ROW80 – Round 4 – Check-in #4

It’s Sunday and it’s time to update you on my ROW80 progress. You can find a list of my goals here.

This week, I got some great feedback from a ton of you about your experiences plotting and getting starting on a WIP. I came away feeling more normal, relaxed, and a ton less pressure to jump in with both feet and be super fabulous!

Thank you to everyone who took the time to comment and share your words of wisdom and experiences with me. You have no idea how much it meant to me. You guys rock – muah!

Since then, I realized that I am not ready to jump in on the plotting right away. I need to back up a few steps and get my feet under me a bit more. Plotting is for people who have a solid story idea that they are ready to run with. I don’t. After this week of pondering and brainstorming, I have 2 story ideas that are pulling at me strongly and I need to figure out which direction I want to take. They are entirely different genres and both would require a lot of work, obviously, but one would require ridiculously more work than the other. And just when I think I’ve committed to one and I am ready to rock, I waiver to the other. I am like a pre-teen schoolgirl torn between two boys. It’s awful!

The good thing! I’ve learned a lot from reading and following all of you! And I’ve learned there’s no need to rush the process. And writing, whatever it may be, is progress. I am taking the next week or two (or however long it takes) to brainstorm both potential ideas further in the hopes that one makes a definite bid for my attention.

And I decided never having read any writing craft books before (because I was one of those idiots who thought “who needs a craft book when you have oodles of talent?!?!?!”), I would stop doing the exercises in the books and just read a couple to get an overall impression of what’s to come. I want to get some big picture knowledge before I fire out of the gate.

Now that’s a mouthful! So how did I make out this week?

Work In Progress Goals:

  • If pre-planning counts, I definitely got my 5 hours in on my WIP outline:
    • Read 6 chapters and finished Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland….YEAHHHH!!!
    • Started chapter 1: Plot and Structure by James Scott Bell.
    • Did a review of 5 favorite movies/books to explore common themes that I like best (write what you’d like to read….thank you Angela Orlowski-Peart!!)
  • Had some great “cheering” emails with my ROW80 Sista – Nancy J. Nicholson who is ROCKING the ROW! Her encouragement and emails have been a life saver and she’s making magic happen on her own end which is a huge inspiration!
  • Downloaded all of Kait Nolan’s resources for writers (can’t wait to check em’ out!).

Blogging Goals:

  • Blogged 6 days (8 posts) this week including this post.
  • I read and commented on over 40 blogs (left my total count for the week at work).
  • I retweeted/tweeted on over 40 blog posts (left my total count for the week at work).
  • I reported on my ROW80 goals on schedule.

And….a little treat after reading through this entire post! Jenny Hansen has put together a little Rock The ROW Party – Photo Finalists and Party RECAP that is uberlicious! Go check it out and VOTE for your fav photo (yours truly is there…in pink hair NO less! Yes…this is shameless self-promotion…I’m not above that…)!

How is your ROW80 progress going thus far?



  1. One of the things I loved about the last round of Row80 was that setting goals helped me realize where I was lacking, or helped me put into words what a problem was. Sounds like you’re getting some good insight too, even if it’s not what you thought it would be. Row on!

    • You said it best Angela. I agree completely and that…is half the battle! Progress is progress and I am taking all of this as a WIN! Thanks for swinging by and the ongoing support – really appreciate it! Off to check your blog digs out! 🙂

  2. Jillian Dodd says:

    Congrats on keeping up with your goals and knowing when to take a step back!!

  3. Great job! Glad you’ve taken a step back to slow down and assess where you are with starting your novel WIP. No harm in that since as they say, it is not a sprint. You need to develop and buy into what you want to write and how you will best write it. You mentioned stopping the craft exercises. I suggest not doing everything in a chapter, but still doing some of them as they are great writing practice in a short format and can spark ideas. I’ve crafted stories from sparks that came out of exercise prompts. Just a thought. *waving poms*

    • Thanks so much Barbara – great suggestion on doing some of the exercises to get sparks flying. Writing the themes of my fav books/movies was actually an exercise out of late chapter in the Outlining book so I totally agree with you and will definitely be taking that FAB advice!
      Love it!!! Thanks soooo much….

  4. You’re a very smart young woman, Natalie. No one ever thinks that writing is as complicated and requires as much learning as it does. I spent 6 months reading books and blogs, before I began typing word one. I still read the craft books and a few of the blogs. It’s been over a year since I began learning, and I’m not done yet, but I am writing everyday and for the past 9 months. So, take your time to learn what you need to get started and them start. You’re doing great! Keep it going.

    • Thank you so much Marcia – wonderful to hear that I am not alone. Thank you so much for sharing your experience because it helps me to realize that I am definitely on the right track by taking a step back and solidifying my foundation. Writing a novel is way more complicated than I anticipated. LOL. But I love it and can’t wait to learn and absorb like mad!
      Thanks for swinging by and your wonderful words of support! 🙂

  5. Natalie,
    You are so smart to step back until your mind (and story) are a bit more settled. It’s a horrible feeling if to get into a plot that goes nowhere after hours and hours of work. (Um, yes, that’s experience talking.) I can smile now, but at the time I was so discouraged!

    Bet you’ll love Bell’s book. He has one called Revision & Self-editing that is equally as good.
    Have a good week 3!

    • You rock Bridgette – thank you! 🙂
      Experiencing talking – ouch – but sounds like a great learning experience.
      Yes, I am hoping by backing off and going back the drawing board I’ll be a bit more prepared when I jump into things.
      Ohhh…yummy! I’ll definitely add it to my wish list! 🙂
      Thanks for swinging by Bridgette! 🙂

  6. Natalie (GORGEOUS rockin’ the pink hair, by the way …), you have already grasped one of the most important lessons about writing. It’s not an overnight experience! Now that you have stepped over the line into the world of writing, the learning has just begun and … trust me on this (as the others have also indicated), it will never end! You might also want to get your feet wet by entering some flash fiction contests where you write short pieces on different topics. (Women On Writing) is a great website for these contests and also for tons of resources and support material for writers. The Wana711 cheerleaders are waving our pom poms, leaping in the air and cheering all of you on!

    • Oh Patricia – thank you soo much! What great encouragement and suggestions. I love it. I’ll definitely check out and will consider the flash fiction contest – what an amazing idea. I know, I feel a little overwhelmed from time to time pondering everything that’s unknown and yet to learn but you are right, it’s a life long commitment and I am IN! Thanks again! 🙂

  7. kerrymeacham says:

    It’s been said in business that the toughests decision isn’t determining what you will do, it is determining what you won’t do. It sounds like that’s where you are in deciding which book to write. Good luck. ~clink~

    • You NAILED it Kerry. It is tough…Thanks for the encouragement and I’ll keep you posted when I finally make a commitment to one over the other. I keep reminding myself that I CAN write the other one at a later date. LORD! LOL!

  8. Great job, Natalie. I’m glad you’re feeling better about the plotting, and I understand feeling like you’re not ready. You definitely need to have a solid idea, so good for you for taking that on. Another book I’d suggest is Maas’s Writing The BreakOut Novel. It’s one every writer should read, IMO.

    Writing is definitely not an overnight thing, and every piece we write makes us a little bit better. Keep up the great work!

    • Thanks so much Stacy! Yes, I am glad that I didn’t just push forward feeling so undecided about which idea to focus on. I think I would have always had it in the back of my head and I definitely need to get it straighted out before moving forward. And I think I will…Thanks for the book suggestion and I’ll add it to the list – wow – lots of GREAT reading stacking up! LOL!
      Yip, I keep telling myself “one step at a time – it’s a marathon, not a race!”

  9. Natalie,

    Julia Cameron’s “The Writer’s Way” is a very popular book for writers in a learning curve. I think I told you, but my favorite has always been Jesse Lee Kercheval’s “Building Fiction” (that’s partly because I like to write short, and I have a feeling you do too). She was the first one to really explain the beauty and balance of internal vs. external conflict to me. Bob Mayer’s Conflict Lock is a great tool too and you can watch it on YouTube. Ditto for the late Stephen J. Cannell explaining 3-Act structure…you can watch it on YouTube and it’s amazing. If you prefer to read it, here’s a quick breakdown:

    In Kerchaval’s book, or Cameron’s, or Natalie Goldberg’s “Writing Down The Bones” (all EXCELLENT places to start!) the exercises will help lead you through the book where just reading cannot. Also, Anne Lamott’s “Bird By Bird” SANG to me.

    I’m sure you have some or all of these. When you pull them down and read through and try some of the exercises, I’ll bet it will show you clearly which of your two ideas you can stay engaged in for 350 pages or more.

    Congratulations – you did a GREAT job this week.

    • Thanks so much for all the fabulous resources Jenny – I am definitely going to pick a few up and give them a try and will check out the YouTube stuff (how awesome is THAT?!?!?)! And for the encouragement – you are FABULOUS!!! xoxoxox

  10. You are soooo ROCKIN the ROW Natalie. You are a reading and blogging machine. Now I have to ask which genre you write in?

    • Thanks so much Nicole! Genre – lol – I don’t have one yet. I was contemplating chick lit, YA, or paranormal but I am not sure yet. Why? Does a certain “genre” jump out at you when you read my blog? 🙂 Suggestion?

  11. Don’t be afraid of “Pantsing”… going by the seat of your pants and just sitting down and writing. Yes, eventually you are going to have to outline your story or you won’t get anywhere, but don’t deny yourself the fun of just sitting down and getting started… not knowing where you are going. To me, that’s the best fun!

    • Thanks so much Jennifer. I love your advice and I can see how sitting down and just free-writing unlocks and gets ideas flowing. Very smart suggestion – I love it and I think I’ll give it a go! Really appreciate you swinging by and giving me your feedback! 🙂

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