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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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

Writing to the Future (from the past)

(Please note, this is a repost from our very first sponsor posts of the challenge, Writing to the Future by Craig Hansen, from February 14, 2011.)

As I write this, I have no idea where you are in your project as you read this. I have no idea where I’ll be in mine. Because I’m speaking to a future that hasn’t been written yet. A tomorrow that has yet to arrive. In a sense, that’s what writing is really all about. And it reminds me of a story. And that’s good, because as writers, stories are what we live for; or they should be.

Flash back to my college days.

I dropped by the office of my college writing professor who also happens to be my master’s thesis adviser. I was in a Master of Arts program that allowed a creative thesis, meaning a novel, just like the better MFA programs. My professor was a working novelist who, in addition to his university duties, was attempting to tread water in the Publish Or Perish Ocean. In other words, he was working on his novel as I came in.

He looked up, said, “Hi,” and asked me to read a few of his pages. This was not uncommon since I’d earned my undergraduate degree studying under him at the same institution, so we’d known each other several years, since he had first arrived.

As I perused his pages, I noticed he was making reference to the current year in the story; it was a date three years into the future.

“Is this science fiction?” I asked, “maybe speculative?”

“No,” he told me. “It’s just, with the lead times and delays in publishing, if you want a novel to appear fresh when it hits store shelves, you have to set it at least a couple years into the future from the time in which you’re writing it. More if you’re a slow writer.”

“Isn’t that a bit risky?” I asked. “After all, an election could go a different way, or a major event could happen.”

“If something major happens, you’ll have a chance to do revisions,” he told me, “but mostly you play it safe. Assume that for the most part, two or three years from now won’t be dramatically different from the way things are today.”

This exchange taught me a lot about the publishing and novel-writing business of the late 1980s and early 1990s. New York publishing houses ruled most of publishing, with the exception of small regional presses, and things like the Internet and were, by and large, still things that were part of the future. Events that had yet to be written.

While participants in A Round Of Words In 80 Days (ROW80) come from many different backgrounds and points of view, pursuing many different goals and for many different reasons, one thing is likely true of most of us: we’ve all at least considered publishing our work independently on Kindle or a similar eReader as a viable option, once our writing and revision goals are all attained.

It’s an option my old professor never had back then. He operated in a different writing environment, where novels had to be written in ways that allowed for the vagaries and idiosyncrasies of the New York publishing world. That included having to write two years or more into the future, and remaining intentionally vague about current events, even in so-called contemporary fiction.

It was a practice in place for a reason. Because even if you had an agent, even if you had a book contract, it could take years from the date of completion of a manuscript until it finally appeared on store shelves.

Here are a few of the steps just to give you an idea: Your novel would be read first my your agent, or at least one of their assistants. If it passes that hurdle, then it gets passed on to the publishing house, where anywhere from one to three levels of editors must read and evaluate the manuscript, making notes on possible changes or concerns. (Not all of them would be targeted to the author; some would be part-and-parcel of publishing house business, such as running certain aspects of the book – the use of celebrity names, or name-brand products, for example – past the company’s legal department, to make sure all libel, trademark and copyright infringement concerns were satisfied.

There would likely be at least one round of requested changes from the publishing house, and more than one round was not uncommon. Eventually, a senior editor would present the novel at a meeting with the publisher, who’d get the final say on whether the book would be scheduled or not.

Even with a green-light at this stage, there would be meetings with the art department, covers commissioned, the marketing team would be called in for their input, and then the book would have to be evaluated for it’s market potential – which would determine how big a promotional effort would be planned for the book.

Then there’s final galleys, final changes, final typesetting and corrections, scheduling printing and distribution, and shipping the book to stores.

If it sounds labyrinthine, it is.

I know most of these steps from my time as an editor at a Minnesota-based small press and my interactions with New York houses. The upshot is, even a book from a top-selling author like Stephen King takes time to go from the author’s “final draft” to the books final “to press” state and it’s journey to book stores and library shelves across the country. Even with everything running smoothly, it’s hard to “rush” a novel to press and still promote it properly. So a writer, very appropriately so, has to be just a little bit – excuse the word – psychic, to write contemporary fiction. Even after a writer mails off a manuscript virtually guaranteed to be accepted, the waiting period until it hits store shelves is usually at least a year out, and likely longer.

In blunt point of fact, that makes it almost impossible to really, honestly, truly ever be “timely” with a novel. If print journalism suffers from being hours old and “played out” on cable news by the time a morning paper arrives, just imagine how difficult it is to appear timely if one writes novels that are supposedly “ripped from today’s headlines,” because ultimately, they were probably ripped from the headlines of two-year-old newspapers, or earlier.

So what’s all this have to do with a ROW80 pep talk?

Merely to remind you of the boundless opportunities living in the age of Kindle and other forms of eBook publishing has blessed us with. While those of us who opt for independent self-publishing carry a heavy burden in terms of promoting our books, and there are still necessary delays to make sure a work of fiction is well-edited, tightly written and as mistake-free as humanly possible, one thing I’m not seeing celebrated quite as much is the shorter time-tables this indie route affords us.

No longer to we have to write “two years ahead,” like an unambitious science fiction scribe who doesn’t want to go out on a limb and predict personal jet packs by 2012. No, depending on our writing speed, we can shorten up those timetables considerably.

The Comedy Central animated cartoon SOUTH PARK made headlines when it was in its early seasons by being able to “react and create quickly” in response to current events, such as the Somali pirates, the Tiger Woods sex scandals and the federal seizure of Elian Gonzales. (Remember that?) They were able to create episodes often within a couple weeks of the actual events they were satirizing because they didn’t ship their animation overseas, but accomplished it electronically, in-house.

I’m not suggesting many of us are interested in writing a novel about the BP oil spill or the massacre of Christians in Egypt or anything like that. But some of us might be. And that’s an exciting part of the age in which we write. Without those two-years-or-more lead-times to worry about, we can write a more reactive brand of fiction, if we so choose. If we are skilled and fast writers with beta-readers and proof-readers in place who also work fast, we now have the ability to write reactive fiction. Stories that could, conceivably, be out to readers within a couple weeks of the actual events inspiring them, rather than years later.

Recently, Stephen King published a collection of novellas called FULL DARK, NO STARS. In it, one of King’s stories – considered the best piece in the collection by some – is called “A Good Marriage.” It is the story of a woman who find out her husband has a secret life, full of unspeakable evils, that she had been blithely unaware of until it was revealed to the world at large. King has admitted this intriguing story was inspired by the capture and trial of Dennis Rader, the BTK Strangler, who had a wife and children and was president of his local church – but was also a serial killer for over thirty years.

King’s story, “A Good Marriage,” is the sort of fiction piece I’m talking about. It feels inspired by current events, and that relevancy lends immediacy to the fiction.

But here’s the rub: Rader was captured in February 2005. Almost six years ago. As current as “A Good Marriage” may feel, King’s story is reacting to considerably dated news events. The story was first published in Full Dark, No Stars in fall 2010, so let’s call it five years out of date. Knowing that King  probably wrote it at least a year or two before it reached print, we can guess that he actually wrote the story in perhaps 2008, maybe as early as 2007.

Not accounting for how long the news event may have taken to inspire King, is it being too cheeky to say that, had “A Good Marriage” reached print in 2007, only two years after Rader’s capture, it would have had the appearance of being even more timely? I think that’s fair to suggest.

So, how do we take advantage of this?

Well, in a new publishing reality where, once the final edit and proofing is done, all we have to do to get our fiction to readers is convert a Word file to HTML (filtered), run it through MobiPocket or Calibre, and upload it to DTP, we can cut years off our time-to-print. While it may be difficult to become as timely the creators of SOUTH PARK if we’re dedicated to writing high-quality prose fiction, the truth is that if we find an event that inspires us to write a story, we can write our “ripped from the headlines” story and get it into the hands of readers before the public has completely forgotten the events that inspired us in the first place.

While it’s not everyone’s style of fiction – and even I myself don’t often write in this manner – it is a tool we have in our arsenal today, that wasn’t there for my college writing professor back in 1991. While, in a sense, we are always writing to “the future” to an extent, we can be more current, more timely, than any previous generation of writers.

If that doesn’t get you inspired, well… I’m sure someone else’s pep talk will be closer to your cup of latte.

In the meantime, try this: here’s a headline I pulled off The Drudge Report that’s sure to inspire someone to a creative work of short fiction: As of January 5, 2011, this is an actual headline I found at 1:10 AM CST: “Vulture tagged by Israeli scientists flies into Saudi Arabia – arrested for being a spy!”

I know what the creators of South Park could do with that. The question is, what can you do with it?

First one to upload a short story to DTP inspired by that headline wins… well, a lot of respect from me. And sales, I’m sure. Especially if it’s any good.


Craig Hansen