For the third and final part on my history with NaNoWriMo I want to share a more in depth account of what has proven to be my most successful, Americana Hex, but before I can get into that I have to give some backstory.
There was an idea that I collaborated on with some friends, a group of writers who all thought it sounded like a good idea to come together and create worlds. We wanted to make playgrounds for us to play in and eventually invite other writers to join in on the fun. Each of us came up with a small slate of settings to pitch, and as a group we picked one from each person's slate.
We settled upon three different settings. The first was a fantasy with a more eastern basis, the second was a science fiction setting based around the colonization of the solar system, and the third was my science fiction setting built around earth's far future after things have gone horribly wrong. The initial goal was to have something to work with by the time NaNoWriMo rolled around.
The settings came together in fits and starts. Work, school, and family commitments kept things at a simmer, but the settings were all making decent progress. As they came together, though, I noticed a hole in our settings as well as a deficiency in my own. Thematically the two science fiction settings were proving to be very similar, and we didn't have anything to fill the hole of modern set fantasy like the Dresden Files series.
I told the rest of the group that I was going to be putting my setting on the back burner while I worked out something in time for November. When I made this decision I really didn't have much of a plan. What I did have was a collection of similar things I had been reading and watching at the time. Those things bounced around in my head, colliding with each other until something new came. That new thing was what would become Americana Hex.
Hex started as one third spy story, one third fairytale, and one final third superhero story.
I knew it was a weird cocktail of pop culture, so I would have to be more on top of my prepwork than I had been in the past. I also knew that I would have to use my time wisely. November was only a few weeks away, and I couldn't spend all my time just world building or just plotting.
I quickly learned that by doing the whole modern urban fantasy, a good chunk of the heavy lifting was already being done for me. Instead of having to worry about trying to figure out countries, kingdoms, and empires I could concentrate on the fun things, like how magic works and smaller scale secrets.
I decided early that I wanted it to be about a secretive military styled academy where dealing with magical power was the primary concern, so those were the two areas I focused on. I also knew that this wasn't a story about wizards but instead people more like Greek demi-gods. There weren't going to be classes on spellcasting. Oh no, the classes at the academy would all be about how do you deal with someone who has supernatural speed or strength, and where does that power come from.
With the world of the Stoneman Academy fleshed out to my satisfaction, I next turned my attention to the characters that would help fill its halls. Looking at my past efforts I was very wary of a ballooning cast and the larger scope that it would cause. To combat this, I decided to focus on two characters and give them each a very small and focused supporting cast.
The first character would be the hero who was displeased with the status quo. When it came to inspiration I ended up drawing heavily on my little brother. This meant that he would be an artist, in particular a graffiti artist with an interest in comics. I also knew that I wanted him to be an immigrant, and to give him connections to some sort of myth. I settled on a second or third generation Greek immigrant named Hector Xenakis, or “Hex” for short.
The other character was going to be the Draco to Hex's Harry, so I knew that he would need to be Hex's opposite in as many fundamental ways as possible. This process quickly lead to the creation of Sebastian Shaw. If Hex was a rebel then Sebastian would be part of the establishment. Hex was from a poor immigrant family, so Sebastian would come from old money. The one area I knew I wanted them both to overlap was that they would both be more talented and skilled than most of their peers.
The last step before the actual writing could take place was the plot. This proved to be a more standard fare where I would crib a bit off of the Hero's journey, but I still had to decide on the particulars. What was going on at the school? What would be the crux of the conflict? I was able to fill in these questions quickly and build the framework of a story about rivalry, betrayal, and conflict that wrapped up with a huge dust up in the Grand Canyon.
When November rolled around I found myself the most prepared I had ever been, and it showed in my writing. The words came more reliably than any other time. The usual struggle to keep my interest in a story didn't rear its head. That doesn't mean that it was all easy. No matter what trying to keep up the pace to write the words needed is always difficult.
With the proper prep, though, it turns out it is possible to alleviate the problems that had plagued my past attempts. Now that the history is out there, it's time to turn my attention to that prewriting so hopefully I can get a third story out there in the win column.