Diana alerted me to the A to Z Challenge in the most dramatic way possible. She reblogged the signup-page on Sourcerer in February as a surprise post. Perhaps she just did that in fun — surprise posting is a game we play with one another — but I have to imagine she did it that way in part because she knew I’d be skeptical. And she was right.
A blogging challenge that requires you to post daily, six days a week, AND visit five other blogs every day is not to be taken lightly. It took me whole day to decide I wanted in.
The challenge was grueling by the end. It put a lot of pressure on my already-tight blogging schedule. The visits took more time than I thought they would, and prevented me from keeping up with a lot of my friends for a month. Still, it turned out well.
I’m pleased with the posts I ended up with. I got this blog lots of new followers, and found several bloggers to interact with that I otherwise never would have discovered. I’m planning to do it next year, perhaps with both of the blogs I manage. But I’ll be better-organized and the posts will absolutely be written in advance. Here are a few things the A to Z Challenge taught me.
- Short posts can be good, especially if they’re pithy and include either useful or personal information.
- Art is less important for something like A to Z than it is for normal, everyday posts. I spent too much time finding art for the early posts. The A to Z badges and the occasional pin from Part Time Monster’s Pinterest boards worked just fine.
- If you’re using a big challenge to gain followers and meet people, you get out what you put in. Halfway through the challenge, I had to cut down on the revisits and comments just to get the visits done. I still gained followers during the last two weeks, but not at the rate I gained them during the first two. And my comments leveled out when they should have been increasing.
- There’s a market for useful writing-related blog posts. It’s not a market that requires you to post every day, but even more than with other forms of blogging, quality is important. Writing posts must be well-written, and if you’re giving tips, the tips must be useful. That doesn’t mean you only have to talk about advanced techniques. If you’ve been writing for a while, things you view as basic are probably useful to someone in your following. Every writer learns skills in a different order, and no one’s good at everything.
Here are some things I should have done before April 1 that I did not do. I will do them all next year.
- Didn’t write my posts ahead of time. I intended to do it in March, but March was crazy. I’ll not wait until March to get started for next year. I have next year’s theme picked out for this blog. I’ll have the list of specific topics by July 1. I’ll write two or three per month all year long and save them up. If we decide to do the challenge with Sourcerer, that decision will be made and topics chosen by the end of December. The posts will be written by multiple bloggers, or else Sourcerer won’t participate.
- Didn’t sign up early. List placement is important. I’ll be watching for the registration page to appear next year, and I’ll sign up on Day 1. I’ll do it the minute the page is published, even if I have to take a couple of personal hours off from work to do it.
- Announced my topics too early. I did not realize the topic reveal was a thing. Next year, I’ll do it at the same time as everyone else, and spend time reading and commenting on other peoples’ topics.
- Didn’t download the A to Z-themed art beforehand. Because I didn’t realize it was there until a week into the challenge. Next year, I’ll have posts loaded and ready to go well before art is released, and I’ll spend a Sunday afternoon in March adding the art to my posts. (Both this and the previous item are a result of the fact that I was too busy to learn everything I could about the challenge before it started).
- Didn’t bookmark blogs from the list ahead of time. This just didn’t occur to me. Five new blogs per day for 30 days is 150, but lots of blogs drop out, and sometimes you have to visit 10 to find 5 you want to comment on. Next year, during the last week of March, I’ll create a folder in my bookmarks menu for the challenge, and I’ll bookmark 200 blogs from the list to start with. That way I won’t have to load the list even once during the first three weeks of the challenge. I’ll be able to open the bookmarks five at a time and get right to work every evening.
- Didn’t get my reflection in before the page to index the link closed. I’ll write my reflection on April 29 next year and have it ready to go on May 1.
- Didn’t use the WordPress tag indexes to full effect. I barely looked at my readers at all in April because I was slammed, and something had to give. I should have been spending 30 minutes each evening browsing the A to Z-related tags, giving likes and leaving brief comments.
To sum up. The A to Z Challenge is fabulous. I recommend you try it at least once. But it was tough. I spent so much time getting though it, Sourcerer’s growth stalled and I had to step away from the circle of bloggers who talk to me often. I had to shut down this blog for three weeks in May to get back on track.
I created that situation by not preparing for it properly, and that’s a mistake I will not make again. Next year, I’ll be set up to have my posts scheduled exactly 24 hours apart, and I will be ready to visit 5 or more blogs every night in the most time-efficient way possible.
Here are my 26 posts. The big surprise of the challenge for me was the number of posts I ended up with that apply either poetic or musical concepts to prose writing. I didn’t set out to do it, that’s just how they turned out.
I’m planning to post these links on a resource page sometime this summer along with links to David’s writing-themed posts from DBCII. That will give us 52 posts on writing to share with other writers. Starting a glossary of writing techniques is the reason I chose the theme I did. David’s topics don’t overlap with mine very much, and we didn’t collaborate on the topics. It’s just a happy coincidence.
My A to Z page is finally updated and Sourcerer is back on track, so I’m going back to posting here more frequently, and filling in with reblogs and short comments on other bloggers’ posts as I have time.
A to Z Badges by Jeremy of Being Retro