Check-in 3-29

And here it is…. The End.

Yes, you made it. It was a long journey, but you made it. That’s a reason to cheer if nothing else.

Of course, you’re in great company too. I think I’d heard somewhere that one Phineas Fogg tried to circumvent the world in 80 days as well once 😉. He should have waited a few years and joined up with Nellie Bly… she made it in 72 Days.

But in a challenge like the ROW80, faster isn’t necessarily better. The ROW80 is less of a one-off adventure and more of a lifestyle. It’s knows you have life because we, your fellow ROWers are there too. And from all of us… WooHOO! Give yourself a pat on the back.

And… as always, let us know how you did.

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Our Round 2 Goals Post will go up in lieu of our regular Monday sponsor post.


The End… is… Here?

(This is a bit of a tribute post to our founder Kait Nolan’s post The End is Nigh that closed out the very first ROW80 ROWnd in 2011. It’s also, like Kait’s post. a way to connect to all that has occurred and celebrate that we … made it. ♥ ♥ ♥)

On this 12th year anniversary of the ROW80 and the end of our first round of 2023, it’s easy to forget that this is still all new. Yes, every Round of Words is new. As new as a a new day. And at the end of each day, we need to rest a moment, allow our minds to process all that has occurred so we can start again, refreshed, regrouped… ready.

It’s not all about creative goals. Challenges of all kinds occur by choice and not. That’s why the ROW80 was made. It’s the Writing (and creative) Challenge That Knows You Have a Life. As Kait noted in her post at the end of the original Round 1, the ROW80 is the challenge that allows us to change our goals as Life Happens.

After nearly 12 years in the trenches, doing sponsor posts, checking in (usually weekly) I can honestly say that we’ve all seen and lived through some rough times. I won’t say that these are more trying times than any others. I won’t regale you with all the things that made this round hard.. We all have difficulties that we need to deal with…. momentary for some, perpetual for others… even cyclical frustrations that wear us out over the long haul. Sometimes things have to give a bit. We shift a goal for a few weeks; we add in a Do Nothing Day….

Sometimes we quit (we’ve all been there for a few days at least).

But it can’t last. None of it can last. That creative drive that is in us needs an outlet, and we need a supportive community to be there when things look good and things look bad. A group founded on the idea that Life Happens and that sometimes that requires a bit of recalibration without recrimination….

The ROW80 isn’t about making ourselves feel bad because something detoured us for a time. I have no doubt that Kait considered the name well when she started the challenge, not just for the length of time (to help instill habits better) or its nod to the work of Jules Verne. There’s also our nickname ROW80. It’s cute, catchy, easy to add in as a hashtag on social media, but it’s more.

To row is to be an active participant in being where you want to be. Even if you’re fighting the current just to stay in place or to avoid being pushed back, to row, to even start rowing, is to make a personal statement of action. To chose your course

So, is this the end? Or is this another step in the journey?

Some small “housekeeping”…

Fist, let me thank everyone who has helped make this Round possible. From those who helped me pay our Linky Tools subscription, to those who visited and checked in with their fellow ROWers, to those who chatted in the FB group and made this round even happen after a year’s hiatus.

Thank you to those of you offered your time to be sponsors, to Shan for handling the FB page as she could… Anyone looking to help out in some capacity, there are things to do. We need more sponsors for Round 2, and if there is someone who can make sure our posts are forwarded on platforms such as Twitter or Mastodon, that would be great, You can message me directly with your ideas at mousefir (at) gmail (.) com

Our last check-in post of the Round will go live on Thursday instead of Wednesday since that is the official 80th day of the challenge. I hope to see lost of progress… or at least lots of consideration as to where you went on this ROW80 journey.

Our Round 2 Goals Post goes live April 3rd. I will also be announcing any major changes coming from your suggestions then.

Round 2 starts April 10th and ends June 29th.

Round 3 starts July 10th and ends September 28th.

Round 4 starts October 9th, and we close out this year on December 27.


Eden Mabee

Check-in 3-26

So here we are… the very last Sunday check-in of Round1.

I know some of you don’t post your progress for every check-in (though I do hope your read our check-in posts for news about our challenge … and the occasional smile).

If you didn’t read the Wednesday Check-in post, please weigh in now. I’m trying to find out if it might make sense for us to rearrange out check-in dates. Or even possibly reduce the number of check-in posts.

In the end, the decision is something we should still make together. I won’t make any radical changes without your input (we will be having a few sponsors this upcoming Round 2 after all), but just as new ROWnds are for new goals and reassessment, now is a great time to start those preparations.

And yes! We are still looking for sponsors. In fact, if you know some people who want an online community to support their creative endeavors, let them know about our Challenge That Knows You Have a Life.

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Are You A…. Crit Partner or Beta Reader

Which One Are You?

(Please note, this is a repost from our very first sponsor posts of the challenge, Crit Partner or Beta Reader: Which One Are You by Susan Bischoff from March 14, 2011.)

As we near the end of ROW80, I thought I’d give you a post about editing. Here are some things that won’t be covered: proofreading, line-editing, copy-editing. These are all basically the same thing, and are a final phase that comes after the real editing has been completed. The lesson in this paragraph: proofreading does not equal editing.

So now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk crits and betas. A lot of times you’ll see these terms used interchangeably. I’m not sure there are official definitions or if there’s an actual difference, but in my head I definitely make a distinction between these two characters, and that’s what I’m going to talk about today. The difference between beta and crit in the mind of Susan, and how it applies to you.

To me, beta reading is a kindler, gentler art than critique. Beta readers are a small pool of readers with slightly varying tastes and life experiences (because our own life experience often plays into our enjoyment of fiction) who are going to give your book a read-through to see if they like it. While some are more critical than others, beta readers basically want to like your book and generally will. When you send things out to beta readers, you’re often looking for general impressions:

* Did it make sense?
* Did you enjoy the story? How was the pacing?
* Did you like my characters, esp. the mains? Were they relate-able, could you connect?
* Did you feel like there were holes? Was anything confusing?

These are all important things to know. Naturally, you think you’ve handled all this before you let anyone else see the book, but it’s good to get confirmation from fresh eyes and different brains.

Beta reading usually doesn’t take much longer than any other kind of reading, and, while some betas may note some typos for you, ask a few questions, or write a bunch of LOLs within your text, what you usually get back are a few paragraphs with general impressions.

Critique implies criticism, or at least critical thinking. Someone who is critiquing your work is not casual about their reading. They’re thinking like an editor. Unlike the beta who gives you a read-through, wanting to like your work, a crit partner combs your text, line by line, wanting to make sure as many people like it as possible. They’re looking for more than “Do I like this?” I guess the easiest way to describe reading for critique, in the way I think of it, is that a crit partner is looking for things to be wrong.

Which is why finding a good critique partner or editor is really hard. Because not everyone is good at looking for problems objectively, from the mindset of Genre-Reader X. Some people who go looking for mistakes do so because they get personal satisfaction in finding mistakes and pointing them out rather than the in the editorial process itself. Some people involve ego in their crits. Some people aren’t able to step out of their own voice and style and objectively evaluate work that is different from the way they would have written it.

Good critique involves, amongst other things, understanding the voice and style of the author you’re working for, and understanding the genre you’re reading. Because as a crit partner, you’re placing yourself in the character of Genre-Reader X, a picky reader who would be happy to write a scathing, 1-star review on Amazon. You’re undercover as Genre-Reader X, looking for anything that might confuse or pull the reader out of the story, when, in reality, you’re really the person who stands between your author and that 1-star review.

As a crit partner, even though you’re in there looking for mistakes, it’s not because you want to tear your partner down, it’s because your job is to serve and protect your author by helping to find weak spots and flaws that she was too close to see. It’s then up to her to decide, hopefully with the same amount of objectively you brought to the job, whether and how to make changes. You might provide thoughts, guidance, suggestions, but the work is hers, and so are the decisions.

Now you have some understanding of how I think of these two different terms and we can get to my real question: In your own work, are you doing beta or crit?

I see this a lot: “Whew! I finally finished the first draft. Huzzah! Now a quick pass for typos and then it’s off to the betas!”

I’m here to suggest, based on what I’ve seen in rough drafts over the past few years, that you do more than a quick pass for typos. When you’re writing your first draft, it’s important for many people to just write through and not go back and edit the work as you go. There’s value in that. But your readers, even the pre-release readers on your team, deserve more than a pass for typos. In fact, they probably don’t much care about the typos (proof-reading being an entirely DIFFERENT event that comes after this phase).

But, more importantly, part of growing as a writer is learning to be better evaluators of fiction, including our own. It may be especially true for indies, many of whom won’t have the benefit of professional editorial services, or will have to pay for those by the hour, that learning to put yourself in that Genre-Reader X suit and to look at your work objectively will be an invaluable skill. I think that the more you’re able to do this after your draft is written, the more you’ll be able to internalize what works and what doesn’t, and the stronger your first drafts will be going forward.

So what I’m suggesting in this post is to consider becoming a critiquer, as opposed to a beta, of your own work, before anyone else ever sees it. Rather than giving it a quick read-through, and one in which you want to love everything you’ve written, learn to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and evaluate. Think critically and learn to find your own weak points.

Editing, whether it’s for yourself or a fellow writer, is a skill all its own. Few people are naturally good at all aspects of writing. Learning to analyze what works and what doesn’t in fiction and in your genre, learning to be objective about your work–these things can take time. Probably the hardest thing is learning to see what’s actually on the page, rather than what’s in your head that you meant to be on the page.

Keep practicing your editorial skills, on your own work, and on work you critique for your peers, and they’ll improve like any other skill set in your Writer Arsenal of DOOM.


Susan Bischoff

Check in 3-19

Just a little over a week to the end of ROWnd 1. How do you feel you’ve been doing? Is your muse sharing its secrets with you? Or are you still trying to coax one out of the ethereal planes to spend a few hours with you daily?

Wherever you are in your creative journey, let us know at the linky.

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Check-in 3-15

By William Holmes Sullivan – Public Domain

The Ide of March are here! A classic writing meme, folks. Not that we can all be Shakespearean level creatives, but we can all use our imaginations the way he did. A little “creative license” is a good thing.

And don’t worry about everything you create being true to reality. Shakespeare’s famous line “Et tu, Brute?” probably wasn’t actually what Julius Caesar said. Some scholarly research suggests it was more likely that Caesar spoke Greek (if he spoke at all) when assassinated by Brutus and the other senators.

We don’t know what actually happened. But we do know, through creative efforts of writers and painters, even historians, many possible things that could have happened. This mystery… this magical ability of the creative mind to introduce possibilities to us…. it’s a gift.

How are are you using your creative gift these days? Are you finding yourself struggling to hold up against overwhelming forces, such as faced Caesar? Are you reconsidering your intentions, but eventually going boldly forward no matter what as Brutus did?

Whatever your creative situation at present…. let us know at the linky elow.

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The (Extra) Long Stretch

(Please note, this is a repost from our very first sponsor posts of the challenge, The Long Stretch by Dawn Montgomery, from March 7, 2011.)

I have three boys, two tomboys, and have been raised in a family of Texas (American) football fanatics, so let me throw this one at you in sports terms.

It’s fourth and goal, 10 seconds on the clock, and twenty yards to the end zone. A field goal would tie the game and knock it into overtime while a touchdown would end it right there…so what do you do? Both are respectable choices and come with their own risks. You can take the field goal and run the risk of losing the advantage in overtime OR you can go for the touchdown and run the risk of the game ending with your team 3 points short if you fail to bring it home.

Writing is no different.

When I’m reaching the end of a writing challenge I feel this panic in my chest and gut like I’m racing against the clock…and losing. I haven’t met my goals, I didn’t complete my book, I didn’t create the world or edit the pages I’d said I would. I’m a failure…

Any of this sound familiar?

The field goal is what you can safely finish by the end of this challenge. You have a *few weeks* left. You can’t look at the game (the writing challenge) with how many points (words, pages, etc) you’d MEANT to complete. You have to take a good hard look at what you can accomplish. By now you’ve seen all the possible things that could wipe out your motivation, time, etc. So you have a better handle on what you can get done. So now, make a goal, based on your previous weeks’ tallies. Check your average and set that up as your new goal. Then, when the challenge ends, you’ve got some time to finish your current work in progress by going into a little overtime.

But what about those who will accept nothing less than a win?? I want that touchdown! What about you guys? If it’s in your heart to do it, go for it! You’ve got a *few weeks* left so get it done and take that hard break between challenges. When the next round starts, however, you’ve got to consider taking all the work you’ve finished and polishing it, getting it ready for submission, etc. That kind of drive is fantastic, but remember, we’re developing our writing skill as well. Get the words on the page, get your work done, but schedule time for editing.

So what do we do when the challenge is over? When we’re in the off season, so to speak.

I, for one, will be breathing a great sigh of relief for another challenge under my belt. Just like athletes in the off season, however, we have to prepare for the next one. Does that mean read a ton of books on writing, lose myself in all the recent political intrigue involving my chosen genre, etc.?


Staring at my playbook on plotting and character description is not going to make me a better writer after such a tough challenge. What I will do in my off season is pick up a book in my favorite genre and/or an author I love to read and just enjoy. Remind myself why I do what I do. I love books, how they send me to far off places with amazing adventures. How the hero and heroine in a romance find that key moment where they each realize they’ve fallen in love. I will give myself permission to enjoy it and not feel pressured by deadlines or looming challenges. Give my mind a break.

I’ve seen so many different challenges in this round from writing poetry, creating a new novel, novella, or short story to editing, creating a new world, or completing research papers. I hope you’ve met your goals, but if not, I’m still proud of how hard every one of you have worked to get this far.

Keep writing!


Dawn Montgomery