Round 2

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

I don’t know about y’all, but I’ve had a few personal setbacks this round.  I took last week to shift gears and recharge a bit.  I did some plotting and writing on a different project.  Sometimes you NEED that change in scenery to reset, so consider that if you head into a difficult stretch.

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When Did You Fall In Love by Julie Glover

Do you remember the first time you fell in love?

I’m not talking about your junior high crush or your first high school date or even your “soul mate.” When did you first fall in love with books?

Sometimes in the rush of meeting our goals and deadlines, we can forget what first drew us to become a writer. We end up focusing so much on story structure or word count or editing or publishing that we don’t stop and consider how amazing it is that we can speak to others so personally through our writing.

I was recently Facebook chatting with an author friend about why I write. I considered my answer cliché, but maybe it’s something to remember:

I think part of what keeps me wanting to write YA and MG is when I ask myself, “If I could write for one and only one niche group, who would it be?” And it’s young girls struggling with who they are in those formative ages. That’s when I fell in love with stories, when books sent me to worlds I didn’t know and got me out of the frustrating one I was in, when fiction sometimes seemed far more real than the stupid drama of junior high and high school. It’s when I realized that books could be friends.

My book friends were such classics as the Nancy Drew series by Carolyn Keene, Little House on the Prairie and sequels by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret and other novels by Judy Blume, and The Outsiders and others by S.E. Hinton.

But even earlier as a child, I’d fallen in love with story. I curiously read The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, joyfully read Gerald McBoing McBoing by Dr. Seuss, and nervously read the fairy tale of Bluebeard, among other stories and fables and fairy tales. I made up stories in my head and acted them out in the privacy on my bedroom, slaying pretend dragons and rescuing my own princess self from the villain’s tower (then the prince arrived and kissed me, after I’d already kicked butt, thank you very much.)

I dove into our family set of encyclopedias to open up worlds of information and excitement, learning all kinds of things you now get from cable channels and internet searches. But flipping through those glossy pages showed me what was available through books and fed my sense of wonder.

Have I lost that sense of wonder? Do I get bogged down sometimes in my checklist and forget the reader – that nameless person on the other end opening up the book and expecting to be taken somewhere wonderful? How can I keep that focus in front of me?

Ask yourself from time to time why you write, who you’re writing for, and what you want to accomplish with your stories or publications. Our writing goals need to fit into our ultimate desire to communicate with the reader. It’s an amazing thing that someone can tell me a story and I can become so engrossed in that world that my own seems to dissipate around me.

Of course, such writing doesn’t come with ease. Like a well-executed dance or Olympic sport, the audience may never realize how much work went into producing a short performance. In fact, if you’ve done your job well, your book is seamless – no evidence of your sweat and tears staining the pages. But you can also tell when the dancer, the athlete, and the novelist enjoys what they’re doing. It comes across in their dedication and their excitement.

What excites you about writing? Do you still have your sense of wonder? When did you first fall in love?


Julie Glover

Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

Now we’re getting into things.  Easter’s coming up–if that’s a holiday you celebrate, now’s the time to get in some extra words to make up for any lack you might have because of being tied up with other stuff.

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The Writing Habit by Andrew Couch

Everyone has habits that hamper them. Writers seem especially sensitive to this. We sometimes call it writer’s block or losing the muse (did you check under the seat cushions?). Often it is just the habit of letting life get in the way because writing is hard. My habit that often derails my writing involves mentally picturing the end result and letting this picture of what it should be prevent me from actually putting the work into getting it there.

Planning and having an idea where a story needs to go is a great and essential skill. Even Pansters need to have that vision when they get to editing their story. I wander back and forth between plotting and pantsing. Somewhere along this planning, I have a picture and a feeling of my work in my head. I craft this picture and refine it until it shines in the mental sun. I bask in the glow of the perfect story in my head. Then I look back to the page. The dull page with little black scratches on it. This isn’t the perfect image I have in my head, I say. It somehow feels better to spend time in my head than on the page, so the project stalls.

I have already read the story in my head and enjoyed it, so it feels weird going through it again on the page. Especially when the story on the page doesn’t ever seem as cool or fulfilling than the thing in my head. And then I realize that the thing in my head has morphed to more of a feeling, a sensation of greatness, than an actual picture, an actual story to write. At this point the writing process breaks down even further.

In marches discipline. Discipline to work on the page. To push the words around until they approach the glory I already have enjoyed in my head. There is a commentary by Ira Glass that has made its rounds on the internet about learning art. I like this one with the moving typography. It isn’t very long and definitely worth watching/listening.

I definitely fall into the gap that Ira is talking about. I have the vision in my head of what I want my art to be like and struggle to get it onto the page. To counter this, I am working on discipline to do the work and just practice. Push the words around (even if randomly at times) until I see them begin to line up with the vision.

Hearing Ira talk about this gap makes me feel like it is a common enough problem for creative types and I am not alone in it. That is good because the writing process can feel very much alone sometimes. Recognizing the problem is the first step to combating it. Here are a few things I have tried to help fight this problem of having a mental sensation overshadow the actual story.

1) Write notes with paper and penIn the digital age it seems weird somehow to make notes on paper, but it is totally wonderful. It is freeform. I can sketch little pictures instead of having to force words to things. Words can be related with lines and arrows easily. This all helps me try to put concrete form to the ideas in my head and keep them in the realm of the story.

2) Just WriteWe hear it a lot from plenty of the big name writers. Do the work. Sit and write. Whatever other form of the saying they choose. Actually to sit down and attempt to get the story down seems to help me. I may not always get the exact shining image in my head, but sometimes I get different wonderfulness on the page.

3) Be ok with it – “Perfect is the enemy of done.”
Part of #2 is seeing that although the story I did write isn’t the same as the story in my head, it is still pretty cool sometimes. So part of getting over this for me is being ok with what I did write. This is not the same as skipping editing, but it means not tossing ideas on the page just because they don’t match exactly the ones in the shiny mystical vision in the mind.

Do you have this problem of the vision being greater than the page?Any other tips to combat this?


Andrew Couch

Sunday #ROW80 Check-In

First week down.  Are you off to a good start or did you stall at the starting gate?  Either way is fine.  Just put one foot in front of the other and walk until you can run.

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Midweek #ROW80 Check-In

ONE WEEK TO GO!   Let’s move, people!  HUSTLE HUSTLE HUSTLE!  This is the last sprint of this round, and then you get a whole TEN DAYS OFF!

Our sponsor roster for Round 2 is filling up.  If you’ve never sponsored before and want to give it a try, don’t be shy!  Check out the FAQs and email me at kaitnolanwriter (at) gmail (dot) com.

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Proud To Be A ROWer


As this Round is drawing to a close, I’m thinking about community.

Several years ago, I got invited to start up a community for writers.  This was in the early days of the indie scene and after talking with the other folks involved with the endeavor, I was IN.  I have always loved the idea of creating a community to prop other people up–a positive space to help writers remember that they aren’t alone in this sometimes lonely profession.  That…wasn’t how that particular group turned out.  I disagreed with some of the tactics, and with their desire to monetize the group.   Some of you have known me long enough to remember this.  But the ultimate straw for me related to my use of the group to help out another struggling writer.  Not even a full blown fund raising campaign, just notifying folks of that writer’s freelance editorial services.  I caught flack for it and knew that I was NOT on the same page as my co-founders.  So I left.  That group has since crashed and burned.

When I started ROW80, I set out to create a writing challenge.  Like all challenges, I expected that there would be a fair number of folks who would rotate in and out.  Plenty of first timers who dropped out and never came back.  And we do have that.  But what we also have is a group of core ROWers, people who come back round after round, cheerleading, sharing, and supporting.  People who welcome newcomers, show them the ropes.  People who, when I made the call, not only answered but thew themselves in whole-heartedly.  A community.

Our  Fundrazr for ROW80 sponsor Lauralynn Elliott has drawn to a close.  I’m happy to report that LL’s husband is back at work and recovering nicely.  We’re all thrilled to see him come out on the other side of this!  We raised a whopping $1812 to help out.  A great big THANK YOU to everyone who donated, bought Lauralynn’s books, and spread the word.  If you donated, please don’t forget to FILL OUT THE INCENTIVE FORM to select which price pack you’d like to be entered for.  I’ll be making the drawing for that in the next week or so.

I want to say how proud I am of all of you.  Proud of your generosity and your good spirit.  Most of all, I’m proud to call you, this community, mine.