How to Finish NaNoWriMo

Happy Halloween, everyone, and to all the writers shitting bricks about tomorrow, happy NaNo Eve! While Halloween is sure to be delightful, tomorrow kicks off NaNoWriMo, the month where millions of writers will attempt to complete a 50,000 word novel in less than a month. Every year, I come up to November 1st dreading it, but every November 30th so far, I’ve out the other side with a brand new, word-vomited manuscript that I can go back and edit later.

This year marks my 12th year participating in NaNoWriMo, and while many of those projects never saw the light of day, one of them ended up being my first published book, Whiteout. Now, there are still 10 other mostly-dead manuscripts sitting around, but 1/11 ain’t bad, and some of those others might yet make it out. All that to say, I might not be a hot shit writer, but I do know how to finish a book and finish it quick. If you’ve ever struggled to complete NaNoWriMo, here are a few tips that get me through every year.

My NaNo Credentials: https://nanowrimo.org/participants/mac_ashton

1. Embrace the word vomit

I’ve said it a million times, but somehow it doesn’t seem to always get through. There are going to be days this November where you feel like you’re writing beautiful prose and every word is perfect, but the vast majority of them will feel like slinging shit at an empty screen. That’s ok. Even when the words are clumsy, you’re still writing, and every word is experience. Write words and fix it in post!

2. Don’t be afraid to deviate

Outlines are great, they help keep you on track through the month and make sure you know where you’re going. I’ve done novels with and without them, and it’s really a toss-up as to which came out better. But, either way, don’t be afraid to deviate from your vision. If you’re getting bored with what’s happening, have the characters go do something else. Sometimes these little asides can become the best part of your book (looking at the cannibal cult in Whiteout).

3. Set aside time

You’re not going to complete NaNo if you don’t set aside time to do it. This might sound silly and obvious, but making the effort to schedule writing time is important. I get up earlier than usual in November and get a lot of my writing done before I’ve even gone into work. Tell your loved ones what you’re doing, and ask them to encourage you along the way. It helps when there’s others yelling at you to go write 🙂

4. When your stuck, use the egg timer

If you don’t have an egg timer (because it’s 2019), use your phone. I learned this tip from the great Stephen King in one of his interviews. If you’re stuck, set a timer for 20-30 minutes, turn everything else off and write. I don’t care if it’s: “and then the characters went here so the plot could move along” (I’ve done that more than once), but write. It doesn’t matter what it looks like, because whatever you write in NaNo is a draft. You can go back and fix it later. By the end of the 20-30 minutes, I often find I’m through whatever plot block was vexing me and itching to keep going.

5. Have fun, remember, it’s just a draft

Tying into my previous point, you’re never going to produce a perfect, finished novel on the first try, especially if its through NaNoWriMo. A month is far too little time to produce something publish-ready, and that’s ok. The most important thing is that you got the words on the page, you gained experience, and hopefully, had some fun. Look, I won’t lie, NaNoWriMo can be stressful, but at the end of the day, I feel satisfied knowing I put in a month of good work and have something to show for it. Even if last year’s book was an ill-advised sci-fi romp through post-apocalyptic Seattle (yeesh), I still wrote it.

That’s all!

I wish you the best this year with NaNo, feel free to connect with me on the site, Twitter, wherever. Always happy to offer words of encouragement or to talk through plot quagmires. See you all on the other side, you beautiful novelists, you. Here’s to this being us in 30 days:

Update on Upcoming Projects

Hi Everyone, I know, it’s been a long time since I’ve posted on the site, but I’ve been working on a host of projects that are all coming out soon! I wanted to take this time to provide a brief update on where everything is and how it’s coming along.

The Patreon (Yes, I have one of those now)

I know, shilling for money on a Patreon can be a turn off, but rest assured, I’m using those earnings to fund all sorts of cool projects. Not sure what a Patreon is? I made a video for that.

The latest of these projects is going to be a podcast series where I talk with experts in the field of Cryptozoology, discussing portrayals of cryptids (think bigfoot, yeti, etc.) in fiction compared to how the experts believe they exist in the real world.

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Our First Guest, David George Gordon, The Bug Chef

The first episode of the podcast is going to air next Friday and will be an interview talking all things Bigfoot with Author, David George Gordon.  While a lot of his fame stems from his ability to cook up a good insect meal, David has also written a field guide about Sasquatch, and frequently speaks about cryptids nationally. The podcast will air one week early for Patrons on July 19th, and will be available on all podcast platforms the week after. 

A Man of the Mountain

If you’ve followed my posts, you’ve probably seen me talking about this one a lot. A Man of the Mountain is a prequel Novella to Whiteout, and takes place in the fictional town of Clearwater. The story follows Jonas, a man hell bent on maintaining the legend of Bigfoot at all costs, and Shirley Codwell, the intrepid tabloid reporter hunting him down. Things escalate after real monster hunters are called in, including our favorite, Nick Ventner, and the chase begins.

Man of the Mountain will be released in two formats. Beginning this summer, we will release episodes of the story as an audio drama with full  music, sound effects, and the work of some incredible voice actors. Two trailers are up below if you want to check them out. A pre-release of Episode 1 will go out to Patrons at the end of this month.

A Man of the Mountain will also be releasing as a paperback through Aberrant Literature later this year, so keep an eye out for more news on that!

Downpour

The first draft for the sequel to Whiteout is complete and is now out for edits with the man, the myth, the legend, Jason Peters, head of Aberrant Literature. We’re planning for a release sometime next year, and for those who absolutely can’t wait, I’ll be sharing some early chapters, yes, on the Patreon (my apologies, but it really helps us with getting money for ads and events).

I had so much fun writing this book and examining a different part of Nick as he treks through the South American jungle searching for the entrance to the Land of the Dead. There are plenty of myths, legends, and old friends for Nick to encounter on his journey, and it’s shaping up to be a worthy successor to Whiteout.

Chadpocalypse

I’m now in the process of writing Book 2 of Chadpocalypse, the story of a lowly drunk who is thrust into the role of thwarting the apocalypse. The entirety of Book 1 is up for reading through the Patreon and once I’ve finished Book 2, it will be up there as well. The plan is to find a publishing home for this eventually so I can release it in paperback, but I’d say that’s a 2020 goal if I’m being honest. It’s only $2 to read the first part in its entirety right now, so if you’re interested, consider checking it out!

Wanderword

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As some of you are aware, I also spent a good part of my winter working on an interactive short story for a new platform, Wanderword. Wanderword aims to let players step into their story by offering meaningful choices in an immersive choose-your-own-adventure audio format with full sound effects and music. My first story, Sweet Dreams, deals with a company trying to monetize dreams, and puts the player in the shoes of Jackie, a woman testing this new application.

There’s no release date yet for the story, but I’ve had a chance to play through some sections and it’s going to be a lot of fun! If you want to check out an excellent story that is already out, try 63rd and Wallace, a horror-mystery about the murder castle in Chicago. The first episode is free, and very well written.

That’s all for now!

If you’re still reading, thanks for bearing with me, I’m really excited to share all these new projects with you very soon! For frequent updates, I suggest following me on Twitter as that’s where I’m most active these days. Have a great end to your week, and I’ll see you around.

–Ashton

The Stakes – Part 2

Below is part 2 of The Stakes, a short Nick Ventner tale that will conclude with Part 3 in a week or so. If you like what you read, be sure to share it around!

Link to Part 1 

TheStakes

Part 2 – Midnight

David and I exchanged ‘pleasantries’ through the barricaded door for hours. Every time one of us was about to give ground, our resolve would stiffen and we’d be right back at the start again. I should have known it would go nowhere, vampires love to talk. When you think about it, they’ve got all the time in the world, so long as some stake-happy hunter doesn’t get any bright ideas. For the most part, the days of hunting vampires for the sake of it were over, so long as certain lines weren’t crossed. Luckily, any sort of tribunal would have a hard time pegging David as benevolent…

I was starting to feel that while tired there was a possibility I was going to be able to hold the door through the night, even if only by distraction. David’s pet hadn’t made much progress, and it didn’t take much more effort than leaning.  It wasn’t going to be pleasant, but I wasn’t going to die either. That’s usually the space I operate in. I was content with the situation, until a shrill howl cut through the door like it wasn’t even there.

“Well Mr. Ventner, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you, but that sound means I’m going to need to step away for a bit. You know what they say about werewolves and full moons.” There was a pause as he chuckled to himself. “Have a nice evening.”  Just like that, negotiations ended, and we moved on to the next logical step, war.

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The Stakes – Part 1

This is the first of a 2 or 3 part (We’ll see how the story goes) Nick Ventner Tale that I will be releasing over the coming weeks. I’m about halfway done with the rest, so expect to see it soon!

Also, we have an official release date for Whiteout of May 1st, 2018! We’ll be posting the pre-order page soon, and for those of you interested in reading the book early, check out Aberrant Literature’s advance reader program, it’s free! https://mailchi.mp/04340f2cea01/aberrant-lit-advance-review-program

TheStakes

Part 1 – Cabin in the Woods

“Do you know what a monster hunter’s least favorite day of the year is?” Nick was already slurring and was on the verge of double vision. It had been a night of very heavy drinking, like most, had ended with nearly empty pockets. The only way to get a few more rounds was telling a good story.

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Whiteout – Werewolves Don’t Howl

What follows is the first chapter of my first novel, Whiteout, now available for purchase on Amazon as well as other online retailers! If you like what you read, order a copy on KindlePaperback, or Hardback, and add us on GoodReads! Every share, add, and pre-order helps us get this story out there. Thanks for your support, enjoy.

Link to Prologue

Chapter 1: Werewolves Don’t Howl

We should have brought matches.

The thought rang through my head clear as a bell, even after everything else had become a frozen blur. James sat beside me, panting on a rock. His boyish hair was slick with sweat, and his parka was crusted with a fresh coat of frost.

Correction, I thought, should have brought matches and left the kid behind. I had never liked partners. More often than not, they just slowed me down or haunted me in between benders with memories of their death.

Six months prior, I ran into an eager undergrad who had drunkenly spouted off about cryptozoology. A few silver bullets and a modicum of training later, James became my apprentice. I was still amazed that even after seeing the uglier side of the world, he managed to fight off the cynicism in it well. Despite being half-frozen in a blizzard, and likely five minutes away from a horrible fate uncomfortably similar to becoming a popsicle, James managed to keep a positive, albeit sarcastic, attitude.


“Hold on, where were you?” Winston inquired, taking a sip of his tea.

Nick sighed quietly, swilling ice around the bottom of his empty glass, wondering when the butler would be by to bring refills. “If you would wait a minute, I’ll tell you.” Winston’s interruptions were beginning to irritate him. “I’ve got plenty of other jobs that don’t involve me rehashing painful emotional memories to old men in their parlors.”

This was untrue. Even after the encounter with the yeti, very few letters had come through asking for help. While most people in the monster-hunting community had heard tell of the story, they also did not believe it.

“Of course, I am so very sorry.” Winston’s words came out false, but they were accompanied by the sudden reappearance of a fresh drink on the table next to Nick.

Nick looked at the glass, astonished. “How does he manage that? Let me guess, he used to be a ninja. Got tired of the bloodshed and turned to butlery?” Nick took a sip of the fresh glass at his side and nearly gagged on some of the worst whiskey he had ever tasted.

All the money in the world, and he still drinks this piss?

“Oh yes, he’s quite good,” said Winston, avoiding the question. Nick must have made a sour face at the drink, because Winston waved his hands apologetically. “My apologies for the drink. I like to start at the bottom and work my way up.” He let out a hearty laugh. “Tastes much better in tea.”

Nick laughed in spite of his suspicions about the magical butler. “An efficient drinker even amidst opulence. Now that I can respect.”

Winston raised his cup and drained it. “One picks up a few tricks on their way to wealth.” His cheeks flushed a bit with the fresh drink, and he even seemed a little friendlier. “Now, I’m terribly sorry to have interrupted you. Please, continue.”

Winston’s attitude had changed significantly, and it set Nick on edge. Fortunately, the feeling did not last long as the whiskey quickly made its way to his core, warming him on the inside. All traces of misgiving were temporarily erased from his mind.

“Yes, where was I?” He drained the highball glass and set it down on the table loudly, hoping the butler would hear.

After pausing a moment and seeing no sign of him, he continued on. “We had been tracking a werewolf through the mountains for days. Supposed to be a quick job. Silver bullet, bring back the head, in and out; simple as that. But there was one big problem: The villagers lied to us. It wasn’t a damned werewolf.”


At midnight, the howling started. James and I had made camp in a small cave tucked into the side of the mountain. At that altitude, with the cold wind whipping through our bones, the world grew fuzzy around the edges. For the first few minutes, neither of us was sure we had actually heard howling at all. We simply sat by the glow of the flashlight, hoping that it wasn’t the day we would be sent to meet the gods that our profession so strongly opposed.

“Is that it?” James asked, his teeth chattering from where he sat in a corner of the cave. Despite his best efforts to hide it, his body shivered violently, and his lips had turned slightly blue, drying out around the edges.

Should have brought matches. We could have burned our clothes. Anything to stave off the damned cold. Matches were dead useful. They started fires, created distractions, and lit my cigarettes. Unfortunately, I had left them in a pile on the bed with the rest of the accoutrements relating to my “nasty habit” as one of my many ex-girlfriends called it. I was too damned busy pouting about the cigarettes to remember the life-saving matches that had been chucked out with them. Without the heat from a fire, thinking was impossible. The cold took up every ounce of my mental capacity, rendering my mind useless.

Upon our departure, it had been a beautiful sunny day without a cloud in the sky. But the unfortunate thing about the mountains was that it only took a moment or two for things to turn sideways. What had been a distant glimmer of fog atop the mighty mountain turned into a full-blown blizzard in less than an hour.

After a few moments of silent processing, a thought broke through the icy curtain around my mind. James’s question had revealed the true nature of our predicament.

Werewolves don’t howl.

Movies and TV might portray it otherwise, but in the wild, it never happens. Werewolves are apex predators and lone hunters. There’s no need for them to communicate. They don’t reproduce, they don’t have families; they just hunt. When they want to create more werewolves, they go and bite another villager. It’s almost elegant in its simplicity.

Werewolves don’t howl. The statement floated through the air lazily, allowing both me and James to get a better look at it. I glanced over at James, hunkered against the side of the cave wall, and cursed myself again for forgetting the matches. That’s it, double checking for matches from now on. Had it been the day trip I billed for, it wouldn’t have been a problem. But the client had flat-out lied, and now things were getting dicey.

“We’re not hunting a werewolf, are we?” James mumbled from deep within his parka.

I wished we were. Werewolves were so easy to track—big feet, lots of fur, and a swath of blood laid out behind them.

“Not anymore,” I said. Then came another earsplitting howl. It was long and mournful, shaking the walls of the cave with its intensity. My already chilled blood dropped a full degree as the howl trailed off.

The animals that could have made such a noise were few. I pulled out a leather-bound tome from my satchel, which bore the scratches and scrapes of every journey I had ever been on. It had been written by the “master” that taught me the ways of monster hunting. I never left for a journey without it.

It was mostly filled with crude drawings of various hell-bound creatures that the author had tried to seduce. He may have had a coke-addled mind, but he was a damned good hunter when it came down to it. I flipped through the pages, hoping that somewhere between poetry about the dismembered head of a warg and amateur comic strips detailing the mating habits of Romanian banshees, there would be useful information.

The sound came again. Like a wolf, only longer, lower, and far louder. To be heard over the fury of a snowstorm was no easy feat. Even in the cave, we could hear the roaring of the wind outside battering the mountain in nature’s best attempt to bring it down. I continued to shuffle through the book until I happened upon the page I was looking for. Most people at the time thought that the upper slopes of the Himalayas were barren and uninhabited.

Most people were wrong.


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