traveling the path this year.”

They continued walking down the path. “Where are we going anyway?” Mia asked.

“We’re going to take a walk down NaNo memory lane,” Sushi said. “Pretty much everything you’d want to know about NaNo is stored here.”

They reached the end of the path, and Mia saw a small hut with a pentagon logo on the door. Despite its small size, the hut stood firmly on its own ground but didn’t match any of the Wrimonia forums in design.

“I built this,” Sushi said as if she could read Mia’s mind. She probably was. Being the author granted perks like that.

“I didn’t know you could build stuff like this,” Mia said stupidly.

“There are a lot of things you don’t know about me,” Sushi told Mia. “Did you know I considered quitting my first NaNo, then came back and wrote over half the novel in the last week to win?”

Mia shook her head. “You mean you used to come from behind too?”

“Story of my first year right there,” Sushi replied. “No 50k day for me in my early days. I didn’t even write over fifty thousand by now. Nope, it was just me and my words struggling to get that purple bar before the calendar turned to December and validation turned off.”

“You mean I wouldn’t exist if you had quit?” Mia asked.

“That’s a loaded question right there.” Sushi twirled her long hair around her index finger. “What do you think?”

Mia pondered this for a minute. “If I’m your character and you created me, that means I would have been created only if you kept writing like you have. If you had quit early on I would never have existed.” Mia looked down and kicked a pebble sideways. “Right?”

“Well, someone else might have created someone like you,” Sushi said. “Some people have written similar stories, those about someone writing a novel in a month like you are. But no one else has written the exact same story I have, and no one will write the exact story you’re writing.”

“Not even quixotic_hope?”

“Not even Quix,” Sushi said. Mia noted the shortened version of quixotic_hope’s name that Sushi used. “Her version of the story doesn’t have zombies for one.”

“So you mean my story’s original?” Mia asked.

Sushi nodded. “Now wasn’t there something I was going to show you in here?” She led Mia into the hut.

Mia held in a gasp when she entered the hut. What was this magical place? Bookshelves lined the walls, most of them filled with books titled like “The Traveling Shovel of Death” or “Canada :: Alberta :: Edmonton Region History” or “The Office of Letters and Light Staff History”. All the books had titles related to NaNo culture and history, and Mia spotted a bookshelf for Script Frenzy with titles ranging from “Script Frenzy History” to “Script Frenzy Plot Machine”. Next to the Script Frenzy bookshelf was a Camp NaNoWriMo bookshelf. Books lined the Camp NaNoWriMo bookshelf, the titles things like “Blobby’s Origins” and “The Blue Tent of Whoa”.

“What is this place?” Mia asked.

“This is where everything related to NaNo’s history gets stored,” Sushi explained.

“But why didn’t I know about it?”

“Not everyone does. You saw the path. It used to be just me walking up and down the path gathering info for the archives, and then a few other folks found the path and added info to the archives, and then the NaNo staff found out about this little thing I’ve built here. That’s part of how this path got so big.”

“Where’d all these books come from?” Mia reached up and grabbed a book. This one bore the title “To 50k and Beyond: How Overachievers Came To Be”.

“Wrimonia has a magical way of donating blank books,” Sushi said. “But it wasn’t always that way. I had to contribute a lot of these books myself in the beginning when the archives were new. Bootstrapping, you know.”

“I didn’t mean the physical books. I meant the content. How did you find out everything about NaNo?”

Mia had opened the book by now and was flipping through the history of people who wrote far beyond fifty thousand words. She spotted Sushi’s name a few times, along with other familiar names from her years doing NaNo. All of this was material she never would have known unless she was immersed in the community herself. Granted, Sushi was one of those overachievers, but how would she have gathered all that info?

“I kept going back into Wrimonia and investigating,” Sushi said. “Wrimonia keeps lots of yearly site archives, but there was nothing easily accessible if you wanted to know everything on a given topic, like the guilt monkey or Mr. Ian Woon. So I kept digging into Wrimonia’s archives, and when that didn’t work, I searched the greater Internet and its archives. Most of the time I could find what I was looking for.”

“And those other times?”

“That’s when you ask around and see if anyone remembers. And when they don’t, well, it’s okay if something’s unknown, even though hard and fast facts are obviously better.” Sushi realized she was getting even more off track and said, “Oh right, I was going to show you something, wasn’t I?” She led Mia to a NaNo bookshelf and pulled a small book from the bookshelf, a blue book embellished with blue jewels that stood out on an otherwise worn leather cover. The rest of that shelf was empty.

“Is that an original copy?” Mia asked, noting how worn the cover looked.

Sushi nodded. “This is the original copy. It got lost for several years, and several Wrimos recovered it a couple of years ago and gave it a home here.” She handed the book to Mia, who held the book in her hands for almost an entire minute before cracking it open. Someone had sketched a country meadow into the cover, which read “The NaNoLand Chronicles: Bedtime Stories for Wrimos”. Chris Baty himself wrote this book.

“This is just a bunch of bedtime stories,” Mia said. “How can these be legends?”

“How can these be legends?” Sushi repeated herself but louder. “How can these be legends?! Mia, you’ve read the Harry Potter books, right?”

“Yes, but…”

“You remember the tale that explains the Deathly Hallows, don’t you?”

“Yes, but…”

“Then surely you remember how the Deathly Hallows turned out to be real even though the tale itself is buried in a children’s book.”

“But that was fiction!” Mia protested. “It’s not real.”

“You can still learn from fiction. Now open the book.”

Mia finally cracked the book open. Here again was the same design that was on the cover, but on paper this time, and handwritten. She turned the page and saw the title of the first legend, then began to read.

“What does this have to do with NaNo?” Mia asked as she read the first few paragraphs. “It’s just a bunch of kids’ stories.”

“Keep reading.”

And Mia did keep reading the tales. She finished reading the first tale (“The Young Criminals of Wheatboggin”), then kept going all the way to the fourth tale (“The Impossible Invention”). Sushi watched and occasionally scribbled in books as Mia read. “Wait a minute, this is all about doing NaNo, isn’t it?” Mia asked as she finished and looked up from the book.

“Glad to see you figured it out. Chris Baty released these in 2004 as pep talks, but it’s rumored that the stories in the pep talks are real.”

“You mean they’re not just real from an allegorical perspective? I have an English degree. I’m pretty good at telling allegory through literature.” Then Mia remembered that she had an English degree because Sushi deemed it so. Did that mean she wasn’t good at that all of a sudden?

“They’re certainly real from an allegorical perspective,” Sushi said. “You can see the allegory as clearly as I can. But were the people real? No one knows. Some people think they are. No one has gone to great lengths to find out.”

“Not even you?”

“Not even me.”

“Are you going to find out?”

“Maybe. But there are more legends to pen now.” Sushi glided a finger across the empty part of the bookshelf the book came from. “And I can’t write all of them. I can’t even write the current set. You’re much more capable of writing these legends than I’ll ever be.”

“But you’ve done this eleven times! You’re… Sushi! You built this place! How can little old me do it?”

“Because you’re Mia Wonnor, and that’s how you roll. Now get to work.”

**
The hut represents–you guessed it–Wikiwrimo.

And you might have also guessed it–Mia gets to call me Sushi because I got tired of typing sushimustwrite all the time.

Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty-Three: Noveling Nirvana

“Sushi!” someone exclaimed. Mia turned to this person, someone with a nametag that read rswinehart3.

“Lillian!” sushimustwrite yelled back. “I brought a visiting Wrimo with me. Thank the plot shovel. Meet Mia Wonnor. Mia, this is Lillian, or rswinehart3.”

Lillian (or was it rswinehart3? Mia decided to just call her Lillian since that was easier) waved at Mia. Sushimustwrite and Mia found two empty places at the end of the table.

“Welcome to Atlanta,” another Wrimo said, walking up from behind them. Mia saw his nametag read quintopia.

“You’re quintopia!” Mia said. Quintopia was a good bit taller than she was, but since Mia was barely five feet tall, even sushimustwrite towered over her. “You brought me to the first writein?”

“I did?” quintopia asked, looking confused.

“Yes, with the plot shovel,” Mia replied. She explained what sushimustwrite told her.

“Oh right, Sushi and I were trying to figure out how it worked,” quintopia said. “And then you showed up, which proved the demo effective. And then I disappeared to an Amsterdam write-in.”

“Yeah, forgot to mention that part,” sushimustwrite said.

“And then I showed up,” another Wrimo said, this one taller than quintopia.

“That wouldn’t have been a plot hole,” sushimustwrite said, looking up at this Wrimo, whose nametag read Cannikin.

“Hi Cannikin,” sushimustwrite said. She introduced Mia and Cannikin, and everyone settled down to write.

“Where are we supposed to be anyway?” Mia asked as she booted her laptop.

“Let’s see,” sushimustwrite said. “Today’s day eighteen, so…”

“Thirty thousand,” quintopia chimed in.

“Wait, day eighteen? But it was day sixteen just a few minutes ago!” Mia said. She turned to sushimustwrite. “I know it was! Wasn’t it, sushimustwrite?”

Sushimustwrite nodded. “Unfortunately that’s a consequence of plot shovel travel. Sometimes the plot shovel loves to twist time along with plots. No one’s figured out how to deal with it yet, or even if that’s intentional. And we can’t just ask the maker of the plot shovel since he’s not exactly what you’d call a friendly fellow. Well, he’d be friendlier if people wouldn’t bring up the Traveling Shovel of Death around him, but can you count on Wrimos not to do that?”

“Believe me, I know,” Mia said. “I already met the maker once. I have no desire to meet him again.”

“You’re a lucky one,” sushimustwrite replied. But before they could continue this discussion Lillian’s voice interrupted them by yelling, “Matt!”

Mia looked up. Sure enough, it was MattKinsi, and Mia remembered that it wasn’t ML Appreciation Day anymore. But that didn’t mean she couldn’t appreciate her ML. She ran up to MattKinsi and hugged his neck.

“Whoa, hi, Mia,” MattKinsi said. “What’s this for?”

“ML Appreciation Day,” Mia replied. “The fog ate me up and I missed it. This is to make up for it.”

“Aww, thanks Mia,” MattKinsi said.

More Wrimos showed up, including the familiar Loki892 and quixotic_hope. They settled down, and quixotic_hope started to write.

“What are you writing about, Mia?” quintopia asked from across the table.

“A futuristic world where a bunch of social rights are taken away,” she replied. “With zombies.”

“That’s one of my novels!” quixotic_hope said, looking up from her computer. “Well, minus the zombies.”

“Really?” Mia asked. “But I didn’t steal it from you and I’m pretty sure you didn’t steal it from me…”

Mia turned to sushimustwrite, who looked back at Mia guiltily. Sushimustwrite didn’t say anything. And that was when Mia knew.

“That’s your plot, isn’t it?” Mia said to sushimustwrite, who nodded.

“I knew it!” Mia said. “You couldn’t even come up with an original plot for me so you took someone else’s.”

“But quixotic_hope said I could,” sushimustwrite said. “Didn’t you?” Quixotic_hope nodded. “And you needed a plot and I couldn’t think of anything else and I needed to plan that one anyway, so it just seemed natural to give you that plot.”

After this chatter died down sushimustwrite started a word war. Mia found herself staring at the screen for the first couple of minutes of the war, then down at the floor. This wasn’t what she wanted to hear. But somehow the plot shovel wound up in her hand. She stuck the plot shovel in the ground, and despite the tile floor, the plot shovel made a dent. Mia continued digging and fell through the plot hole.

Mia landed in a field that looked unfamiliar to her. A vast expanse of green grass spread past Mia as far as her eye could see, and Wrimos stretched out on the field, their laptops in front of them, or notebooks in front of them, working on their novels. Every now and then a small blue bird flew toward a Wrimo with a message, and the Wrimo accepted the message with gratitude. More often, Wrimos would get up and talk to each other about their plots.

It was much like the forums, Mia thought to herself. In fact, this should be going on in the bulk of Wrimonia, on the eraser benches, with the discussion going on in the forums. So why wasn’t it?

Mia sat down to write, observing what everyone else around her was doing. There were characters around her, the characters of other Wrimos, some of them bending to the author’s will, others, not so much. But Mia wasn’t too concerned about that.

The sun peeked out through what was probably the only cloud in the sky. Funny that it would have to peek out through the only cloud in the sky, Mia though to herself. It was like the sun wanted to hide.

But as Mia watched, the cloud faded away and the sun shone even more brightly.

Mia cracked open her laptop and typed out a few words. Her characters were nowhere to be seen, but that was okay. She was fine without them for now. Mia smiled as she watched everyone else write. There was something about watching everyone else write from afar as she wrote, knowing that almost everyone else was going for the same fifty thousand words, knowing that this was what united them, no matter where they came from in life, no matter what they did outside of November.

A common goal bonded them together.

Mia tapped out a few more sentences and dug into her bag for something. She pulled it out and remembered when she acquired it: the metal pencil from her first year, the one that saved her NaNo, the one with the letters that spelled her name and rearranged themselves to spell NANOWRIMO. Was this coincidence that Mia Wonnor was an anagram of NaNoWriMo? Or was this purely intentional? Mia wondered this ever since finding out, and ever since her discovery as a character in a book, the question burned even more brightly, but she couldn’t ask sushimustwrite this, could she?

A few Wrimos near Mia paused to think in their writing. Mia held the pencil in her hand, thinking back to her first NaNo.

So sushimustwrite had this planned the whole time, didn’t she? Sushimustwrite knew what Mia was going to do the whole time with her novel, her plot, everything.

But what about Mia’s life outside of NaNo? Mia did have a life outside of NaNo, yes?

“I have to have a life outside of November,” Mia said. “There’s no way I can’t. I didn’t lose NaNo because of getting too derpy to lose, did I?” No, of course she didn’t. Real life got in the way combined with a lack of motivation with her novel. But did sushimustwrite orchestrate that as well? She had to; she was, after all, Mia’s puppet master.

Mia turned back to all the Wrimos working on their novels. All of them seemed so happy, but maybe some of them weren’t so happy. There was a reason the NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul forum was so crowded. Everything possible could go wrong in November, something Mia was all too familiar with; to be honest with herself, Mia was surprised that she didn’t start any threads in this forum this year. The ones she did start in the past received nothing but encouraging replies, though, but was real life really beating her up? No, it was that part about being a character in someone’s book, and almost no one could relate to that.

But there was still something about this meadow that Mia was sitting in. Plot bunnies bounced around, and every now and then one of them bit a Wrimo. Participants still talked among themselves, but never in an annoying fashion. Mia kept working on her novel, ignoring the fact that Molly and Luke and even Alaina never showed up. She didn’t need them right now.

She kept writing. She was seven thousand words behind; she needed the words, and the words needed her. She could pull off a seven thousand word day, couldn’t she? That would be enough to make her catch up. Mia knew she wasn’t a fast typist, but she could type quickly when she put the effort into it and when she knew exactly what was going on. Luckily she knew what was going to happen for the next few thousand words thanks to having plenty of time to muse over it.

So Mia kept writing. And kept writing. And kept writing. Molly and Luke did show up at some point, but Mia ignored them in favor of her keyboard and screen, imaging what was going on in the novel in her own head instead of making them act out everything.

“Aren’t you going to pay attention to us?” Molly asked, her pistol dangling from her wrist.

“You’re in my head now,” Mia said, pointing to her temple.

“In your head?” Molly asked. “What are you, mental?”

“Probably,” Mia replied. “But aren’t all writers mental in some way?”

Molly shook her head. Mental Mia might be, but let’s face it: Molly and Luke still had a job to do. Mia continued to ignore them and kept typing. She didn’t need their representations anymore. They were, after all, just physical figments there to make her feel like she was being an author. As long as they existed where she wanted them to exist, she would be happy.

And when the word counter announced that Mia was back on track many hours later, everyone within Mia’s vicinity celebrated with her.

“I knew you could do it, Mia,” a Wrimo by the name of Chomsky-rabbit said, handing Mia a chocolate bar. Mia tore into it immediately. Mmm. Canadian chocolate.

“Thanks,” Mia said, admiring chomsky-rabbit’s high word count, which was much higher than sushimustwrite’s.

“You’re doing great,” another Wrimo said, this one by the name of lorata. “Keep writing and you’ll be at fifty thousand in no time.”

Mia smiled. She knew she would.

And then she remembered.

“Noveling nirvana,” she said aloud.

“Noveling nirvana?” chomsky-rabbit asked.

Mia nodded. “You’ve never heard of it?”

“It sounds familiar,” chomsky-rabbit replied. “I think I’ve heard legends of it, that feeling when you’re writing and just want to keep going. I know that feeling. Do you know anything more about it?”

“It’s not just that,” Mia explained. “Though that’s part of it. Noveling nirvana, NaNo nirvana, is this feeling right here. The feeling you get when you put a bunch of supportive writers in one place with a deadline. Everyone cheers each other one. From the rebels–” Mia pointed to the NaNo Rebels forum, visible in the distance with its skull and crossbones logo. “To the folks going for fifty thousand to the folks going for way more. Sure, there are some catfights, but what do you expect when you put a lot of folks in one place like this? It’s practically expected, and I’d be surprised if there weren’t. But you can’t stop the feeling, and I wouldn’t want to if you paid me.”

“That’s why you donate,” lorata said. She pointed at Mia’s halo.

“And that’s why I did,” Mia said. “This is what people have been talking about with noveling nirvana. I didn’t believe it really existed, but it’s real! And it’s still real despite…”

“Despite…” Chomsky-rabbit said.

“Despite Chris Baty not being here.”

Chomsky-rabbit patted Mia on the back. “Chris Baty may not be here anymore, but his spirit still lives on!” she replied. “He created NaNo and Wrimonia and in that he instilled a spirit that refuses to be broken.”

“But why are there so many questions that aren’t answered?” Mia asked. “The legends of NaNo… he’s the only one who must know about them.”

“No, you are,” Chomsky-rabbit said.

“I am?” Mia asked, dumbstruck.

Chomsky-rabbit nodded. “Everyone leaves their own little legacies behind, their own little pieces to be put together. And you’re putting yours together, along with the ones that have been left behind by others. Keep doing that.”

Mia nodded. Keep doing that. “But in order to do that I need Chris Baty,” she said. “I’m going after the real legends. The big legends.”

“Then by all means seek him out!” chomsky-rabbit said. “Keep going! But remember, you are leaving your own little legacy behind in NaNoWriMo.”

**
Well, this was an awkward section to reread. All I’m saying on that.

And noveling nirvana… Mia’s learning something! Legends!

Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty-Two: The Wrimonia Lost and Found

Mia found herself in front of Wrimo Hall. Was everything here? Seriously? She should have known this by now. If she had a question, chances are someone at Wrimo Hall knew the answer or where to find it.

But they didn’t know everything about the legends of NaNo or where Chris Baty was.

Mia pushed the shield door open and entered Wrimo Hall. A young woman wearing a staff cape sat at the front desk, and the nametag as well as the plaque next to her read Shelby Gibbs, Customer Service Captain.

“Welcome to Wrimo Hall, Mia Wonnor,” Shelby said. “How may I help you?”

“I lost my bag,” Mia said, still clutching sushimustwrite’s notebook. “You know, my bag with my laptop and notebook and everything else. I need to keep writing my novel, and let’s face it, I’m way behind by now. Do you have a lost and found anywhere?”

Shelby pointed to the stairs. “Top floor, to the right,” she replied. “When do you think it came in? We clean out the lost and found every year with the relaunch, and the newest stuff is always toward the front.”

“Sometime in the last couple of days, I’m guessing,” Mia replied. “I got sucked into the fog on Donation Day and meant to donate then, and of course the fog left my stuff behind. Or maybe it sucked my stuff in but wouldn’t let me get it. I don’t know.”

“Oh, the fog,” Shelby said. “It’s a fickle creature. We’ve tried to ban it from Wrimonia, but banning something that’s part of human nature is so difficult, you see. And the fog attacks every Wrimo slightly differently, so we’d have to adjust our techniques accordingly. This turns out to be surprisingly difficult.”

“So you know more about the fog?” Mia asked.

“A little. I’ve been on staff only this season,” Shelby replied.

“Tell me everything you know.”

“Pull up a chair. This is gonna take a bit.”

Mia pulled up a tall stool that appeared. It was pale blue with the NaNo crest on the back, and she sat down across from Shelby.

“I have to be honest with you,” Shelby said when Mia was comfortable. “The only thing I know about the fog is from my own experience with it and not anything official from being a staff person.”

“That’ll do,” Mia said. “But the fog made me quit NaNo last year, so I need to know more about it. And about all the legends of NaNo.” She didn’t mean for the last part to slip out. It just did. She had mostly forgotten about her quest for the legends of NaNo and for Chris Baty thanks to her stay in the fog, but now that she was in front of someone who knew more about one of the legends, it was time to learn more.

“I heard a lot of people falling victim to the fog. It gets me too.”

Mia remembered this. She saw people dropping like flies all around her this, and she tried to stay tough, tried to stick with it. She couldn’t quit, after all. She had two NaNo victories behind her and wanted a third. But that fog was eating at her like she was a food last year.

“It nommed on me,” Shelby said. “I didn’t know what to make of it. It was my first long stay in the fog, and I tried fighting my way out of it. Oh, I tried my hardest. But every time I tried climbing my way out of the fog the same way I went in, more notebooks and pens fell on top of me. I tried to grab one of them so at least I could write something down, anything, even if it was a sentence of two to add to the word count or an idea for a future scene. But the notebooks kept falling and every time I grabbed one of them, my fingers burned so hot to the notebook that it made wanting to grab another notebook undesirable. Eventually I gave up and stopped reaching, choosing to go where the notebooks went: the chute.”

Mia remembered the chute. She tried grabbing a notebook there as well but wound up grabbing the notebook of her author. Come to think of it, sushimustwrite was probably missing that notebook if this was in fact her real notebook. But how awkward would it be to find her and return the notebook?

“And then what happened?” Mia asked.

“I entered the chute,” Shelby said. “It looked a lot like what I’d imagine the insides of intestines to look like, and all the notebooks and pens and other writing implements were there, getting absorbed through the chute into the body of the fog. But I kept tumbling down the chute in an attempt to find an exit, continuing to grab notebooks and pens. I never could grab anything, but at some point I saw a light at the end of the tunnel and slid out of the chute.”

“And that’s it?” Mia asked.

“Yep,” Shelby said. “Now you might want to head up to the lost and found. Top floor. The stuff likes to move around a lot.”

Mia thanked Shelby and scrambled up the stairs to the top floor. So this is what happened to the top floor…

This must be the Muggle version of that room in Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Mia thought to herself. Messenger bags and laptops and notebooks and pens and even the occasional typewriter filled the room with no sense of order. Mia looked around the room in search of something that would resemble her bag, a plain black messenger bag with no insignia on it. The problem in finding this is that just about every other bag in here is also black, including some black messenger bags that Mia spotted with the NaNoWriMo shield on them. Where did they get those? Did they get regular old black messenger bags and sew on the NaNo crest? But that would lead to the question of where they got the crest, and Mia didn’t have an answer to this. Though to be fair she didn’t pay attention to most of the vendors selling things this year except for the halo vendors.

All Mia knew was that she wanted one of those. They were probably expensive though, and her payday wasn’t this week. Alas.

Mia stepped over a thick binder and a typewriter and kept looking for her bag. Shelby was right about everything moving around; Mia could have sworn that the things in this room had moved around since her arriving in this room. There had to be a way to keep everything straight in this room, and she didn’t know how to keep them straight. Did anyone who tried looking around this room know how to keep anything in this room straight? She was about to look on the other side of the room when she heard a noise.

Someone else was in here. Mia looked down and noticed that she was still clutching sushimustwrite’s notebook. Mia didn’t get that from this room, but she kept holding on to it. What were the odds that sushimustwrite would be coming in here in search of that right now, anyway? Granted, sushimustwrite did seem to be everywhere, judging by how everyone around Wrimonia seemed to know her.

A long-haired Wrimo who looked very familiar entered.

“Sushimustwrite!” Mia exclaimed.

“Mia!” sushimustwrite said. “And hey, that’s my notebook! What were you doing with it?”

“I found it,” Mia said. She didn’t hand it to sushimustwrite but instead studied sushimustwrite’s expression. What was going to happen, anyway? Was she going to make this more awkward?

“Where?” Sushimustwrite jumped toward Mia and hugged her neck. “and I’ve been looking for you for ages too. Where have you been?”

“Everywhere,” Mia replied. “I went to visit the shovel shop and the fog sucked me in and I found your notebook. I know, by the way.”

“Know what?”

“That I’m just a character. No more, no less.”

“OH, Mia,” sushimustwrite said. “I meant what I said before.”

“Why weren’t you… I don’t know… less gentle?”

“Because most people don’t deal well with being told that they’re just characters in books!” sushimustwrite said. “You saw your reactions. You’re a writer too. You know how mean we writers are to our characters. But you don’t exist just to do my bidding. No, you’re special.”

Mia took this moment after sushimustwrite stepped away from Mia to hand over the notebook. “I figured you’d want this but I didn’t want to track you down. What if you were still mad at me?”

“You’re just like me in that fashion,” sushimustwrite said. “Though I guess that’s expected. Some of my traits are ever present in you. Look, Mia, I know you were upset. I’m still a little upset, to be honest. but I meant everything I said. You’re the only person who can uncover the legends of NaNoWriMo, and you’ve already done that so well. You uncovered the real inspiration garden. If you read the notebook, you know that the inspiration garden is real and not just a figment of your imagination. You know about the pit of procrastination. You know about the fog. You know about the traveling shovel of death. And now you need to find out about noveling nirvana.”

“Noveling nirvana?”

Noveling nirvana,” sushimustwrite said. “It’s that feeling you get, that high when you write and want to keep going to keep that feeling alive. You don’t want November to end, but all good things do come to an end. There’s a story behind it, and you’re the one who needs to uncover it.”

“But why me?” Mia asked. “I’m just a character. You’ve done this how many times again?”

“Eleven.”

Mia looked at sushimustwrite’s halo and full word count bar. Despite sushimustwrite’s fifty thousand words on November second, her word count bar hadn’t budged that much despite being in the second half of the month. Was sushimustwrite done? Was she too struggling on the book about Mia?

“But you’re the best person to uncover all of the legends, Mia,” sushimustwrite said again. “You’re fresh, you’re newer to the land than I am. I’m an old Nano fart. I watched Wrimonia evolve from a small thing. My view is more historical while yours is a fresh and new one.”

“But–” Mia wasn’t sure what she was going to say here.

“No buts.”

“You’re still on for helping me out, right?” Mia asked. “I’m not sure I can do it myself?”

“Of course I am,” sushimustwrite said. “I’m your author, remember? Wherever I guide you, I’ll do my best not to guide you wrong.”

“Then where am I supposed to go now?” Mia asked.

“First things first,” sushimustwrite said. “You never did thank your ML for ML appreciation day, did you?” Mia shook her head. “Well, it’s time to do that.”

“Wait a minute, how are you going to help me do that? I mean, he might be around the forums, and you could sneak into my region’s forums, but–”

Sushimustwrite didn’t say anything, just grabbed Mia’s wrist and dragged her out of the lost and found.

“Hey!” Mia said. “My bag’s still in there!”

“No it isn’t,” sushimustwrite said.

“How do you know?” Mia asked, turning to sushimustwrite.

“It’s right here.” Sushimustwrite lifted a bag off her shoulder, and Mia noticed just then that sushimustwrite was in fact wearing two messenger bags. Sushimustwrite handed one of them to Mia. “I noticed it as soon as I entered. Funny that I’d notice my character’s bag before noticing my own missing notebook. Anyway, we’re going to thank your ML, and mine too–”

“Wait, you’re in my region?” Mia asked. “But–”

“No, I’m not in your region,” sushimustwrite said. “But MattKinsi, who is your ML if you remember right, is also the ML of the Atlanta region, making him my ML. He also watches over your region. I used to ML the Atlanta region, so I know what goes into MLing.”

Sushimustwrite reached into Mia’s bag.

“Hey, that’s my bag.”

“I’m your author. I can do whatever I want.”

Mia sighed. It was like sushimustwrite said she was Mia’s mother, but it was… a little worse? A little more invasive? She couldn’t decide which.

“Okay, fine,” Mia said. “But how did I meet him with a bunch of Wrimos I didn’t know that time a long time ago?”

“Oh, that was easy,” sushimustwrite explained. “That was thanks to the plot shovel.”

“The plot shovel?” Mia asked.

Sushimustwrite nodded. “One of my friends acquired one. Not sure how he did it, to be honest, but he grabbed the shovel and didn’t look back after using it.”

Shovel twins… “Who was this again?”

“Quintopia,” sushimustwrite replied. “Not that you know who he is yet; he wasn’t at that writein you showed up at. But he dug a plot hole so a random Wrimo would show up and lo and behold, you showed up. Now all we need to do is dig a plot hole with your plot shovel, and we’ll show up at the writein that everyone else is at, including MattKinsi.”

Sushimustwrite grabbed the Plot Shovel from Mia’s bag and struck it in the ground. “Okay, let’s get digging,” sushimustwrite said.

Sushimustwrite and Mia took turns digging a hole with the plot shovel. They dug deeper and deeper until they found themselves surrounded by people with laptops smiling back at them.

**
And now you know how Mia showed up at the Atlanta writein despite not being in that region!

We also know that I lied a little before. Come on, how’d you take it if you were JUST a character in someone’s book and your author had to break the news?

Share, don’t be a jerk, donate to Nano if you’re so inclined.

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty-One: The Fog

Unfortunately Week Two had not let up, and Mia was suffering. The fog from last year that Mia had managed to escape so far was now descending upon her just as it had last year, gripping her and her creative muse Alaina like the grippe. Mia turned back to her computer and continued writing.

But as Mia tried to summon her characters to create words… they wouldn’t come. It felt like last year all over again with the fog wrapping around her. This wasn’t Writer’s Block attacking, as it so loved doing. This was lack of motivation to write, hands down, and it had just shown up in Wrimonia.

Mia looked around and watched as the Fog consumed other characters and muses, grabbing them with its foggy hands and eating them. The Fog ate Mia’s characters and will to write last year, eating them until there was nothing left to consume. That was the thing about the Fog: it knew exactly where to reach in order to make a Wrimo not want to write. Sleepy? Oh, let’s get sleepier. Stuck? Recruit Writer’s block. Hungry? That’s okay. Maybe you need a snack or three.

But Mia was smarter than the fog. This year, anyway. She looked up at the fog and said, “I’m not going to fall prey to you this year, Fog.”

As soon as Mia said that she found herself scooped up by a large black hand and eye to eye with a black powderlike figure. Its yellow eyes stared back at Mia.

“Shoot,” Mia said as the fog swallowed her whole.

Mia tumbled down the fog’s throat, which was surprisingly solid, and landed on a fort in what she suspected was the fog’s stomach. Wait, a fort in the fog’s stomach? She tossed a pillow aside and–

Wait a minute. What was a pillow doing inside the fog? Mia looked around and noticed that the fort was not an ordinary fort but was made of blankets. This wasn’t getting any more reasonable at all. Mia crawled into the blanket fort and looked around.

This wasn’t any ordinary fort; in fact, Mia suspected that it was in fact bigger on the inside, as she had never seen a blanket fort of this size before. Mia crawled around the blanket fort in search of anything that would help her out, thinking all the while to herself that maybe this would be a great place to work on her novel. She looked around for her laptop bag or at the very least a notebook.

They were nowhere to be found. Mia peeked under all the pillows in search of a pen at the very least. Surely someone would have left one here, especially since this fort looked like a great place to write with its hidden nooks and crannies to hide a writer and its many pillows to seat a writer, not to mention it was safely hidden from Timmy the pillow-throwing bot.

But then Mia remembered that she was nestled (she hesitated to say safely nestled since there appeared to be no safety implied) within the digestive system of the fog. Were pencils and laptops considered to be useful digestive material to the fog?

Mia continued investigating, carefully stepping over the stomach of the fog and peering out of the blanket fort. She didn’t hear a sound except what sounded like something the fog was digesting. She crawled out of the blanket fort and walked in the direction of that grumbling noise.

Mia walked past the blanket fort and followed the pillow path away from the fort. The grumbling noise got louder, and Mia continued following them, finally arriving at a downward chute with pink wrinkly walls. Something smelled funny here…

She peeked down the chute and watched as the chute churned. But more interesting than the chute churning was the contents of the chute. She watched as pencils and notebooks and keyboards swirled around the chute, along with the occasional word. None of them swirled up toward Mia, though; all of them made their way down the chute in the opposite direction.

This left Mia with only one choice. She looked back at the pillow path and the blanket fort, then back toward the chute. Should she go for words or the safety of the blanket fort?

Before Mia had too much time to ponder this thought, a notebook fell from above and bopped her on the head. She reached up to catch it but just missed it, watching as the notebook flew past her and down into the chute below.

Well, that was a first. Mia grabbed a pillow, not because it would help protect her from the falling notebooks and who knows what else, but because it may just serve as a talisman from everything else that would fall from the abyss above. Not that there could be an abyss above, but you never know.

Mia kept watching out. This was the first time she had seen something fall from that wondrous space above. Well, ever since she had fall from above. She did fall from above, right? did that make her an angel?

But before she had too much time to ponder that, a word fell and smacked her on the forehead.

A word? What kind of word was this? Mia reached out to pick up the word, but the word scurried away from Mia and toward the wrinkly chute. She did catch a glimpse of the word, though: “scurry”.

As “scurry” scurried away, Mia headed back to the chute, still clutching the pillow and unsure of what to do next. All the words and notebooks and paper were still flying down the chute to places unknown, but Mia still tried to catch something, anything that would let her write something down, even though she had no idea of what to write. But surely being inside the fog would be somewhat inspiring, yes?

She continued looking down the abyss, pondering what to do. Surely a bot would be more useful in helping her make a decision than her own gut instinct, but there were no bots to be found in the fog, especially a fog that was fond of eating Wrimos.

Another notebook fell, and Mia caught this one, a blue spiral notebook with perforated pages. She turned to the first page. The first couple of paragraphs, all scrawled in cursive, read like a journal.

“I’m rereading Adventures in Wrimonia now. Time to take some notes.

“*Welcome to Wrimonia sign. This needs to show up in the first scene, which features Lindsey Grant and the megaphone a la the October first breaking news….

“Is that space between Plot Doctoring and Reaching 50k still there? Is there anything special about it? I guess it’s possible that this is just a representation of Mia’s imagination. But it could have gotten destroyed in the 2011 redesign, and this is what she’s looking for.”

Mia stopped right there. Reading Adventures in Wrimonia? What was this? Mia was in Wrimonia, and someone was writing a book, no, had already written a book on Wrimonia. But she wasn’t in this book, was she? Mia kept reading.

“Mia’s going to have a session with TSOD while finding herself.

“Mia got her laptop in 2008. She’ll probably lose her work at some point.

“Mia was an English major.

“Mia hunts for Chris Baty and the one place rumored to inspire all that she thinks she found a long time ago and that feeling of NaNo. I think I may need a title change…”

Wait a minute, Mia thought as she lowered the notebook. Mia? They couldn’t all be about her, could they? But they were all true statements if they were referring to her; Mia did in fact get her current computer in 2008, and she did major in English, and… wait a minute. Mia did have that session with the Traveling Shovel of Death.

But not all of these notes directly involved Mia’s adventures this year. And even if they did… Mia noticed that two of the pages were stuck together. She unstuck the pages and read the pages that she didn’t notice before.

“Mia’s dad was abducted by aliens when she was six.

“Mia discovered NaNo on 24 Oct 2009

“She likes to write and take photos.

“What if Mia wrote a novel about me? That would require much more silliness than she’s used to.

“Alaina: Mia’s muse, long red hair, bright blue eyes

“Inspiration Garden between Plot Doctoring and Reaching 50k: garden to her, everyone sees something different?”

In a flash of inspiration Mia turned back to the first page. 6 October 2012. She flipped through blank pages of the journal. There were no more entries.

So this was it, wasn’t it? Sushimustwrite was in fact the best person to ask about the inspiration garden, but asking a Wrimo writing a book about you for advice would be awkward after you disowned their authorship.

And then there was part where sushimustwrite knew all these little things about Mia. Who was sushimustwrite, a credit agency? She even knew all about Mia’s muse.

It was time to confront sushimustwrite, but in order to do that Mia had to leave the fog.

Clutching the notebook, Mia jumped down the chute. It was as wrinkly as Mia observed, but notebooks and pens and flash drives zoomed through the edges of the chute. Mia clutched tightly to the notebook. She would not lose this notebook. She would not.

Mia landed on a particularly wrinkly part of the chute. While the chute absorbed the notebooks and pens and flash drives, Mia slid right through, still clutching the notebook. She landed a minute later on the hard ground of Wrimonia and looked around.

Yes, this was exactly the place she had left. Same forums, Same location. But was it the same time?

Mia walked around Wrimonia in search of a clock. Surely not that much time had passed. When did she get sucked into the fog? That was what, day fourteen? Donation Day. Mia remembered seeing the signs requesting Wrimos to donate and all the fabulous prizes she could win if she did. Mia meant to donate on Donation Day to get that shiny halo on her head, but somehow getting sucked into the fog took precedence. It wasn’t too late to donate, was it?

Luckily there were more halo vendors than ever around Wrimonia, and Mia continued looking for a halo vendor who wasn’t occupied and for a sign that told her what day it was. The latter got resolved first when Mia saw a sign saying “Day 16. Target word count: 26672. Happy ML Appreciation Day! Thank your MLs today.”

Day Sixteen? What happened? Mia looked around. Her ML MattKinsi was nowhere in sight, but a halo vendor did stand a few feet from the sign, and this halo vendor was not affixing a halo to anyone. Mia approached this short vendor with halos of all kinds hanging from his stand.

“Welcome, welcome to the Donation Station,” the halo vendor said. He waved his right hand around the stand. “We sell halos of all sorts here in exchange for your support of Wrimonia.”

“I know,” Mia said, having heard the spiel multiple times before. “I just want the Extraordinary Helper halo, please.”

“Excellent!” the halo vendor said. “We’ve added a few new features to the Donation Station this year that you might not know about. You now have the option to support Wrimonia every month!”

“Every month?” Mia asked. “How does that work?”

“You choose an amount among our current donation amounts that you can donate every month for a year and file your information with us. Every month for twelve months we deduct that amount from your card. After twelve months you can choose to continue your monthly donation program with us.”

“That sounds neat,” Mia said. “I’m not sure I could commit to that for a year, though.”

“Like I said, you can donate as little as ten dollars a month,” the halo vendor pointed out. “And that still makes a world of difference to a small organization like us to create something as big as Wrimonia. Oh, I never told you about our other program.”

“What’s that?”

“It’s the extra noveling karma program. We could also call it the tip jar since that’s essentially what it is. That’ll let you donate any amount.” The halo vendor pointed to a jar sitting at the front of his stand, which contained spare change and bills.

“Any amount? Really?”

The halo vendor nodded. “People have been asking for this for years. We still take payments through PayPal for small amounts, but finally we set up a special donation jar for those small amounts. Spare change from coffee shop purchases. Change MLs get from donation jars. Change you find from behind the couch. All that adds up to keep Wrimonia going and make it even better next year.” He paused. “Oh right, you wanted an Extraordinary Helper halo. Hold on one second.” The halo vendor checked his stock of halos. “That’ll be $25.”

Mia handed the halo vendor some bills from her pocket, and the halo vendor stepped back from behind the stand with a halo and stepladder. “We have to tell you this every year,” he said. “But remember that removing the halo has to be done manually at Wrimo Hall, so speak now if you don’t want the halo attached.”

“I want the halo!” Mia said. “That’s half the reason I donate in the first place. All these other cool people have shiny halos attached to them, floating over their heads showing how angelic they are, and I don’t have mine yet.”

“All right, all right, I just have to tell everyone this.” The halo vendor scooted the ladder closer to Mia and stepped up on it, then adjusted the halo on Mia’s head. He made a couple more adjustments, then stepped down from the ladder. Mia glanced up at the halo and admired the halo vendor’s work.

“Aw, thanks,” she said.

“That halo will stay there until next October, guaranteed,” he said. “After that you’ll need to donate again to get a new halo.”

“I know,” Mia said, remembering her shock before her second NaNo when the halo from her first year disappeared. “This halo is for this season only.”

“That’s right. Any more questions?” Mia shook her head. “All right. Have a good day, and don’t forget to thank your ML today!”

Thank her ML… That was what Mia meant to do! She ran to the nearest WrimoRails stop and waited for WrimoRails to appear. The service was slow today, and Mia found herself tapping her feet and looking for something to write with while waiting. Which reminded Mia, where did her bag go? And did Wrimonia have a lost and found?

Mia looked up at the rails above. WrimoRails didn’t zoom on the rails like they usually did. What was going on?

But before Mia could ponder this too much, one set of WrimoRails appeared in front of her, and the door opened. Mia stepped aboard.

“Greetings,” the driver said. “Where would you like to go today?”

“United States, Georgia, Elsewhere,” Mia said. “But before we go there, does Wrimonia have a lost and found? I’ve lost my bag and that bag had my laptop and notebook and everything else I need for NaNo.”

“It certainly does,” the driver replied. “Would you like to go there? You can always catch another WrimoRails to go to the regional forum.”

Mia thought this through for a minute. She could thank her Municipal Liaison just about anytime and he’d probably appreciate it. But if she didn’t find her stuff soon… what if the fog ate it?

“Let’s go there,” Mia said.

“To the Lost and Found,” the driver said as she pushed a few buttons and directed WrimoRails.

“Do you know anything about the fog?” Mia asked as they zoomed past the Reference Desk.

“The fog?” the driver said. “It infects everyone, Mia. Some worse than others. You can get hurt really badly if you take the fog too seriously because it will eat you alive.”

“Has the fog ever eaten you?”

“Oh yes,” the driver replied. “Every year it grabs me, even if only for an evening. It tells me that my writing isn’t good enough, it thwacks me with everyone else’s notebooks and pens because their writing is so much better, and to make things worse, I can’t write with them because the pens won’t work.”

Mia didn’t know this last part; she could never grab a pen during her stay in the fog and therefore that last part remained untested.

“It’ll take your stuff too, that vicious fog. Anyway, here we are at the lost and found. Good luck finding your novel.” The WrimoRails door opened, and Mia stepped out of it. The driver waved. “Remember, we’ve all been there. You can find it.”\

**
And now we know about the fog that was mentioned earlier. Wrimonia has so many secrets! How can you document all of them?

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Legends of Wrimonia, Part Twenty: Mia’s Identity Crisis

With the shovel from the shop and the Son of the Traveling Shovel of Death’s endorsement of her plan, Mia had a new spring in her step over the next couple of days, but she still had no way to find Chris Baty, which reduced that spring significantly. She wandered around Wrimonia in search of an eraser bench, settled down on one in front of the This Is Going Far Better Than I’d Hoped forum, and tapped away at her novel.

Mia was keeping up with her word count far better than in past years, a relief thanks to last year’s disaster. Despite being at fifteen thousand words on day ten, which was slightly behind to reach fifty thousand words, Mia was still optimistic on this front. She was, however, less optimistic about her other quests.

But that didn’t matter at the moment, as there was writing to be done. Mia cracked open her laptop and got to work on her novel. Just as she was getting into the good part of today’s writing, another Wrimo sat down next to her and took out their laptop. Mia looked up and saw none other than sushimustwrite.

“Sushimustwrite?”

“Hi Mia,” sushimustwrite said as she settled in with her laptop. “How’s the noveling going?”

“Surprisingly well,” Mia replied. “I’m not far behind, but I can catch up. This novel’s going awfully well for being about zombies.”

“See, I knew you could do it,” sushimustwrite said. “I believed in you from the very beginning, from when I decided to write a book about you.”

Mia changed the topic. “Any luck on finding out where Chris Baty is?”

“I haven’t looked much,” sushimustwrite said. “But in the end it won’t be up to me to find him.”

“What do you mean?” Mia turned to face sushimustwrite, as they had been facing their laptops and writing the entire time before this.

“I mean it’s up to you to find him. I can help, though I’m not sure how helpful I’ll be. But in the end you’re the one who has to take the plunge and find him.”

“What do you mean me? How do you know I’m the one who has to do this?”

“Because you’re the main character in this story.”

Mia already knew this, of course; she remembered sushimustwrite telling her oh so long ago that her novel was about Mia’s NaNo adventures. But being the main character and hearing as much from sushimustwrite’s mouth was another matter entirely. And this led to another thought…

“Wait a minute,” Mia said. “Am I real? I mean, I can deal with being a character in your book. I’ve been around for awhile and maybe you find me interesting enough to write a NaNo novel about. Neat. But am I more than a character? I mean, I feel real. I have a job and an education and friends and a life. But did you create that or did I?”

“Mia, are you familiar with the line ‘I think, therefore I exist’?” sushimustwrite asked.

“Of course I am,” Mia replied. “Everyone knows it.”

“Well, you’re capable of thought, aren’t you?” sushimustwrite asked. Mia nodded. “Then why does it matter that I created you as a character?”

Mia stared at sushimustwrite. She tried to figure out what to say next but got distracted by a duck running past them, quacking happily. Well, if a duck’s quack could sound happy.

“I like having free will, okay?” Mia exclaimed after the sound of the duck’s quacks were out of earshot. “I like being able to do something and knowing that it was my choice, not the choice of some grand puppetmaster in the sky pulling the strings. Even if that puppetmaster is my author.”

“But I’m not pulling the puppet strings,” sushimustwrite said. “Much, anyway. I try to let you have free reign. Leaves me with less stuff to come up with on my own.”

“You’re still my author. And since you’re my author you’re still involved in creating stories surrounding me, which involves some puppet action.” Mia paused. “I thought you loved me!”

“I do love you,” sushimustwrite said. “Well, as a character anyway.”

“But only as a character.”

“You’re my favorite character, though!” sushimustwrite protested. “I’ve never had as much fun writing a character as I have writing you. Your story is also my favorite of all my NaNo novels, and I’ve written a lot of them. You can’t just go out and say I don’t like you because I do! Why do you think I wrote a sequel starring you when I never write sequels?”

“But you know what authors do?” Mia asked. “We’re known for being mean to our characters. We tie them up, we put them in the worst situations possible and make them worse, then laugh gleefully as we watch our characters wiggle our way out of them. We make them fall in love, we break their hearts, we kill the people they love, and if we’re feeling particularly sinister, we kill them too, all for the love of creating. And now I know you’ve done the same thing to me, and you’d keep doing it. Well, I won’t take it anymore. I quit. You can find some other main character for your book, but I’m not going to be in your book anymore.”

“Wait a minute,” sushimustwrite said. “You can’t do that.”

“Why not?” Mia asked as she scooped up her laptop and stuffed it in her bag. “You just said you aren’t pulling the puppet strings much. Maybe I don’t want to be a character anymore. I quit.”

“But this time I’m exercising my powers as author, Internet, and god to say you can’t quit. So there.”

“Watch me.”

Mia grabbed her bag and walked away from sushimustwrite. She may be a character in a book, but that didn’t mean she had to accept this fate. It was time for Mia to choose her own fate now.

Now that Mia had freed herself from associating with sushimustwrite’s novel, she found herself wandering around Wrimonia with mixed feelings. On one hand, she now had free will to do whatever she wanted without worrying about her author’s whims. On the other hand, sushimustwrite was probably one of the best people to help her on the quest for Chris Baty, and Mia may have lost any goodwill she previously had with sushimustwrite.

Mia didn’t want to think about this, so instead she made her way to another eraser bench to write. She had her own story to write, and even though the characters had personalities of their own, they were not, to the best of her knowledge, writing books about writing books. Mia was safe on that front, right?

**
This was another favorite to write, and it’s one I’ve always wondered about once she met me. Fun fact: the time of month this happened in coincides well with the the time of month things started to get pretty crazy for me outside of novel-writing, so this probably really happened.

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Legends of Wrimonia, Part Nineteen: The Traveling Shovel of Death’s Origins

The writing came slowly for Mia over the next few days, and she found herself struggling to get out of a plot hole she had written herself in. Plot corner would be as accurate, she decided as she struggled to get her characters to cooperate. After a couple of days of not exceeding quota Mia wandered around Wrimonia and ran into another place she had never experienced before.

It was a small farm, and on that farm was an odd variety of plants. Instead of flowers and fruits and vegetables and other oddities, she saw words and notebooks and pencils. Mia found herself wondering what would happen if she picked one of the notebooks. Would one grow back? She wasn’t in another inspiration garden, was she?

It was definitely worth the risk, she decided as she picked a notebook from the garden. It didn’t grow back; in fact, the plant yelled “Ouch!” as Mia snatched the notebook.

“I’m so sorry!” Mia said. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

A redheaded child ran out to the garden and petted the plant. She couldn’t have been older than fifteen, Mia decided. “Oh no,” the girl said. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Mia replied, but the girl said nothing. She continued to pet the plant and dump something on it. Mia watched and realized that the girl was dumping eraser shavings on the plant.

“Oh,” Mia said. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to hurt the plant.”

“It happens all the time,” the girl said. “The plants aren’t there for picking. You have to be gentle with them.”

“Whatever happened to grabbing inspiration wherever you saw it?”

“Take it, yes, but nourish it until fully realized.”

“Then what’s the point of something like NaNo?”

The girl didn’t get to answer, for Mia heard a noise from behind them. “What’s going on?” Mia asked.

“Oh, that’s Edgar making another shovel,” the girl said. “He makes all kinds of shovels. Plot shovels, inner editor shovels, everything you can think of.”

Shovels… Mia found a familiar memory in her head turning. And then she saw the sign in front that she had missed before.

“We make shovels,” the sign said. “Shovels to order here.”

“Do you really make all kinds of shovels?” Mia asked. The girl nodded.

All kinds of shovels? Really? “Then what do you know about the traveling shovel of death?”

The girl’s expression turned downward. “I’m sorry, I’m not allowed to talk about that shovel.”

“Why not?” Mia asked. “You just said you make all kinds of shovels here, and the traveling shovel of death is a shovel. If you make all the shovels here, then surely that one should have been made here as well, yes?”

The girl shook her head, but not in disagreement. “I’m still not allowed to talk about it,” she said. “Edgar has forbidden me to discuss it. He says he’ll tell me when I’m older, but it’s not for young ears to hear.”

“But can you tell me what you know about this shovel?” Mia asked. “Please? I’m trying to find out a little more about this shovel. It’s intrigued me ever since my first NaNoWriMo–”

“You and every other Wrimo,” the girl said. “They go on killing people in their novels with that shovel, not realizing that they’re staining our name and our shovel shop by doing so. We make all kinds of fine shovels here, but all everyone knows of our shovel shop is that one shovel that goes around killing people. Won’t people think of us, the people behind all the other shovels?”

“Looks like I touched a nerve. So if you’re not allowed to tell me anymore about the shovel, can you guide me to someone who can?”

As if on cue the door to that building opened and a rickety old man approached Mia and the girl. He held a shovel in his hand.

“What are you doing here?” the man yelled. “I heard a plant scream earlier and sent Diana to tend to it. Don’t tell me you picked a notebook. That one always hurts the worst for the plants.”

I’m sorry,” Mia said. “I just needed another notebook for my novel planning and was curious, that’s all.”

“That’s what they all say and I’m not just talking about the plants,” the man said. “They all say they’re curious and they just want to check out the plants or see where the shovels started, but really they just want to find out how that nasty shovel got its origins. Well, I’ll tell you, girl, I know nothing about that traveling shovel of death, so you can go away if that’s what you’re wanting to hear.” He shook the shovel at Mia.

“I’m sorry, sir, I just stumbled across this place while putting off writing,” Mia said. “But I was genuinely curious, that’s all. If it really does hurt your feelings that badly I’ll leave. I just remembered seeing your son three years ago and–”

“Never talk to me about that boy.” The man’s face turned even growlier if that was possible. “He’s no longer part of this family. We don’t mention his name around these parts either.”

“Why not?” Mia asked, but as soon as she blurted it out she realized it was a dumb question.

“No more! Now get out unless you want to hear more about my other shovels.”

This gave Mia an idea. “Actually, I’d love to hear about your other shovels. What kinds do you make?”

The man’s expression brightened up. “Well, right this way, little lady,” he said. He led Mia up the cobblestone path past the house and into a black building in the back. He closed the door behind Mia. “You stay out of here,” the man yelled at the girl. “Or better yet, go back in the house.”

The girl pouted but stayed outside. She walked away and the man turned to Mia, then set the shovel he had been carrying on the table. “We make shovels here, as you might have guessed,” the man said. “All sorts of shovels.”

“That’s neat,” Mia said. “How’d you get in that business anyway?”

“Shovels turned out to be something I made of necessity, you see, young lady. When I was younger I needed something to bury a dead bird with but didn’t have anything to do that with. I did, however, have some blacksmithing skills, so I crafted a shovel and buried the bird. This turned out to be the only ordinary shovel that I made.”

“The only ordinary shovel?” Mia asked.

“Of course,” the man replied. “That was when I ran into the witch.” His voice changed tone then. Mia noticed that it was a little darker, a little slower in speed. He deliberated over every word, relishing over the story he was telling.

“She was a lovely woman,” the man said. “Quite lovely indeed. Long red hair, bright eyes, and a way of crafting words that would make anyone feel incompetent at the craft. She could wow you with her words, and boy was she good at it. She seduced me into bed one night and left me with a gift afterward. It was a small gift, but it was quite a fine gift nonetheless.”

“What was it?” Mia asked.

“It was her own magic,” the man said. “Some of those magical abilities that she had possessed were now inside me thanks to my gaining the ability to love. She told me to use them wisely and not to use them for evil or bad things would happen. We wound up marrying and settling in this little place on the edge of Wrimonia.

Now there’s something you need to know. I had already loved and lost before and have a son to show for it.”

The man shuddered.

“I hesitate to bring him up, but he’s important to the story. You’ll see why soon. I used the magic this woman had given me to make shovels of all kinds. Plot shovels, inspiration shovels, character shovels… My son asked for a shovel of his own, or at least to learn how to make his own, and I told him no, this equipment was too dangerous, and he was too young to learn to use it. Looking back, maybe he wasn’t too young but I was too naive, too devoted to my shovel crafting to teach him the craft that had made me famous.”

“And then what happened?” Mia asked, now suspecting what would happen next.

“We don’t talk about that!” the man said. “Now out! Out!”

Mia knew when she wasn’t wanted, but she wanted a memory of this place. She snatched the shovel on the table and ran out the door and into the yard.

“Hey, give that shovel back!” the man yelled behind her. But he couldn’t chase her, so Mia ran all the back to the main part of Wrimonia, or at least intended to. With her shovel in hand she figured she could at least dig a hole to the other side of somewhere if that guy caught her, but then she ran right into a familiar figure.

“Ow.”

Mia looked up. Oh yes, this figure looked very familiar. She remembered from her very first year when she ran into this person and learned all about the tales of the traveling shovel of death.

Wait a minute.. the Traveling Shovel of Death. That was it. This figure, resembling the grim reaper except carrying a shovel, was the son of the traveling shovel of death. It all fit!

Mia turned to him, trying to remember what she did with that shovel. “Hello,” she said. “You’re the son of the traveling shovel of death, aren’t you?’

“That I am,” he said. His voice was as spooky as ever. “Have you used my shovel in your novel this year?”

Mia shook her head. “I’m afraid I haven’t,” she replied.

“Do you plan on it?”

“Can’t say that I have plans to. Though there will be deaths in my novel, what with writing a zombie novel and all.”

The son of the traveling shovel of death looked up at her. “Sounds like you could use a bit of my shovel to add some more death to your novel.”

“Maybe,” Mia said. “But I just ran into someone else who makes shovels and took this from him. How’d your shovel become the traveling shovel of death anyway?”

The son of the traveling shovel of death sat down on the eraser bench nearby and patted a seat next to him for Mia to sit down. Mia felt rather unsettled in sitting next to such a figure and did anyway. This was her chance to find out the real story.

“Was this man kind of elderly, obsessed with shovels?” the Son asked. Mia nodded. “And was there an annoying redhead kid lurking around?” Mia nodded again.

The son steepled his fingers together. “I should have known. That’s my father. There’s a reason I’m called the Son of the Traveling Shovel of Death, you know. You see, my father wouldn’t teach me how to make the shovels that I so wanted to make. I begged him to for years, wanting a shovel of my very own. He wouldn’t make me one for Christmas either, despite me putting one on my Christmas list every year.”

“So what’d you do?”

“I stole one,” the Son said. “I waited until my father was away from his shop and had several completed shovels in there before sneaking in there one day and taking one. That annoying redhead was a toddler at the time, so she wouldn’t know anything. Time has affected her in such weird ways, hasn’t it? One day she’s a toddler, the next she’s practically a woman. Oh yes. I stole the shovel, but instead of getting a plot shovel or any of the other nice and fluffy shovels that my father specialized in, I felt something more sinister from the shovel. I knew this wouldn’t be something that the stepmother put into the shovel. Well, not intentionally anyway. She married my father on the condition that he would make only positive shovels and if he didn’t, well, he would pay for it.

“But I took the shovel and something sinister came out of the shovel. I felt the need to try it out, and there was a little wasp nearby. I killed the wasp with the shovel.

“I’m not sure what took over me then. Suddenly the shovel wasn’t designed for any of the lovely writing inspired things that my father designed shovels for anymore. No. This shovel was for killing, and it was for killing characters in a bloody fashion. And I would be the master of this shovel.”

“So why’d your father get so upset about it?” Mia asked. “Surely this shovel would bring a lot of business to the shovel business. Lots of us need shovels of death to kill of character with.”

“There’s one thing you’re missing here,” the Son said. “You’re assuming a couple of things. One, that my father and I are still speaking. And two, that he’s willing to make such sinister shovels. You’d be incorrect there. He was never willing to make such shovels, and he stopped speaking to me after finding out that the shovel had become a shovel of death. When news got to him that the shovel had become a wildly popular Wrimonia tradition, the shovel industry had been ruined… well, according to him anyway. I’m sure people are convincing him that they need plot shovels to dig them out of plot holes and the like, but let’s face it.” The Son pointed at Mia’s shovel then. “The shovel of death will always be the most popular shovel and if he would recognize this, everything would be so much better for the shovels.”

“Wow,” Mia said. “So you’re saying that you got shunned for introducing such a popular thing to Wrimonia? That must really suck.”

“It does, but I’m living my own life now,” the Son said. “See, my shovel’s on a trading card now! Fame and fortune! Can my dad say that much about his life?”

“A trading card?”

The Son reached into a pocket and grabbed a card from the folds of his clothing, then showed it to Mia. Mia read the card.

“Traveling Shovel of Death,” Mia read the front of the card, which featured an anthropomorphic shovel. She turned the card over and read the description on the back aloud. “Killer for hire. Expert at moving plot forward. Doesn’t discriminate based on genre.”

“Darn right!” the Son said.

Mia continued. “The rules are simple. You kill a character. With a shovel. It’s called the Traveling Shovel of Death. –NaNoWriMo forums. +7 The Traveling Shovel of Death sings a musical number. Warning: May cause shovelphobia.”

But Mia had never seen these trading cards before. “Where did you get this anyway?” she asked.

“They were part of Wrimonia’s summer fundraising drive,” the Son explained. “If you donated fifty dollars, you received a pack of trading cards, and my shovel was featured on one of them. Little old me!” The Son jumped up, clutching his shovel.

“Who else became a trading card?”

“There was Mr. Ian Woon, and the plot bunny, and the guilt monkey, and good old Chris Baty himself. Wonder what happened to him?”

“He’s not here,” Mia said. “No one knows where he is except that he’s not here.”

“Not… here?” the Son asked. “But he’s Christ Baty, founder of Wrimonia and NaNoWriMo. He’s supposed to be here.”

“But he’s not,” Mia replied. “And I don’t know where he is either.”

The Son looked down. “I guess you’ll have to find him, won’t you?”

“I guess I will.”

**

And now we know how the Traveling Shovel of Death came to be. Man, Mia’s got a lot of pressure to find Chris Baty.

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