The NaNoWriMo is Upon Us: Chapter One
Geldorf and Mendoza sat at a Starbucks. Geldorf — a skinny lad dressed sensibly for the cold weather —- sipped in the unbelievable flavor of a delicious Pumpkin Spice Latte, available for a limited time only, while Mendozy — a barrel-chested dark-skinned man with thick glasses and a flannel shirt that smelled like a flooded basement — typed away stoically on his black Macbook while logged in on his paid Wi-Fi. The bored baristas were microwaving a couple of sausage McMuffins (which Starbucks still refused to call “Sausage McMuffins,” despite Geldorf’s frantic online protests to the contrary), and the smell of innocent sausagey goodness penetrated the air.
Geldorf savored the spicy flavor and wondered to himself how such a balance of spices, despite being perfect, could ever be considered “pumpkin” flavored. Then his thoughts turned to another recent trend: bikini expressos. He’d seen an expose about it on the news the other night. He had some lingering thoughts that such a service may get him to eventually quit his Starbucks habit. Oh, the coffee might be subpar, but there were other benefits. Unfortunately, Geldorf was in total fear of his girlfriend and soon-to-be-fiance, Wilhelmina, and he doubted that the statuesque blonde — who was also 5-1 in amateur boxing matches — would be so understanding.
“Think, brain, think,” Geldorf thought. “Wait, wasn’t that something Winnie the Pooh said? Anyway. Maybe I can convince her that it’s purely for camp reasons? Something akin to the fascination with camp movies that have names like ‘Hawk the Slayer’ or ‘Deafula’?”
Suddenly, Mendoza’s face skewed with rage and he leapt up from his chair, knocking it over.
“Dear Lazarus!” he said. “The NaNoWriMo is upon us!”
Geldorf gignerly put down his lukewarm latte — which, incidentally, was still good. “The NaNoWriMo, you way? What’s that?”
“National Novel Writing Month,” said Mendoza, warily looking about the pleasantly lit shop. “It’s an online activity that has been around for several years now. You’re supposed to spend the entire month of November writing 50,000 words before the month is done.”
“That’s insane!” screamed Geldorf. “Well, no, not really insane. ‘Insane’ would be spending a whole day talking like a pirate. If someone came up to me while I was on my daily walk with Mina” — Geldorf’s pet name for Wilhelmena — “I’d punch him in the face with my cinderblock-like fists. And laugh. Writing 50,000 words seems to be, more or less, a normal activity. Heck, I write about 2,000 words a day on my blog. Still, a novel?”
“That’s right,” said Mendoza. “You’re supposed to sit down and write a 50,000 word fictional narrative in the span of 30 days. According to my calculations,” Mendoza said, while punching numbers on the calculator function of his cell phone, “that’s 1,666 words a day!”
“Well, that doesn’t sound feasible,” said Geldorf. “I like to spend whole weekends with my girlfriend of possible. You know: bobbing for apples, raking the leaves, sparring. And just to clarify, I was being completely literal and not trying to put together a dirty double-entendre, Mendoza.”
“Indeed,” said Mendoza. “So if you were to take some days off to … you know … have a life, then you have to make it up the other days. Which means that the only people participating are PEOPLE WHO HAVE NO LIFE!”
“The UNDEAD!” Geldorf leaped up from his seat, knocking over his own chair. He unsheathed his crucifix-blade from his holster and brandished it.
“No,” Mendoza said, patting his friend’s arm. “I meant that metaphorically. I meant chronic shut-ins with self-diagnosed Asperger’s Syndrome.”
“Oh,” said Geldorf, beginning to resheathe his blade. “Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”
“Friend!” said Mendoza. “Keep your blade at the ready! For if this announcement is as I fear … I knew it! Here they be!”
An team of five vampires crashed through the plate glass windows of the Starbucks. They were a motley crew, clad in dirty black rags and laden with medieval weapons. More than a few had dreadlocks. Geldorf parried one potential bite with his blade.
“Wait,” said Geldorf. “You said that Nanowrimo writers weren’t literally undead.”
“True,” said Mendoza.
“So why are we fighting off vampires all of the sudden?”
“Well,” said Mendoza thoughfully while he ran his sword through the gut of two vampires and pinned them to the glass cupboard with all the Starbucks paraphenalia, “most NaNoWriMo writers are the same people who read sci-fi and fantasy novels.”
“What?” said Geldorf. “The same people who somehow make a distinction between post-cyberpunk, steampunk, and biopunk?”
“The very same!”
“For you see, the most important thing for people who read such things is the total God-like control the writer has over the entire fictional world. Society, mannerisms, races, and even lingo are controlled by the author himself. Unfortunately, creating a fictional world fully-formed from nothing is a massive undertaking. The ‘Lord of the Rings’ was based on JRR Tolkien’s life-long linguistics hobby. Do you think sci-fi and fantasy writers have the same unique predelictions when they spend all their free-time reading sci-fi and fantasy books? They have no unique worldwiew with which to base their stories on!”
“Outside of raising cats,” corrected Geldorf.
“Of course,” said Mendoza, decapitating a third vampire. “So potential sci-fi and fantasy writers lean on those that came before them: Tolkien being the prime example, but also HP Lovecraft, Anne Rice, Phil K. Dick, and .. well … movies and TV shows, really. ‘Star Trek’ and ‘Buffy’ being the two most notorious culprits. It’s not surprising, really. Most of the writers making up the glut of sci-fi and fantasy shelves are doing the exact same thing. Unfortunately, most of these are trash imitators masquerading as high-brow escapist fantasies.”
“That’s probably why most of these writers get a jones for the pen and ink,” said Geldorf, stabbing a fourth vampire in the head. “They figure if these hacks can get published, why can’t they? Am I right? But tell me something, Mendoza, my friend, even a rip-off needs much research in order to be even believable in the slightest. I still can’t see this being done in thirty days. Oh, sure, Wikipedia should make it easier, but every time I’m online, I seem to linger toward … um … other sites. Eating up my free time. There’s no way you can arrive at a quality novel in 30 days.”
“Obviously. Why don’t you think there are any novels currently on the shelves at Borders with a seal that says, ‘Born from NaNoWriMo’?”
“So it’s all an exercise in futility?”
“Like Linus sitting in the pumpkin patch,” said Mendoza, as the two circled around the last vampire. “Or, to put more succintly, a hardcore activity at time-wasting. Of course, there are two sorts of NaNoWriMo writers. The division is not unlike those who play MMORPGs: there are the ones who are in it for the experience of being part of an escapist story, and there are those who treat it like a videogame not unlike ‘Frogger’ or ‘Pacman’ where the player with the highest amount of points wins.
“The first kind is the sort that secretly believes they will one day write the Great American Sci-Fi Fantasy Novel, but figure that they need the practice. So they put on this face that it’s all for fun, but get serious about the research, the writing, the background … most everything that a proper writer has to do. They’ll end at around 20,000 words. Either they won’t have the time to finish everything with all the research, or they quit in disgust over how terrible their Great Work has become.
“Then there are the ones who treat it as a game and fill their ‘novels’ with reams and reams of gobbledy-gook.”
“Like?” said Geldorf, a sort of realization dawning on him.
“Like ridiculously long strings of adjectives to describe a single armoire, for example. Then again, Victor Hugo is a respected writer, but he spent seventy percent of ‘The Hunchback of Notre Dame’ describing the cathedral in infinite detail, so there you go. But then there’s the ones that go on awfully bizarre tangents. I once know a gal who would fill her pages with cooking recipes. After all, she already had these at her fingertips, right? Cut, paste, and bob’s your uncle.”
“What about long strings of dialogue?” Geldorf said warily.
“True,” said Mendoza. “You can easily disguise essays as long dialogue strings, perhaps as an exchange between two people with competing viewpoints. Though in those cases, one person acts as merely the foil to the writer’s own beliefs and biases. Not unlike modern political editorial shows, really. But it’s perfectly legitimate from a literary standpoint. Plato’s ‘Giorgio’ was merely an argument with himself, and look how much respect that guy gets. Why do you ask, by the way? Have you considered taking up NaNoWriMo?”
“Oh, no,” said Geldorf. “I think I just figured out why we’re fighting vampires all of the sudden. We’re characters in a NaNoWriMo novel, aren’t we?”
“Close,” said Mendoza. “We’re characters in an critique disguised as a NaNoWriMo entry. Which, come to think of it, may be an even lower animal. Who in the world critiques an activity that is totally free, dependant on the willingness of the participants, and whose final product is read only by the writer themselves if the writer so chooses?”
“Who cares?” said Geldorf. “How many words are we at?”
“1,638”, said Mendoza.
“A fairly decent jumping-off point,” said Geldorf, sticking dynamite down the final vampire’s mouth. “I need to get home soon, anyway. Mina expects me to cook my world famous shrimp fettucine tonight. That would be one-half pound of shrimp, shelled and deveined, a packet of powdered salad dressing, two cups of mayonnaise….”