Legends of Wrimonia

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Eight: The Little Blue Birds

Mia still hand’t found out any more about the legends of NaNoWriMo over the next few days, nor could she shake off that feeling of being followed. Even worse, her plot still hand’t progressed at all in her head, and she started to worry that maybe that crazy idea of zombies would have to sneak into her novel after all. Zombies! Why would zombies fit into what was supposed to be a lit fic novel? It made no sense at all.

But the feeling of being followed wouldn’t go away, and next thing Mia knew it was October 31 and she was still waffling over whether or not to include zombies in her plot. Why was making a decision like this so hard? One would think that she could just decide yes or no and get on with it.

Because it was October thirty-first, Wrimos on the other side of the world were already entering November and entering word counts, their blue bars hovering over their heads just like they did in past years. Most Wrimos had a few hundred or thousand words, but Mia noticed a few folks with ten thousand or more. Given that it was already late afternoon for Mia, this was unsurprising; some folks could have stayed up late to write all the words. But on a work or school night?

Little blue birds flew to Wrimonia from the sky, and lots of Wrimos with word counts in the vicinity caught the birds and started typing at their request. A few Wrimos without word counts and who Mia knew weren’t due to start NaNo for hours more still watched these birds with interest.

“What’s going on?” Mia asked someone, looking up at the blue birds flying into and out of Wrimonia.

“That’s the NaNoWordSprints account on Twitter,” a Wrimo by the name of honeyelle explained.

“Not Twitter again,” Mia said. “I thought I didn’t have to join Twitter to do NaNo.”

“You don’t,” Honeyelle said. “But a lot of Wrimos are on Twitter, and for those who are we run word sprints, or word wars if you want to call them that, over Twitter. You know what a word war is, yes?”

Mia thought back to her first year of NaNo when she wandered into the wars, prompts, and sprints forum and found herself in a war run by BattleJesus. She remembered dodging the words and entering her word count at the end of the war. Yes, she was definitely familiar with a word war. But a word war over Twitter? Didn’t that prove to be too much of a distraction? She already knew that social media in general was too much of a distraction. She had a Facebook account just because it felt necessary but didn’t bother to read anyone’s updates except those of her closest friends because otherwise she’d find herself reading updates of people she didn’t really care about, all those updates of people getting engaged or married or having kids or heaven forbid, getting divorced (Which is already happening in some circles from college). Mia didn’t need to add Twitter to the list of distractions.

“Yes, I know what a word war is,” Mia said. “I’ve done them since my first year. I don’t like to do too many of them, though. My writing tends to suffer when I do.”

“That’s okay,” honeyelle replied. “Not everyone writes in word wars all the time. Some have to have a word war to sit down and get going. Others just need a war to get those final five hundred words or so in order to get to a milestone. You know, ten thousand, twenty-five thousand, even fifty thousand. Use them however you like. But some people on Twitter find the NaNoWordSprints account to be productive and let’s face it, a good use of Twitter. If you’re going to be on Twitter, you may as well use some of that time to write, yes?”

“I guess so.”

“That’s the spirit,” honeyelle said. “SO that’s what’s going on with this. The people running the sprints are a few staff members and volunteers, mostly MLs, from around the world, but there are few former MLs too who did it last year while MLing. You might know Sarah Mackey and Heather Dudley. They’re doing some of the sprints, and the rest are mostly MLs or past MLs. It’s fun, and even if you aren’t on Twitter you can still follow along if you want.”

Mia thought about this. Maybe she would. She could just follow the account, right? She didn’t have to join Twitter if she didn’t want to. That would be far too much of a waste of time when there was a novel to be written. Besides, NaNo starts tomorrow! She couldn’t afford another distraction just before NaNo gets here, especially when there are so many things to see and do in November.

“Oh, there’s the bell,” honeyelle said as a quiet tinny bell went off. “My sprint shift is next.” And Mia noticed that honeyelle did have a small word count over her head. Honeyelle ran off, and Mia found herself looking at the sky where the blue birds were all flying toward Wrimonia. She didn’t stare at them for too long, though; she had something to figure out.

Mia passed a group of Wrimos with word counts, all in the lower thousands, and found herself in The Polling Booth forum. The Polling Booth! She had never explored this forum before, primarily because she never had a question that she needed to poll Wrimos about. But now she did, and even though she might not necessarily listen to the Wrimos’ advice (as much as she hated to admit it to herself) she may as well get some good advice while she was there.

So Mia entered the Polling Booth and started a new thread, this one featuring red velvet chairs and couches.

“Zombies in my novel: Yay or nay?” Mia titled the thread. She started speaking to the thread about her novel: the plot, the characters, the other ideas she had so far. And then she got to the big question.

“Should I include zombies in my novel?” Mia asked. “I don’t think I can include zombies in my novel. I don’t write zombies. All my novels are mainstream or lit fic, and zombies don’t have a place in those kinds of books. When did you read a lit fic novel with zombies in it?”

A Wrimo entered the thread, and Mia spotted her nametag, a user with no word count bar by the name of Starrlilly. “So what do you think about my idea?” Mia asked. “Should I include zombies in my novel?”

“Go for it,” Starrlilly replied. “I’m kind of biased. I don’t write mainstream or lit fic at all and honestly, all books could use a few zombies in them.”

Mia looked around the thread and spotted a vase with sunflowers in it. She picked one up.

“Well, thanks,” Mia said as another Wrimo entered the thread. This Wrimo went by Inoru no Hoshi.

“Yes!” Inoru no Hoshi said. “Include all the zombies in your novel. Your book is begging for it.”

“But I don’t write zombies,” Mia replied. “I don’t write zombies in my books at all, and I’d have no idea where to start.”

“Have you seen Zombieland?” Inoru no Hoshi asked.

Mia shook her head. She had heard of it, but zombies. They were creepy.

“You need to see it,” Inoru no Hoshi replied. “If you’re going to use zombies in your novel in an urban setting, you need to see it. Especially if you’re going have the book take place in the near future.”

“But when am I going to watch it?” Mia asked. “NaNo starts tomorrow. I don’t have time to watch it.”

“Who says you have to watch the whole thing?” Starrlilly asked. “Just watch some Youtube clips. Problem solved.”

But that was procrastination, and Mia still had a plot to plan before November arrived. One that decidedly did not include zombies.

But Inoru no Hoshi and Starrlilly kept insisting, and they dragged Mia out of the thread, past the forums (Mia noticed the Games and Roleplaying forums as the last forums they walked past), and into a dark yet familiar pit. Mia saw the sign next to the steep hill: “The Pit of Procrastination”.

Oh, the memories Mia had of this place, the place she found herself in last year when not wanting to work on her novel. She never knew this place was here until last year when she found herself not wanting to work on her novel, stuck during Week Two and unable to figure out what to do next. Mia faced the pit, noticing the lack of way to get back up and remembering how she struggled to escape last year.

Should she enter the pit? NaNo was due to start in just hours, as Mia saw on the countdown clock. Eight hours, twelve minutes to go, Could she escape in twelve hours?

Mia looked down the hill, took Inoru no Hoshi’s and Starrlilly’s hands, and the three of them jumped into the Pit of Procrastination.


I just cut almost 1600 words because they essentially reproduced what I wrote in a previous scene. Whoops. Wrimo mentioned in that scene, you’ll get in another scene, promise!

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Legends of Wrimonia

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Seven: The Inspiration Garden

Over the next few days Mia couldn’t shake off the feeling that she was being followed. This feeling didn’t happen all the time as Mia traveled from forum to forum via WrimoRails (and that would be very creepy during those times when Mia was the only person on WrimoRails), but every now and then Mia felt her hairs on the back of her neck raise.

The first time this happened was the next day after Mia ran into the Church of NaNo folks. Mia was walking out of the All Ages Coffee House when she couldn’t shake off the feeling of being followed. Every time she turned around she wouldn’t see anyone, or she would see ordinary Wrimos who didn’t look like they were following her at all. Even if they were following her they didn’t look at all suspicious, so why did Mia’s hair raise at the back of her neck? It was all very strange to Mia, and she couldn’t shake this feeling off over the rest of the day as she walked around the rest of the forum and eventually found herself in what looked like the very same place she found herself in three years ago.

It was indeed a familiar place, but she didn’t see any of the familiar figures that she saw three years ago. She remembered that experience quite well. The introduction of Alaina the muse, the characters in her novel… all that stood out in her head like it was yesterday.

But after hearing everything in the church of NaNo, Mia found herself wondering whether this was a true garden or just the experience. Or were they one and the same? No one really knew, and that was part of the mystery. Mia continued exploring the garden while no one was there.

A rose bush grew to the side of Mia directly to the left as she looked around. It appeared as if by magic, as if Mia could look at something and wish it there. Mia looked to the right and saw another rose bush grow before her eyes, and she wondered whether this was something that was true only of the true garden. After all, nothing like this had ever happened in the inspiration garden (or was it an inspiration garden experience? she reminded herself. It could have been a fake experience, after all) when she was there three years before.

But Mia kept looking ahead and wondered whether she could actually will things into the garden. After all, she didn’t will those roses into the garden, even though she liked those roses quite a bit. So she started to think of things she could put in the garden.

I wish there were a gazebo in this garden, she thought to herself.

And suddenly, a gazebo appeared, as if by magic. Actually it probably was by magic, as everything in Wrimonia was magic in some form or another. Thinking this thought made Mia look up and spot the lack of halo on her head, and she noticed that no, she still hand’t picked up a halo to fund the magic of Wrimonia yet.

She walked toward the gazebo. It was a hexagonal gazebo, made of wood and metal with a cute little roof and benches inside. Eraser benches just like the rest of Wrimonia, and Mia wondered why the rest of Wrimonia didn’t have these cute little gazebos all over the place.

Mia continued looking around the inspiration garden, wondering what else she could will in there. If she could will a physical object into this garden, surely she could will something else in here. Surely she could will,…

Her muse.

She thought about her muse, visualizing Alaina in her mind’s eye, the red hair, the green eyes, the flowing dress Alaina was wearing last time they met. She remembered how Alaina didn’t like the fog of last year, but here in the garden and in the rest of Wrimonia,t here was no fog, only bright clear skies and a sun shining down on Wrimonia as if this was the only place in the world for the sun to shine.

And it worked. Alaina the muse materialized in the garden, right in the middle of the gazebo.

“Alaina!” Mia yelled, forgetting that she was in fact still in Wrimonia and that people probably could still hear her. “It’s you! It’s been so long. Where have you been all through last year and through the off season and everything else I could have used you for when I was struggling to make this story work.”

Alaina reached out and touched Mia’s hand. “Oh Mia,” Alaina said. “It’s been a long year, friend.”

“A long year?” Mia asked. “What about a long year for me?”

Alaina sighed. Mia didn’t understand.

“You have to understand,” Alaina said. “We muses are delicate. But in the end after everything we do, it’s you who does all the hard work. We muses can provide much inspiration, but as much poking and prodding as we do, well, that doesn’t make everything work out in the end. Eventually you have to take the reins and do some of the work. And I hate to say it, but I think you did forget some of that last year.”

Mia pondered this. Maybe… She remembered the struggles she had last year, the fog and Alaina hiding in the depths of Wrimonia and the search for her and how Mia almost didn’t find Alaina at all. Was Alaina still subject to the fog? Was she still going to do something like hide from Mia in Mia’s own time of need?

“No,” Mia said aloud. “How are you doing?”

Mia didn’t realize that she had said this. Not to Alaina and how dare she badmouth her muse?

“I didn’t know how to take it,” Alaina said. “The fog, the struggle to find a plot, your personal lack of strength to see the story through… it’s enough to make a muse go crazy.”

Mia nodded. She hardly knew anything about this, but oh, she knew everything. She had lived this, remember.

“It wasn’t my fault!” Mia exclaimed. “The fog was thick! I didn’t know what to do! I hated my story, and that story was something you gave me. I thought it was going to be something I’d be good at writing, and you– you ruined it.”

Alaina’s jaw dropped. Bad at it? But she was just a muse!

“I did what I could,” Alaina said. “I already told you this. What’s a muse to do? All muses, well most of them anyway, are delicate creatures, and well, we don’t have any obligation to protect our writers.”

This was the part that set Mia off. “I can’t believe you,” Mia said. “I thought you’d protect me.”

“Don’t you remember your first year?” Alaina asked.

“When Writer’s Block captured you?” Mia asked. Alaina nodded. “Of course I do. Writer’s block kidnapped you for half the month and you tried to free yourself so you could help me with my book. I wanted to do anything to save you, and I Tried my best, but I couldn’t find you anywhere. There are strange places you muses hide, and you don’t make yourselves found easily.”

Alaina’s face fell. “What do you mean by that?” she asked.

“I mean that…” Mia said. “Actually, I’m not quite sure what I mean anymore. It’s hard to say, really. Everything’s a mess right now, and I don’t know what to make of it. Listen, I don’t have a plot, I don’t have characters, I don’t have anything resembling a story for November at all and you aren’t helping.” By this point Mia was walking in circles around Alaina, alternating with fast and slow circles.

“Give it time, Mia,” Alaina said. “A plot will come.”

Mia stopped. “Wait a minute. If I could wish you in here, can I wish a plot in here?”

Alaina shook her head, but Mia couldn’t help but notice a tinge of sandess on Alaina’s face. “No, I’m sorry,” Alaina said. “There are limitations to this place, you know.”

“Limitations?” Mia asked. “What kind?”

“Well, you can’t get this garden to do anything for you,” Alaina explained.

“But when I was here three years ago–”

“That was different,” Alaina interrupted. “Your story was already there; you just needed a guide to help it out of you. This year you have no story; you’ve already admitted as much. You can’t just wish any old plot in here; what if you get a story you hate and keep wishing new stories in here until you find one you like, or at least don’t hate? You might end up with a repeat of last year.”

“Please don’t talk about last year” Mia said. “I already feel bad enough about it as it is. I don’t need my freaking muse reminding me about it too”

“Yes, I know,” Alaina said. “But it needs to be said. That’s why you can’t just wish a plot in here.”

“So what else can’t I wish in here?”

“Maybe it’s better for me to tell you what you can wish in here,” Alaina explained. “You can wish anything in here besides your actual plot or anything that will write the book for you directly. So you can’t wish someone else to write the book for you and you can’t wish for a co-author, but you can wish for something to inspire you, a book to read that might spring ideas, anything else that might give you ideas. You can even wish for a way to provide you with a new way of experiencing these things so you don’t see them the way you usually do.”

“And what happens if I were to wish for a plot?”

“Find out.”

Mia wished really hard deep in her heart for a plot to appear. In the distance she heard a boom. Mia jumped up.

“What was that?” Mia asked.

“Oh, that was the boom of laziness,” Alaina explained. “It happens when you know someone’s being lazy about their novel in an obvious way. They happen every now and then.”

“Then why haven’t I heard the booms of other people over the past three years?” Mia asked. Surely other Wrimos would have been lazy about this, and surely she would have heard all the accompanying booms.

“You hear the booms in direct proportion to how much they affect you,” Alaina said. “Most of them don’t affect you at all. Why would you care about someone else’s laziness?”

So Mia sat there and thought about her plot for awhile, wandering the garden, wishing different things into existence as a chance to figure out something about her plot. Maybe something would come and maybe something would come quickly, but at any rate, something better come before November first. It was something that needed to come if she was going write something that didn’t begin “It was a dark and stormy night” because that was Mia’s least favorite line ever. Well, after “Once upon a time”.

While Mia was wishing things into the garden (which really would have been inspirational if Mia weren’t facing so much pressure to figure out a plot, now that she thought of it), Mia noticed that the feeling that someone was following her was completely gone. Apparently whoever was following her around the forum wasn’t in the garden. Unless…

“You weren’t the person who was following me around, were you?” Mia asked.

Alaina looked at Mia. “What are you talking about?”

“I’ve been feeling like someone’s been following me around, and yes I mean that in a creepy way,” Mia replied. “I’m not sure how to describe it, but every now and then I feel like the eyes in the back of my head, or maybe the metaphorical ones, are watching something that’s watching me and I don’t know what to make of it. Then I turn around and whatever it is, well, it’s suddenly gone. It wasn’t you, was it?”

Alaina still looked confused, so Mia dismissed this idea. This didn’t help her at all, but whatever (or whoever) was following her must still be around if it wasn’t Alaina…

And whoever it was would probably still be following her once she returned to the main forums… They were still around somewhere. But where would they be?

Mia looked around the inspiration garden, wondering where such a source of inspiration for a plot would be. It would be wonderful if this garden actually inspired such a plot, so nice, so clean, so innately beautiful…

How could this garden stay so pretty, anyway? Mia wondered. Surely the folks who ran Wrimonia had to maintain the garden and keep it beautiful, making sure everything could appear by magic from year to year. Yet Mia never saw any bugs about it in the tech help forum…

And yet if that were the case, surely the staff would know more about such a place, and they never showed any indication of knowing about it…

Mia remembered her first experience in this garden three years ago, where she met the characters of her first novel. Why couldn’t Alaina just usher her into the plot this time?

And yet…

Mia stayed in the inspiration garden all day, Alaina by her side. She fell asleep at some point, and when she did, a bed much like the one she had at home with a large comfy quilt appeared to cover her. And as Mia dreamed she found herself traveling into the future.

The year was 2018. Mia wasn’t sure how she knew this, but for some reason she just knew. People always knew these things in dreams, she decided, and in her dream it was 2018. Six years from now. What would she be doing in six years. Would she be doing NaNo in six years? Mia didn’t know why these things popped up in dreams but shrugged it off as something that just popped up in dreams.

The world was definitely not like the one she lived in now. Children born out of wedlock were sent to be raised in orphanages. Progress on social issues had gone backwards instead of forwards.

And then… there were zombies. Mia ran from one as it stumbled down the sidewalk. The zombie went faster and faster until Mia couldn’t keep up any longer and the zombie was lunging for her neck. She drew a pistol from her belt (where did that come from?) and shot the zombie. gggggggggg, the zombie groaned as it fell to the ground.

Mia looked at the zombie, now full of… unlife? Yes, unlife. That was the term. If there was one zombie here, there had to be another one.

Mia awoke with a start. Why wasn’t she standing in the middle of an abandoned city with a pistol in her hand? She was just there. She could have sworn that she was just there. She was just out there shooting a zombie and saving her own life.

And then Mia remembered the world she was living in. She looked across the garden to Alaina, who was picking a rose from the rosebush. Alaina walked across the garden and handed the rose to Mia.

“For you,” Alaina said.

Mia walked over to the nearest rosebush, picked another rose, and handed it to Alaina. “For you.”


Braaaaaaains. The plot Mia found is essentially one of quixotic_hope’s plots but with zombies. It would have been the third book written had I finished this one within a reasonable November time frame.

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Legends of Wrimonia

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Six: The Church of NaNoWriMo

The next day while searching Wrimonia for Chris Baty, Mia ran across a small building that looked like a church. This building had never been there before to the best of Mia’s knowledge: a small building with the NaNo shield. Mia thought of the symbols of various religions, most notably the Christian cross. None of these religions had shields as logos. She approached the group of people outside the building.

“Greetings!” a Wrimo carrying a mug and wearing fingerless gloves said as he approached Mia. Mia examined the nametag and saw that this Wrimo was MattKinsi, who had done NaNo since 2004, winning all but one of those years. A halo hovered over his head.

Now here was a Wrimo who had done NaNo for a long time. Mia looked at the building again and noticed a small table full of writing accessories: notebooks, pens, and other noveling paraphernalia.

“Welcome to the Church of NaNo,” MattKinsi said.

“Church… of NaNo?” Mia asked.

The truth was that Mia wasn’t a very big churchgoer. Sure, she went to church a few times as a kid, mostly when her friends invited her to church and she slept over at their houses the night before and went to Sunday school with them. She quite enjoyed this at face value as a kid; she got to dress up in pretty dresses and shoes and hear stories, but thinking back she realized that hearing stories like this wasn’t the way she wanted to go with her faith. Of course, her parents’ lack of faith may have been affected by her father’s abduction by aliens. What kind of faith did aliens have, anyway? This topic (and many others) was a topic that her dad was never all that open on, and it was one that Mia never dared discuss; on the rare occasion that someone did discuss the topic, he would clam up and retreat to an empty room.

Mia never did find out the truth behind this. She did know, however, that her dad was quite the space and extraterrestrial life enthusiast before this, but that spark for interplanetary life never did come back after that…

Still, all that didn’t stop her curiosity. NaNo had a church too? What would they do in their churches, sit in pews, sip caffeinated beverages, and write? Would Chris Baty stand a the podium and preach the good word about writing a novel in a month and encourage Wrimos to spread the good news that yes, there are other writers out there and yes, that story you have to tell can be told and it could be told in a month?

Wait a minute. Chris Baty. The thought hit her as she remembered her mission on this novel-writing adventure.

“Excuse me, do you know where Chris Baty is?” Mia asked.

“Chris Baty?” MattKinsi asked. “Why no, I haven’t seen him in a very long time.”

And then another thought occurred to Mia. Churches and other religious institutions were known for their stories in their holy texts. Surely this church of NaNo would have some holy text containing all the stories the Knights of NaNo hinted at.

“But you’re the Church of Nano,’ Mia exclaimed. “You should know something.”

“I’m afraid we know nothing,” MattKinsi said. “He left Wrimonia in January. We know not where he is. He could be here now, but he has been testing our faith.”

Mia sighed. This too? Why was everything testing her right now? All she wanted to do was find Chris Baty and figure out a plot and get a novel written. Surely this didn’t have to be so hard, did it? But sure enough it seemed to be getting harder and harder.

“Look, you’re the Church,” Mia said. “Do you at least know the legends?”

“Legends?” another Wrimo perked up and walked toward Mia and MattKinsi. “Legends of NaNoWriMo, you ask?”

Mia nodded as this Wrimo approached the pair. This Wrimo’s nametag read Lauren E. Mitchell, and Mia saw that she had won every year since 2004. Another wise old Wrimo, and another Municipal Liaison to boot. Surely she would know something about the legends. These were MLs we were talking about here!

“Yes, legends of NaNoWriMo,” Mia explained. “The knights of NaNoWriMo told me about them and how not everyone knew the real story of how they began. But you’re the church. Don’t you have some kind of holy text?”

Something was better than nothing, but Mia found herself wondering whether a false something was better than nothing at all. What if they didn’t know anything? Or maybe (and she couldn’t decide whether this was better or worse) what if they knew something that turned out to be false? The entire affair started to seem like quite a difficult one, but Mia sighed and stuck it out.

“A lot of us are longtime Wrimos, but even we don’t know anything about the legends of NaNoWriMo,” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “No one does. There are some people who come close, but you may have a hard time chasing them down directly.”

“I don’t care. I need to talk to them.”

“Are you sure?” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “I’m not saying you shouldn’t, but you should talk to them now before November starts.”

“I’m positive,” Mia said.

“I’ll tell you what I can,” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “But for everything else, well, whatever else is reliable anyway, you’ll have to go to sushimustwrite and her archives.”

sushimustwrite. Why did this name ring such a bell in Mia’s head?

“So let me tell you about the first legend, the one of the inspiration garden,” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “There are rumors of an inspiration garden somewhere in Wrimonia. No one has ever visited it that we know of, but the legend goes that when you visit it all inspiration comes to you and all that inspiration is just right, as all inspiration should be at that time. A few folks have spoken of having seen such a thing, but theres no telling whether they actually visited the garden or some duplicate.”

An inspiration garden… “But doesn’t that not exist anymore?” Mia asked. “I thought it got destroyed when the forums got expanded.”

“That’s what a lot of folks are saying,” MattKinsi said, chiming in. “And I’ve talked with others who think so as well, but there are some who think it’s still there…”

Mia didn’t want to say anything about her own visit to the inspiration garden three years ago… She remembered it like it was yesterday, the wandering around looking for a plot all over Wrimonia for what felt like months even though it was just weeks and finally stumbling across her characters and her story. It wasn’t the best story in the world. Of course it wasn’t; it was just a first draft. but it contained a lot of the things she liked about a novel and it was a heck of a lot of fun to write, even if it did contain that scene with the busty lesbian cabbage pirate ninjas. Where did those come from?

But was that the real inspiration garden or just an imitation? And more importantly… “How would one know the difference anyway?” Mia asked.

“We’re still trying to figure it out ourselves. But there are some things we haven’t been able to solve yet. It’s up there in the mysteries of Wrimonia.”

Mia thought back to her other strange occurrences in Wrimonia before realizing that just about everything that had ever happened in Wrimonia could be qualified as strange in some way because that was how Wrimonia rolled, yes? There was something about Wrimonia and the NaNo culture that made Wrimos embrace the strange and unexpected and made them love the quirks in their very culture.

Before Mia could interrupt with another question she heard a chant.

“All hail,” the chanters said. “All hail to NaNoWriMo and caffeine. May our novels be wordy and may our bodies always be caffeinated.”

“All hail?” Mia asked. “You mean this really is a church?”

“You could say that,” MattKinsi replied.

“No one ever told you MattKinsi here is the prophet,” Lauren E. Mitchell said. “He is our moist and delicious prophet, and we observe this by licking–”

“HEY!” MattKinsi protested. “No one here is allowed to salivate on me.”

“I’m sure Chris Baty would be glad to know his prophet is moist and delicious,” another Wrimo said, emerging from the chanting. Mia looked up and saw a nametag that said RuncibleSpoon. She had won NaNo for the past two years.

Moist? Delicious? What was this all about, and why were people in this church of NaNo suddenly trying to lick each other? Or more specifically trying to lick a certain MattKinsi? And how did he become so moist and delicious? He didn’t look all that moist or delicious to Mia, though she had no desire to test this.

She saw a sign over next to the table that said #lickMattKinsi. Lick MattKinsi? With a pound sign next to it? What was that supposed to mean?

But then Mia saw little blue birds fly toward the group. A few members of the group delivered small messages to the blue birds, and the birds flew away into the distance, tweeting.

“What’s going on?” Mia asked.

“Twitter,” RuncibleSpoon explained. “It’s a site where you send updates and follow people and laugh at the updates while simultaneously being depressed by the state of humanity. Kind of like most of the Internet but in real time.”

“Sounds too much like Facebook,” Mia said. The truth was that she had heard of Twitter before this NaNo season, but it sounded way too much like Facebook and was all public for her to get behind it. Besides, all that social media stuff was silly. Who would want to read Mia’s mundane updates? She imagined what those updates would look like. “2500 words written today.” “Characters won’t cooperate.” “Can’t find a plot. Anyone got a plot to spare?”

But RuncibleSpoon kept explaining about Twitter to Mia, even though Mia really didn’t want to join Twitter. “I don’t want another distraction right before NaNo,” Mia said. “I already have enough distractions as it is. Look at the forums. Look at everything else around Wrimonia. Look at this quest I’m on.” Mia paused. “Speaking of this quest, why are we talking about licking MattKinsi when I could be getting info on the legends of NaNo?”

“Thank you!” MattKinsi said. “You are against the licking of me, right?”

Mia looked at Matt. “We’ll see about that,” Mia said. “I need to get going.”

But as Mia walked away from the group, she ran into another group of Wrimos. “All hail Heather Dudley, magnificent forum mod,” they said. “She is made of magic and wonder,” one of them chimed in. “And she can travel in time,” another said. “And she exists in all dimensions,” another said.

Mia noticed the life-sized cardboard model of Heather Dudley; Mia recognized her from past years as the head forum moderator. The life-size model had a crown on its head, and the Wrimos stood around this model.

“Why are we all worshiping Dragonchilde?” Mia asked.

“She’s made of magic,” one Wrimo by the name of mixeduppainter said. “And I swear she has superpowers. Did you see her magical cape of forum magic?”

“Don’t all the staff members have capes of magic?” Mia asked.

Mixeduppainter shook her head. “Oh, they’re all made of magic, all right,” she said. “But only Heather’s cape has a special forum magic added to it that lets her jump tall forum with a single bound and ban trolls with a single hit to the head with a big stick. I hear it’s going to be upgraded to a real banhammer if we get enough donations this year.”

A real banhammer… Mia imagined all the trolls Heather could ban with a banhammer. Heather would be able to take out trolls not only with a single hit, but with a violent hit at that.

“And you know what else Heather can do?” another Wrimo by the name of Alex JF asked.

“What?” Mia asked, now genuinely curious.

“She can visit a thread just by thinking about it,” Alex JF whispered. “You know how we have to search the forums manually or take the elevator or WrimoRails?” Mia nodded. “She can just think about a thread and she’s there. She has superpowers, Mia, and I swear she’s made of magic.” The group of Wrimos around mixeduppainter and Alex JF nodded in agreement.

Mia started to leave but on her way out she ran into another group of Wrimos wearing NaNoWriMo shirts and handing pamphlets to other Wrimos as they passed.

One Wrimo handed Mia a pamphlet. “What’s this?” Mia asked.

“Welcome to NaNoVangelism,” the Wrimo said. Mia examined the cover. Spreading the good word of NaNoWriMo, the cover read. A NaNo logo also graced the front of the pamphlet.

“No, really, what is this?” Mia asked as she opened the pamphlet. “Telling others the good news,” the pamphlet read.

“It’s a guide to showing others the light of NaNoWriMo,” the Wrimo, whose nametag read Miri Mirror, said. “Every now and then you might encounter someone who doesn’t know the good news of NaNoWriMo. Sometimes it’s hard to show them how amazing the NaNo experience is, especially when they don’t think they can write fiction or they don’t think they have the time to write fifty thousand words in a month or they don’t think they can write prose that’s any good, but that’s okay. We’ve made guides that tell you exactly how to approach these fickle people and the stubborn ones and how to convince them that they too should do National Novel Writing Month and join us in the good land of Wrimonia.”

Mia studied the inside, reading it carefully. It contained tips on how to convince these people starting with telling them what exactly NaNoWriMo was: a fun, seat of your pants challenge to write a book of fifty thousand words in a month. specifically the month of November. That wasn’t all, though; the most important part was to emphasize the fun of the experience; after all, NaNo was more about fun than anything else, and not having fun was completely undermining that.

“So how exactly do you go about these steps?” Mia asked. There weren’t any scripts on exactly what to say, meaning that if the conversation got derailed, everything would be off, and to be quite honest (if Mia was going to be completely honest with herself, which she was at the moment), she wasn’t the greatest conversationalist. She and one of her friends who didn’t do NaNo (but was quite supportive of Mia’s noveling experiences) would have pretend fights for the queen of awkward. Mia’s friend, whose name was Natalie, would insist that she was the queen of awkward, but Mia knew better. Natalie was a social butterfly in situations like telling people about things she loved, and Mia was the one who stood in the corner when faced with a lot of people she didn’t know with nothing to talk about. Natalie could talk about anything. Mia was the one who needed a common topic. Maybe that was what NaNoWriMo was good for and why she didn’t suffer from awkwardness and shyness from not wanting to step into a forum topic as much here; she knew that everyone here was as wiling to talk about NaNoWriMo and writing and the noveling experience as she was. And that was what made NaNoWriMo, in part, what it was: the common bond of the noveling experience.

“But what if we do go off script?” Mia asked while these thoughts sent through her mind and Miri Mirror didn’t answer. “I mean, I can’t just force NaNo on people. That’s like telling people about Jesus and having the other person think that they don’t give a crap and eventually yelling at me to go away. This is what gives religious nuts the reputation that they do.”

Miri Mirror nodded. She understood. “You first need to listen to the people,” she explained. “You need to understand here they’re coming from.” Miri Mirror studied Mia’s username badge. Two wins, one loss. “You know what it’s like to do NaNo while busy, I take it. You’ve also probably done NaNo while having a lot of other commitments, like work or school or something else altogether. You can tell these people about that. You can tell them about other people who have and give advice about how to go about such things. Now there may be people who just don’t want to go about and change their lifestyles for NaNo, like those who watch six hours of TV a day and don’t want to change that. But that’s where you tell them about Hulu and Netflix and everything else that exists that’ll let them catch up on TV on weekends… assuming they’re not catching up on their novels, of course.”

“But what if they do get behind?” Mia asked, remembering all those times she did get behind on her novel. It happened every year, and one would think that she would learn by now.

“That’s not something to be addressed unless they bring it up,” Miri Mirror explained. “Like other things, there are some topics that you need to bring up only when they ask about it, like all those what ifs. What if they get behind. What if they lose? What if? What if? What if?”

“What if they can’t come up with a plot?” Mia asked.

“See, that’s why you mainly approach the people who already like writing in the first place,” Miri Mirror said. “Lots of people have always wanted to write a novel some day but never have. and those are the people you want to approach when talking about something like NaNoWriMo and joining the wonderful forums on Wrimonia. Tell them about how that novel won’t always be there one day as a legacy for their kids and that time won’t tick along forever. They won’t want to wait forever, and NaNoWriMo is there to end the one day novelist. It’s part of their mission. Appeal to that part of them, and explain the deadline and the breakneck pace. Well, don’t quite explain the lats part, but explain how you can fit it into your day quite easily, even if you’re already busy.

Miri Mirror noticed the copy of No Plot? No Problem! that Mia was clutching. “Did you read that already?” Miri Mirror asked.

“Parts of it,” Mia replied. “I did the Magna Carta exercises.”

“There’s a part in there that even you might find useful, O fourth time Wrimo,” Miri Mirror said. “It’s called the Time Finder, and it’s outlined in the book, but what you do is outline everything you do for a week and for how long you do it for. Then at the end of the week you divide all the items into vital, love to do, and like to do things. Chances are you’ll have about two hours a day for NaNo, and you’ll treasure all that spare time you have for the things you’ve cut, like Internet surfing and TV watching and other exciting things you’ve done. It’s amazing, and it’s something you can point out to prospective Wrimos when they’re searching for spare time.”

Mia now took this chance to read the back of the pamphlet. The side of the back page was designed to be detachable so the new Wrimo would know how to find Wrimonia. The rest was designed for the returning Wrimo so they could use the pamphlet over and over.

Mia turned the pamphlet and pocketed it. How was this going to help her find Chris Baty? It was just a pamphlet. She tried to toss it while walking away from the Church of NaNo group, but the trash can threw it back up. Mia almost smiled; at least something was normal in Wrimonia.

I wrote part of this section while sitting next to Dragonchilde and Miri Mirror. Fun fact. It was very hard to keep my giggling in.

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Legends of Wrimonia

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Five: No Plot, No Problem?

She sat down on a free bench and flipped through her new copy of No Plot? No Problem. The front page must have stuck to the cover during the first flipthrough, for Mia spotted something handwritten on the first page this time that she could have sworn wasn’t there last time. She opened the book to the first page.

And saw something scribbled there.

“Keep writing! The world needs your stories. Chris Baty”

Mia gasped. Chris Baty. He touched this book. He signed it with a pen and ink in his own handwriting. Mia held it up to the sky to ensure its legitimacy, and it passed her test. She ran her finger over the autograph. That was definitely handwriting.

There was hope. Somewhere in Wrimonia there was hope for finding Chris Baty. Mia hugged the book to herself before flipping to the introduction.

“The era, in retrospect, was very kind to dumb ideas,” Mia read, and she continued reading about the first five years of NaNoWriMo, how Wrimonia proper wasn’t formed until 2002 and the first few years of NaNoWriMo had a community built out of local coffee shops and online mailing lists. Then Wrimonia came to be, starting out as a small area carved out and expanding as more writers came in and the community grew. Mia saw the result over ten years later, and she had a feeling that Chris Baty would never have expected this in 1999. A Reference Desk as big as an airport terminal? WrimoRails? What a wonderful and magical place that would only improve over time.

Mia kept reading and reached the first section. The first three chapters were mostly things she had experienced before in the past three NaNos, but they were still handy things to know. The Time Finder was a particularly useful exercise, and Mia made a note to practice the Time Finder over the next few days in a hope to figure out where to squeeze in NaNo. There was a list of novels about the length of a NaNoWriMo novel (including No Plot? No Problem! itself). This was something she heard NaNo critics discuss: fifty thousand words wasn’t a real novel. It was too short. But Mia studied enough short novels and novellas in school to know better.

Then Mia reached chapter four and found the exercise in the two Magna Cartas. Mia remembered hearing about the Magna Carta, but her knowledge of that era in history was shoddy at best. Wasn’t it signed in 1066, though? She remembered correcting a professor about that fact once. Sometimes trivia bits are useful.

“What, to you, makes a good novel?” the book asked.

Mia set the book down. What did make a good novel?

The truth was that despite the many books she had read and analyzed and yes, the two she had written, Mia had never put much thought to this question. I should have a good answer to this by now, Mia thought. Or at least an answer that’s better than none at all.

The problem was that Mia had none at all that she could scribble into her notebook. She found a notebook and pencil in her bag and opened the notebook. Then she started doodling.

She was never the best artist, but she could doodle decently enough, or at least pretend to. Mia scribbled some marks on the paper before turning back to the question at hand. What made a good novel, anyway? She read the rest of the segment and thought of her favorite books. What made them so meaningful, so powerful, so… well, good?

A lot of those books featured strong characters, Mia realized, so that went down. Smart writing, but not in the pretentious way. Relatable characters who are a wee bit quirky. Prose that gets to the point about what’s going on. Books set in large cities or foreign countries.

Mia kept thinking of more things and kept scribbling things down. Eventually she had a decent-sized list and decided to stop. She read Chris Baty’s list, surprised at how similar some of their items were, and turned the page. She then kept reading.

“For the second list, write down those things that bore or depress you in novels.” Oh, this would be an easy one, Mia thought. She could think of so many things that she hated reading in a book, and she scribbled things down right away. Purple prose. Killing off characters with no good reason to. Dialogue where it’s not clear who’s saying what. Paragraph after paragraph of shit she didn’t care about. Novels set in Africa. (She didn’t mean this to sound racist or… culturalist? But Mia did think back to books she put down halfway through or plowed through to the end because she had to, and an alarming number of them did in fact take place in Africa.) Books that take place on a stranded island. On and on and on she went, noticing that she could go on about this for a long time. After filling up the page Mia stopped and compared the two lists. It was clear that she had a type of book she liked, and according to No Plot? No Problem! Mia needed to write that kind of book.

But as Mia looked at the second list she made, she realized something. A lot of the things on the second list, the Magna Carta II, were in her novel last year! How did that happen? That shouldn’t have happened. While Mia thought about what did appear in her novel, everything became clear to her. She was trying to write a more serious novel than those of her past two years (and those novels were serious compared to what some Wrimos were writing), so Mia put everything in her novel that could be considered serious. A location in Africa, lit fic, deep struggles with societal norms and gender issues, a realization, lots of purple prose. And she hated writing every minute of it.

Maybe that was why she quit during week two.

No, this year was going to be different, even if Chris Baty wasn’t here. She reached a paragraph toward the end of the section on the Magna Cartas: “When thinking about possible inclusions for your novel, always grab the guilty pleasures over the bran flakes. Write your joy, and good things will follow.”

Mia smiled. She underlined that last sentence and closed the book. Despite a lack of ideas, she now felt a lot better about her lack of progress plotwise.

As Mia headed back to the forum in search of inspiration, she clutched the copy of No Plot? No Problem. Somewhere in Wrimonia, possibly hidden from everyone, was Chris Baty. After all, he signed her book and brought that little piece of him back to Wrimonia.

But where was he now?

Mia finally read No Plot? No Problem!

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Legends of Wrimonia

Legends of Wrimonia, Part Four: NaNo Prep Day

On October seventeenth signs went up all over Wrimonia declaring the day to be NaNo Prep Day. “Join your fellow Wrimos in planning your novels during Wrimonia’s first NaNo Prep Day,” one of the signs near Wrimo Square said. “Look for free novel planning resources in the pop up tents around Wrimonia all day today.”

NaNo prep? That would be great if Mia had any idea what to write about.

Mia spotted a tent near the Rules and Regulations forum and walked toward it. Wrimos crowded around the tent, and Mia wondered whether this tent would run out of novel prep resources before she got there. What if everyone else took them first?

A group of Wrimos walked away from the tent, a Wrimo with long dark brown hair bringing up the rear. Mia approached the tent and waited as the Wrimos in front of her collected their prep materials.

“What if they run out?” she asked a Wrimo next to her.

“Don’t worry,” this Wrimo, whose nametag read MSRenfrow, replied. She had blue and purple badges from 2002 and beyond. “They always seem to get more somehow. Must the be the Wrimonia elves working day and night before NaNo to get everything in order.”

“But I have no idea what to write about,” Mia said. This person had a lot of NaNo knowledge in them; surely they would have a good answer. “Is there even any use in doing NaNo Prep Day stuff if I have no plot?”

“You’re talking to a pantser,” MSRenfrow replied. “No Plot is No Problem. I live by that motto.”

“But how can you write a book if you don’t have a plan?”

“You make it up as you go along. Ever done something on the fly outside of noveling? It’s fun. You should try it sometime.”

MSRenfrow had a point, but Mia still liked to plan things outside of noveling as well. Everything in life went better with some semblance of a plan, even if there were some blanks left in the plan at points. The plan could even be a skeleton, one that could be filled in at points, but at least the basic parts were there, leaving some idea of what was going to happen. Noveling was the same way. There were people out there who didn’t plan their novels before writing it?

“But how does that work? How do you think of all the things that are going to happen on the fly?”

“Have you ever driven a car at night?” MSRenfrow asked. Mia nodded. Of course she had drive a car. She didn’t live in a large city, so owning a car was a necessity, even if her car was now about ten years old and was prone to breaking down. At this point it would probably be less expensive to get a new car, but it was Mia’s first ever car and the thought of giving up her first was almost unbearable. You never forget your first.

“Well, you can’t see all the way to your destination, right?” Mia nodded again. Of course she couldn’t see to her destination all the way. But someone said this at some point. You can see only a little bit, but you can make the entire trip that way. That’s what pantsing is like. I don’t have to know what’s going on fifteen scenes from now, even if I have a skeleton plot. I can know what’s going on in the next scene or the next two scenes. And knowing that every time will get me through the whole book. And if all else fails, ninjas. Every time.”

Mia remembered the invasion of the busty lesbian cabbage pirate ninjas from her first NaNo. Did MSRenfrow use those in her novel as well?

“That sounds like you’d get really far behind really fast if you don’t know what you’re going to write about,” Mia pointed out.

“Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. 40k Week Fours are my specialty, and sometimes I don’t finish at all. That’s how NaNo is for me, but I keep coming back so I can kick that new novel’s butt. You know those overachievers who write 40k or 50k in the first week? I’ve found myself pulling that off in the last week more than once.”

There were now very few Wrimos in front of them.

“So why are you even picking up planning stuff to start with?” Mia asked.

“Oh, I wasn’t,” MSRenfrow replied. “I was just talking to someone else who was getting these, and they got distracted and left, and then you started talking to me.”


“It’s okay. It’s not like I have any planning to do anyway.”

They found their way to the front of the line. A table sat under the tent, and on this table sat copies of No Plot? No Problem! and Ready? Set? Novel! and stapled copies of the Young Writers Program workbooks. On the table also sat stacks of paper containing writing and outlining resources. Mia picked one up and skimmed it. Some of these resources included Write or Die; Written? Kitten; and the snowflake method, as well as the #NaNoprep hashtag on Twitter.

A marathon runner stood behind the table. “How can I help you?” he asked.

Mia examined the items on the table. She noticed price tags next to the copies of No Plot? No Problem! They weren’t free? She needed to know this reasoning behind no plot being no problem and how to get ready to novel. But a nagging voice went off in her head. Why would they be helpful if she had no plot to speak of in the first place? She would be trying to plan something that wasn’t there, and how does one do that?

When Mia didn’t say anything the marathon runner said, “All the funds from the book sales go back to funding NaNoWriMo and Wrimonia.”

Mia looked around and made sure no one was listening before making her confession. “But what if I don’t have a plot yet?” Mia whispered. “I have no idea what to write about in November.”

“That’s okay,” the marathon runner replied. “I don’t usually have an idea before November either.”

“Wait, you’ve done this before?” Mia asked.

The marathon runner nodded. “This is my second year,” he said. “It’s my second year interning as well.”

And that was when Mia recognized him. He was a marathon runner last year! There was a lot of turnover among the marathon runners, Mia realized then. None of them stayed as a marathon runner longer than a year or two, but they did stay around as regular Wrimos.

“Wait, you can intern in Wrimonia?” Mia asked. Why didn’t she know this when she was in college? This would have made a great internship. Better than the one at the magazine where she fetched coffee and made copies instead of reviewing and editing submissions like the job description said she would.

“Absolutely,” the marathon runner said. “Applications go out over the summer, and it’s usually current students and recent graduates. It helps to know about NaNo and what it is and even to have participated before, but that’s not required. A lot of marathon runners slash interns have never done it before and that’s okay. Enthusiasm is what really matters.”

“But I can’t be an intern anymore,” Mia said. “I graduated years ago and I have a real job that isn’t awful. Or isn’t worse than my last job anyway. I’m just cursing myself for not knowing about you guys when I was in college.”

“That’s all right; everyone does,” the marathon runner replied. “It just happens. Now anything you wanted from the table?”

Mia looked around. “What’s No Plot? No Problem?” she asked.

“It’s a book written by Chris Baty,” the marathon runner explained, and hearing Chris Baty’s name hit Mia right in the gut. “It explains all about how to write a novel in a month even if that month isn’t November, but it’s pretty fun for November too. I reread it every year before NaNo for inspiration.”

Mia picked up the top copy of No Plot? No Problem. The red letters called to her, and she noticed the subtitle: “A low-stress, high-velocity guide to writing a novel in 30 days.” Low stress? She could use that. Mia turned to the table of contents.

Panning for plots? Exuberant imperfection? And Chris Baty himself wrote it; maybe this book would contain some hint for finding him…

Mia dug through her bag for her wallet and saw the cost of the book. She handed a credit card to the marathon runner, who rang it through her card slider and handed a receipt for Mia to sign. Mia scribbled her name across the line and handed the receipt and pen back to the marathon runner before walking away with her newly acquired goodies.

The clock is ticking to November, and Mia still doesn’t have a plot. Will she find one in time?

The scene keeps going, but I’m posting it on Monday because this one was getting long and the one following is also very long. You’ll also get more to read that way.

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