Even though I have done the A to Z Challenge several times, I learn something new each year. As I look back over the past month, several things come to mind:
- Writing about my characters made me fall in love with them again. When I started writing 26 posts about Overlook and Escape Plan, I was in the process of reading the final proofs for Escape Plan and was sick and tired of Kitty and the gals. I was more than ready to send them out in the world and move on with my next projects, but something happened on the way to April. I reconnected to why I wrote the books in the first place. I remembered the issues I sat down to explore. I became reacquainted with the minor characters that might still have something to say. Now, I’ve jotted down some ideas about possible future projects involving the Lookers and what happens to them after 1976 is over. Perhaps there will be a book 3 in the Overlook series some day.
- It’s good to change things up from time to time. The A to Z Challenge forces me to step outside my comfort zone and put myself out there a bit more. It is scary but I met a ton of new interesting bloggers.
- Know what you want to get out of the challenge before you begin. One of my goals for this year was to see what other people are doing with their blogs. I have been writing this blog for more than five years. The blogosphere had changed dramatically in that time. Social media, in general, has changed in the last five years and I am not sure that my blog has kept up with the times. It was helpful to visit so many blogs in such a short time to see what works and what doesn’t.
- Temper your expectations. When I first participated in the challenge four or five years ago, I expected the regular readership of my blog to sky-rocket. It didn’t. I certainly picked up a few hundred new loyal readers and made some excellent blogger friends, but it was not a huge game changer. The A to Z Challenge is a way to meet some new people you may never have met in any other way. Some of those connections will stick, most will not.
- Write all your posts ahead of time. I started writing my posts in January. There is no time to write your posts, comment on other blogs, and sleep. Not an option.
- It helps to have a theme. A good theme helps your posts work together and keeps people coming back to your blog.
- Have a strategy for moving through the list of participants. There were 1,348 blogs in the list this year. It would have been impossible to visit them all so I tried to visit 20 per day. Some days I commented on most of the 20. Some days I took a peek at each of them and only commented on one or two. If I commented on every blog I looked at, I would have burned out by the end of the first week.
- Decide now if you really want to do this again next year. By the time March rolls around next year, you may have forgotten how you feel right now. If you feel exhilarated by rising to the challenge of writing 26 consecutive blog posts in one month, block out time in your schedule for next April. If you’re exhausted and feel like you could have spent your time better doing something else this last month, put a post-it in your 2017 calendar to remind yourself of that feeling.
To celebrate the release of Escape Plan coinciding with the A to Z Challenge, I ran a drawing for 3 signed copies of Escape Plan and a $10 Barnes & Noble gift card. The winners of the drawing are: