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?”
“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.