ROW80 – Round 4 – 80 days in review

Well, I can’t believe it came so fast but it’s time for my last ROW80 progress update.

I’ve continued with lounging over in Slack Land with Jenny. Work, Xmas and some family stuff going on sort of took over. In the end, it’s all one big excuse….the bottom line is no words on the page. But let’s have a total Review of Round 4 Goals and I’ll share with you what I learned.

Work In Progress Goals:

  • Set up writing room (clean out DVDs and crap from office and set up laptop).
  • Get a new office chair.

I did get my office all set up for writing – it’s beautiful really! I didn’t get a new chair although in the end, with some rugs in there, the old chair is fine.

  • Read through old journals (7) to see if there is book material there.

Only read through 2 of the 7 so far…and I’ve come to realize my mother is a much greater SAINT than I previously realized. Someone give that lady an award already…please!

  • Read: Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success by K.M. Weiland


  • Spend 5 hours a week on WIP outline – complete ½ outline including:
    • Define outline method
    • Craft premise
    • Create scene list
    • Develop key story factors – stakes, motive, desire, conflict
    • Determine setting
    • Define audience

5 hours a week for 11 weeks is 55 hours. I counted a total of 33.5 hours on my WIP outline…not bad. Not great but not bad either.

As far as ½ an outline is concerned, it depends on your definition. When I made this bulleted list, I had just started reading my first craft book and I had assumed that the outline ideas would work for me. And although it was great, I sort veered more towards James Scott Bell’s plot methodology. Since starting his book, I have completed major plot point outlines for 2 story ideas and I’ve roughly developed about a dozen story ideas (1 paragraph each). So I would say I’ve done “okay” on this goal.

What I haven’t done, is moved beyond THAT.

What I learned: I went a little askew in my planning. Although plotting is important and an hourly goal okay, without a word count goal and/or daily writing goal, I allowed myself to get quite literally lost in plotting. I just spun circle after circle when I needed to be spending time writing (ANYTHING….). I could have started with character interviews, bio, scene ideas, practice writing dialogue, done flash fiction etc. Whether towards one specific story idea or not…the point is, I could have been writing….which is what I need to do a lot more of.

Last night, I read a post by Jody Hedlund about how to drive yourself crazy as a writer. She said that (for the most part), your first 4 to 6 books are practice and are about learning your craft. This just brought home the point Jenny Hansen made to me last week about having thousands of lines of crap to get OUT before the good stuff would start flowing.

There are not many writers in the world who are naturally best-selling authors from the day they sit down pen and paper in hand. It’s a craft. It’s earned and learned through hard work, perseverance, and practice. And it’s not that I arrogantly thought I was this miracle writer. It’s just…I don’t think I realized how little I DO know, how big the learning curve is, and how much practice is required IF I am to take this “I am a writer” thing seriously!

I think I have a much better idea now and I will adjust my goals for 2012 accordingly!

  • Complete 2 character sketches with back story

I sucked at this goal AS WELL!

  • Find and order 3 highly recommended writing craft books (ask others).

Check! Now to read them.

Blogging Goals:

  • Blog 5 times a week.
  • Read, re-tweet/tweet, and comment on at least 10 blogs per week.
  • Report on ROW80 progress twice a week.

So here’s where I did kick butt. I am in love with the whole blogging and social media thing, and I nailed every single goal here.

As of tomorrow, the end official end of ROW80, in 11+ weeks I will have posted 59 non-ROW80 posts (maintaining my Monday through Friday schedule) and 23 ROW80 progress update posts for a total of 82 posts in 80 days. I am not sure how many re-tweets and tweets I did or how many comments I left but my guess is I average reading and promoting 20 to 30 blogs a week.

I reported on my ROW80 goals twice a week (although I think I was late twice). 

What I learned: this is also a bit of a weakness because I can easily get swept away in social media stuff rather than writing. It’s a crutch. My adjusted writing goals will help prevent this for next time but I’ll also be adjusting my blog schedule slightly to accommodate a more planned writing schedule.

Healthy Lifestyle Goals:

In the next round, I’ll be taking Kerry Meacham, Gene Lempp and Marcia Richards leads (like a lot of you) and I’ll be adding some healthy lifestyle goals to my plan!

How did you make out with your ROW80 goals? Plan to join up for January’s round?



  1. Elena Aitken says:

    You did awesome! Those were some very hefty goals. Can I recommend Save The Cat? It was a FANTASTIC book that changed the way I look at plotting and writing. It’s actually a screenwriting books, but so fantastic. Try it. Trust me…

  2. I’ll second Elena’s recommendation with Save the Cat — any of the Save the Cat books. I think they work because they get to the meat of it. The keep it simple stupid (not you) stuff. Otherwise I tend to write loads of, this happened, this this, oh, also this…but I don’t know why…

    Trust Elena and me.
    You’re doing great, now write something!

  3. You had a great round, Natalie! You said some hefty goals, and you’ve learned a lot. You’re so right about how easy it is to get caught up in plotting, but now you’ve got two ideas to choose from. And it’s good you found a method that works for you. I think that’s a key part of the process – figuring out what advice works for you.

    Great job, and good luck on the next round!

    • Thanks so much Stacy. I do feel like I learned a lot and I’ve realized that writing every single day has to become part of my goals!
      Woot woot…here’s to a great next round for both of us! 🙂

  4. Love Save the Cat! Definitely get it Natalie. His “beats” really make plotting a breeze. And the beauty is that you can layer other methods on top if you need to. Which I need because each story is different.

    I think you did amazing! I’ll see you in the next round 🙂 Hope you have a wonderful holiday.

    • Wow – another rave review! I can’t WAIT to order this book. Sounds ahhhmazing!!!
      I love your suggestion of layer one method on top of another if need be. That’s fantastic. It’s all about staying nibble and flexible, eh?!
      I really, really appreciate the support. This group has simply been a God sent and I don’t know what I would have done without all of you!
      Have a GREAT holiday and we’ll see you around the ROW in January!

  5. Congrats Natalie! Good luck with the next round! I’ll be there too!

  6. Wow. I think you learned a lot. I don’t do ROW80 because I don’t want to have to blog about it (yup, I’m lazy) but I do make writing goals. My current goal is a chapter a week on my WIP. I got a little slowed down this past week because I had to write my first ever sex scene. I was embarassed just thinking about it. And knowing I had to read it to my critique group. That made it tough. What I need to work on is the reading other blogs, commenting, and tweeting. I have to admit, though, I need to take the time to find some good blogs to follow. Maybe I’ll start with your blog roll. I just don’t want to take too much time away from the actual writing.

    • Yes, I do feel like I learned a lot…that’s for sure.
      Lazy – lol – I think it’s pretty obvious though that you already manage to make writing a priority in your life, which is AWESOME! Until ROW80, I hadn’t written a single word, read a craft book, or explored a story idea…talk about lazy! LOL! I think I need the public declaration to help keep me on point otherwise, I’ll just watch TV all night. 🙂
      Eeeeekeee…a sex scene…that must have been hot! I can’t wait to hear what your critique group thinks. I can totally see how that might be a tad embarrassing. LOL!!
      Well, blogging and social media stuff definitely takes up a lot time. I assume I’m going to have to ease up some as my writing takes a larger priority in my life but I’m hoping to juggle both. We’ll see. I’ll keep you posted if I learn any great tips or tricks.
      Yes…everyone on the blogroll rocks but that reminds me, I haven’t updated in ages with all the new bloggers I follow and adore. It’ll be a long list so I’ll have to think about how to showcase them. 🙂
      You can always check out my Links Out Loud category where I feature some of the best I’ve read to get a sense of who I follow and adore.
      Here’s to continuing on our writing journey and to new and fahhhbulous friendships! 🙂 Happy holidays!!

  7. Congrats on your ROW80 accomplishments, Natalie! Angela Peart convinced me to join the first round in 2012. See you there!

  8. kerrymeacham says:

    You did awesome, Nat. The first round is definitely the hardest, or at least it was for me. I had WAY too many goals to acheive them all, but like anything else, I adjusted in the next round and did much better. You had a long list of goals, and I think you rocked it. Have a Merry Christmas, and we’ll see you in 2012. ~clink~

  9. Oh Natalie, I love your honesty! You did great and I can’t wait to join you in January!

    And didn’t Angela nail that post on ROW80? You’re right. I do have the best guest posts!!! LOL!!

    Take care and hopefully you’ll catch your breathe. 🙂

  10. Finding the process that works for you is a major part of being successful as a writer (I think).

    Since you’ve worked in journalism I bet you find the fiction approach works differently. I write a considerable amount in my career, but noveling is an entirely different process and it works better for me to keep things compartmentalized. When I began a story series mixing together content from my professional life (excavation, osteology, fieldwork) with creative writing – it’s been far more delicate to garner the right balance.

    You’ll figure it out…in fact, it sounds like you’re already well down that road!

    …and yes, mom’s always deserve awards (especially for those early years – which means the teenage era).

    • Wow – you really get it Lesann. Thanks so much for your comment because it really helps to know that I am not alone and that y’all think I am going about this in a pretty normal process. Phew!!!
      Yes, creative writing is a vast and different beast than journalism or communications type writing. I am not used to feeling like a floundering fish out of water with regards to writing and I think that sort of shook me a little bit. I look forward to continuing to iron out the process and finding my way in the next round of ROW80. I keep reminding myself that it took me almost a year of writing fairly steady to get a real “sense” of my blog so why shouldn’t fiction writing take the same level of devotion and tweaking!?! It’ll come…I am sure!
      Yes….the mere fact that my mother survived my teenage years and did not kill me…well…it’s a miracle! LOL!

  11. I know you kicked serious butt this round 😉 You learned so much, Natalie, seriously, and your determination and good humor are very inspiring.
    Congrats, dear!
    See you next round 😉
    Happy Holidays!

  12. You are fabulous! I am totally impressed with the way you handle your goals. You had some tough goals but you achieved them beautifully. Yes, your blogging and social media skills are amazing – you rule, girl! So glad to hear you are signing up for the next round 🙂

    As for the great books on writing, I would definitely recommend “The Writer’s Journey” by Christopher Vogler (based on the work of Joseph Campbell, “The Hero’s Journey”)

  13. Natalie, you should be very proud of all you have learned and achieved since our Wana711 group came together in Kristen’s class last summer. I clearly remember how you worked away at developing your blog site and now you’ve proven to be a blogger extraordinaire. You write with such enthusiasm and authenticity it’s frickin’ AWE-mazing (as you might say!) and your ability to attract followers is obvious. We all love you. ROW80 has been another big charge up your learning curve. I know you are going to write a fine novel one of these day and I’ll be one of many pushing to be first in line to buy it. Be patient. Keep doing what you are doing. Read all of these great books being recommended. Write. Delete. Write. Swear. Write. Share. Write. Write. Write. It will happen!
    And, yes, your mom is a saint …

    • Oh my godness. Like Angela, you’ve made me feel like a zillion bucks today with your compliments and support. I can’t say it enough how much of a difference this has made in my confidence and belief in myself. I feel sooo blessed to have come to know each and everyone of you and to be surrounded by such an empowering group of woman (and men…LOL)! You’ve all become sooo special and treasured to me….and you’ve each helped me make my blog a fun and joyous place to be….and now as I am embark on the writing process, I feel supported and connected!
      And I just love you too!!!! 🙂 To hear that you’ll be charging to the front of the line to buy my first book is just…well…sniff….amazing! Thank you!!!
      I will definitely try to stay patient and continue doing what I am doing reading and writing…and deleting…and swearing…and more writing…LOL!! LOVE that Patricia – thank you!!!

  14. Large goals – great success. It sounds like you really did well. There’s so much to do besides just the writing, although that’s the fun part. 🙂 Good luck in the next round!

  15. I like how you gave us your specific goals and then told us what you learned. You are so right about how it’s all a learning process.

    My first five novels do feel like my practice arena (now looking back); and that’s not to say that they’re crap (lol), but I’ve improved, I think. I had a whole last year of challenges before taking on ROW 80, and I did NaNoWriMo last November, so I feel like this year was a coming-together of what I learned in those activities.

    Hang in there! It sounds like you’re on the right track…learning and growing.

    Here’s mine:

    • Thank you Laurel! I am glad you enjoyed the post.
      No way…I absolutely love hearing about other people’s experience because it helps me to feel like I am on the right path. 5 novels – wow – I can’t imagine. That’s an incredible achievement and you’ve had a truly ahhhmazing year. I love how you said it feels like everything is “a coming together” of all you’ve learned…wow!!!
      I’m gonna hang in there and keep with it because I know someday, I’ll have a book or two behind me and will be feeling like everything is coming together. Woot woot!
      Off to check you out! 🙂 Thanks sooo much for swinging over and sharing your story! 🙂

  16. Great job on the goals, even if you didn’t hit every one @ 100%. I think the makeover of your office was a great place to start! Even without he new chair, I bet having a place to retreat to and write probably helps. I know if my office is cluttered and disorganized, I start mentally moving things around, then I abandon the writing to do it for real.

    • I couldn’t agree more – the office is key! And having it organized so it makes me feel good and relaxed is also key. I need a place that I can go, enjoy, and close the door and when I do…I lose myself in the writing which ROCKS! Now to get my ass from the couch and TV to the writing room, that’s the trick! LOL!

  17. Girl you kicked some major butt in the social media department. 33 hours is pretty damn good too. I wasn’t as organized as you when I started my first WIP. I dashed out some notes about the main things and some dialogue scenes and then I began the most terribly written piece of work ever. Its still terrible but I plan to finish it by the end of ROW80 Round 1 2012. I will need some major discipline because I know that’s my biggest fault. On to 2012! Nice goals. 🙂

    • Awww…thank you Nicole! Reading about others’ experience really helps me to feel normal and takes some of the pressure of. The most terribly written piece of work ever…LOL…well good to know the bar is set low cause I have a funny feeling I might just give you a run for your money on that claim. LOL! But…you are right, it’s something to work from and build on and there’s nothing ever wasted so…onward and upwards to 2012 goals! Woot woot!

  18. I had a similar experience with reading craft books. I had to change my goals when I realized that I wanted to take more time with my WIP and plot more. Then again, at some point, I looked up and said, “Enough plot already; time to write!” I also had a healthy lifestyle goal of exercising this past round; it fell into the gutter about halfway through. I’m planning to revive it in 2012! Good for you crossing the finish line, Natalie! Best wishes.

    • Time to write – so true! It’s easier than I realized to get lost in planning and plotting and waiting for “the” perfect idea. Sometimes we just gotta write and see what happens. 🙂
      Glad to hear you are going to get back on the healthy lifestyle horse. I may be once again biting off more than I can chew but…it’s good to aspire for grandeur I think. LOL!
      Best wishes to you as well Julie! 🙂

  19. Sounds like an amazing round, and I love this wrap up post. I’ll have to borrow this idea for the next round. And I’m with you… I need to work on plotting/planning, but I can get lost in it. I need to focus on word counts and writing.

    Looking forward to seeing you in Round 1 2012.

    Wishing you the best of the holiday season and many blessings (and word count totals!) in 2012!

    • Awww…thanks Tia – I am glad you like the format and feel free to purge to your heart’s content. 🙂 Yip, for the next round, I’ll definitely have some word count goals to help keep me more on point.
      Happy holidays to you and yours as well…and here’s to big word counts in the upcoming year. LOL! 🙂

  20. Hiya! How I missed your blog through this round I don’t know. Adding it to my reader. Congratulations on all your accomplishments. Isn’t Jody is the best? She always has something wise to say. You are exactly right – all those wips we’ve written so far, practice and learning. Look forward to seeing more of you in 2012.

    Merry Christmas and Happy writing in 2012

    • Wonderful to meet you Robin and have you swing by for a visit. I am glad you enjoy my digs and here’s to more fun in the ROW80 sun come 2012! Practice makes perfect.
      Happy holidays and all the best to you and yours! 🙂

  21. You learned way more than you ‘didn’t’ do. You set some goals and made a few, didn’t make a few, but you learned where your strengths are, what you need to do for the next round, and how to make things happen in a challenging and yet possible way. Does that make sense?

    You’re awesome and fabulous. If you ever want to send me something for critique (not hard core, just a gentle nudging type of critique), I’m always here for you. Sometimes knowing you have to send something out will be the motivation you need. Accountability to someone else is far different than accountability to yourself only. Hmmm, maybe I need to speak those lines out loud… I’ve postponed my editor twice now! Yikes.

    Keep writing, keep plotting, keep setting goals. You rock.

    • Awwww…Tameri, I just ADORE you!! Thank you sooo much for your amazing vote of confidence, encouragement, and support. It means everything to me and I absolutely agree, accountability to someone else always gives us that nudge we need to stay on top of the goals. You need to get your stuff to your editor girl. LOL! I love it and I will definitely take you up on that most generous offer in the new year…I will be calling…
      YOU ROCK girl….woot woot!!!


  1. […] and to start 2012 out on what I think is the right foot to achieve my goals. I learned a ton in my first ROW80 experience and I am pumped to put those lessons to good […]

  2. […] and to start 2012 out on what I think is the right foot to achieve my goals. I learned a ton in my first ROW80 experience and I am pumped to put those lessons to good […]

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