Writing Month in Review: October 2020

Number of Writing Weeks: 5 out of 5

Total Word Count: 9,944 words

Average Word Count Per Week: 3,973 words

% of Monthly Word Count Goal: 199%

Other Stats: 3 Writing Days per Week; 43,545 words year-to-date

October saw a modest drop off in my productivity from September. But I’m still churning out new Word Count at a healthy clip, so no complaints from the peanut gallery of my brain.

You may (all two of you) recall that last month, as a result of my sudden surge in productivity, I revised my goals for the remainder of the year to effectively double the word count I expect to produce by the end of the year. Up from 24,000 words total to 48,000 words.

Well, as you can see, I’m tracking quite favorably against that revised goal, and in all likelihood I’ll hit that benchmark sometime in November (which as of this writing is almost half over) if I continue the rate of productivity I’ve had so far this month.

There’s one caveat however: as of this week I’ve hit a bit of a snag in my forward momentum on the novel. My notes and outline for the book call for a the main characters to now have a moment of respite during which they engage in a brief theological discussion.

Between the different characters involved in the discussion there are actually four different theological perspectives on offer (if you count the protagonist’s agnosticism as a type of theology), plus a fifth that will come into play later in the story. There’s just one teensy little problem: while I have a copious volume of historical background notes, I never actually finished fleshing out my world-building notes with respect to the major world religions in this story. A pretty significant oversight considering how central religious belief and ideology is to the theme of the book.

This leaves me with a bit of a quandary. Do I (1) handwave the theological discussion, plow ahead with the main plot lines, and come back to this later during the revising and editing stage; or (2) do I take a beat on pushing forward with the novel itself and shift focus to building out my bare-bones notes on the major world religions in this story so that the characters in question have something to talk about during this scene?

Either scenario will technically count as writing productivity, so I’m not worried about missing my goal. Words are words, whether it’s outlines and notes or its actual novel words – they’re all integral to telling the story. And whether I do the religion worldbuilding notes now or later, I will have to do them eventually.

As it is… during the eventual revising and editing stage I’m already going to have to go back and do some heavy edits in a lot of the earlier scenes and chapters of the book to more correctly align the character’s thoughts, words, and actions with their specific religious beliefs and worldviews. For example: does Religion A require that its adherents pray in a certain way or at certain times of day? Then I ought to show that at some point in the story, probably sooner rather than later.

Anyway… I’m inclined to go with option 2, pause on the novel momentum, and focus my attention on the gap in my worldbuilding. I think doing that will make future scenes and writing go more smoothly due to having already fleshed out the details of the religions. Once I have a firm “bible” (did you see what I did there?) on what the story’s religions each believe and how they practice their faith, I will be more easily able to reference that quickly and incorporate those details in the moment, rather than having to stop all the time and think about it. Not sure if it’s more efficient on net, or just “six in one hand, half-a-dozen in the other”. But it’s what I think is the right approach.

What do you think, dear reader?

If you write, how much worldbuilding do you do before writing the story, and do you ever have to stop writing the story to do more worldbuilding?

2 thoughts on “Writing Month in Review: October 2020

  1. I’d write up a note with all my thoughts then save it for revisions, because by then I’d know more about what’s needed by the story and themes best. But that’s how I handle a first draft. If it bothers you too much and you can’t stop thinking about it – stopping to research is the better idea. You know yourself best 🙂

    • Yeah, I’m just not sure. I’ve never been much of a “pantser”, so-to-speak. I’ve always been much more of a “planner” – see, for ex., the volumes of other background notes I wrote before even started on the rough draft – and not having the details figured out is making my brain just a little grumpy and blocky. On the other hand… I really want to get this first draft done, sooner rather than later.

      Part of me is also worried I’m just making more work for myself in the revisions if I have to go and fix every wrong thing related the world’s religions. On yet another hand… how likely am I to change my mind on some of the details before I reach the end?

      The whole thing is giving me a case of writer’s block, and I really need to kick it to the curb and get back to work. If only there weren’t some real-life things suddenly cropping up and getting in the way, too.

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