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:
- Julianne Winter at Ink & Stitches
- Ellen at The Cynical Sailor
- Sue at Space, Time, and Raspberries
Deepti Agarwal said:
Thanks a lot for thoughtful advice.. will try to work on it..
I was full of enthusiasm at the start of the challenge but something came up in April and left me so little time. I was blog hopping whenever I could and getting frustrated by people writing massive tomes for posts! I have to reflect on your post and decide if I can do it all again next year. Right now I’m thinking probably not!
Tasha Duncan-Drake (@beren_writes) said:
Very good advice and I’m so glad you reconnected with your characters :). Editing can just drive you mad, can’t it! Hope the book is selling well.
Book Club Mom said:
I have been wondering how everyone has been able to bang out posts in the A to Z challenges. I see now that starting early and writing them all at once is the only way to go!
Elizabeth Hein said:
I tried to write a post a day the first year I did the challenge and almost lost my mind. Now I start months ahead of time. It may be cheating but the posts are much better written.
I can’t believe I actually won a giveaway! So honored 🙂 It has been wonderful to meet you throughout this challenge. I now have an editor that I adore working with thanks to you, and am pushing through the edits now for my first book in order to get ready for round two of edits. I had a great time during the A to Z Challenge and I 100% agree: write the posts before the month begins or you’ll have no time to visit other blogs, comment, or even promote your own posts.
Ink & Stitches – http://blog.jhwinter.com
Lissa Johnston (@Lissa_Johnston) said:
Good point about re-reading previous projects. Many times I’m shaking my head, thinking, ‘who wrote this junk?’, but occasionally I think ‘huh, pretty good if I don’t say so myself’. Yeah, I do. There, I said it.
Mary B said:
Congratulations on completing the challenge. I love your tips and ideas. I can attest that each of those are very important for a successful challenge.
Jingle Jangle Jungle
J.L. Campbell (@JL_Campbell) said:
Have a strategy and writing the posts beforehand does help.
Deborah Weber said:
How fun that you reconnected with your characters and now have some new ideas percolating. I’m appreciative of the thoughtful advice you’ve offered here in your reflections. I’ve already decided I’d love to play again next year.
Beth Camp said:
I love your advice to plan ahead . . . though I’m not sure I can prewrite my posts, though I did use scaffolding this year. What a treat to find that diving back into your story brought new insights and ideas for the next round of stories. Thank you for sharing such thoughtful advice.
Barbara Radisalvjeivc said:
You’ve given some very good advice. I not only didn’t write ahead, but I was doing the challenge for two different blogs at the same time. Unwise decision. I’ve been completely burned out since the beginning of May and have only written four blog posts since then. It did almost kill me. It also distracted me from what I should have been posting instead. I’m still glad I took up the challenge. It helped me be more disciplined about writing. Since I’m burned out this week, I’m organizing my photos for easier access and taking a writing break from my usual schedule. I hope to be back to normal next week.
We sometimes learn from what we forgot only to remember… We made it…Hope you had a great time, thank you for your Reflection!
AtoZ Challenge Co-Host 
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You make some great points here – I did the challenge without a theme last year and I definitely felt this year went better where I had a theme. I love the challenge and I’m already looking forward to next year’s!
Lori L MacLaughlin said:
Those are all very good points. Two years ago, I did A to Z and had most of my posts written ahead of time. I was able to keep up and got a lot out of it. Last year, I was unprepared because my first book had just come out, but I went for it anyway. Writing posts on the day they were due and trying to visit people too did not work for me. I bowed out this year because my second book is about to come out and I hadn’t had time to write any advance posts. Next year, I hope to get back into it again, but only if I’m well prepared.