Tuesday, May 5, 2015

What I Learned from the A-Z Challenge and 8 Tips for You

Next week, Serita Stevens, another Oak Tree Press author, is guest posting on Write Away about script writing. Please come by to see what’s up for your reading pleasure.

I had a swell time both writing my blog posts on mystery terms during the A-Z Blog Challenge and finding new bloggers to follow. There are some talented folks about there. And I also got some new subscribers to my blog. That’s always a thrill, to see the number grow.

How It Works
If you don’t know what the fun is all about, go to April A-ZBlog Challenge and check it out! Such fun. You sign up in advance and get listed on a rolling scroll of accumulated bloggers.    

For 26 days (you get Sundays off) you write about a different alphabet letter each day. They provide lots of cute graphics to keep you organized. Great posts on the site encourage you to keep going. Other bloggers come by and comment. And that keeps you going. Then you pass the mid-point of the alphabet, and that keeps you going.

Types of Blog Posts:
One is encouraged to label the content so folks hunting for particular topics can find you more easily. Only one year did I do it right. I should have labeled my 2015 posts WR. Sigh. Such a disability I have with things techno.

I guesstimated that only about a third of the blogs listed a category.

You can post in a category not listed. But to give you some ideas, here are the ones A-Z suggests:


On this blog (I have three blogs, so this was Write Away’s year to participate), I tried to inform mystery and crime fiction writers about mystery terms they should know about so they could write about them accurately. I had at least one term for each letter, but sometimes I had three or more.

I also broke one of my short stories into 26 parts, with each first paragraph beginning with the letter-of-the-day. That was fun! If you’re curious about what I wrote, check out my 2015 April archived posts in the sidebar.

What They Wrote
After about a week of writing my own posts and reading some that I thought sounded interesting, it occurred to me I was reading. I made a goal to read at least one post from each blog. How stupid is THAT??? There were over 2000 bloggers signed up when I began. Even reading 10 a day, I wouldn’t get close. I would have had to read 100 a day. And I didn’t. But since there were only 1516 bloggers remaining at the end, it turns out that I had sampled about 15% of them. That was a pretty good number to see trends.

And there were some definite patterns.

By far, the largest categories were Books/Reviews, Film/Movies, Music, Writing/Storytelling, and Travel. Sometime these were combined as in movies from books or music in film. In Writing/Storytelling (my category) there were an enormous number of bloggers sharing original poems or flash fiction pieces. There also were lots of writing strategy/tips posts.

The smallest categories (in my sample) were Culinary, Crafts, Education, Gaming, Gardening, History, Humor, Memoir, Mythology, Politics, Science, Sports, and Adult Content,

In between I found a smattering of Animals, Art, Fashion, Lifestyle, Personal, Photography, Social Media, and Sports.

What about Next Year?
As you read and write what others are blogging on, ideas keep popping up for next year’s challenge. I know. Crazy, right? You’re not even done with this challenge and you are looking ahead to others.

If I go with ways to kill people for “Parsley, Sage, and Rosemary Time”, I have terms for each letter of the alphabet already done, and as is usual, for some letters I have multiple options.

If I go with personality traits/quirks/pathologies for “Romance Righter”, I am good to go there, too.

Can you say, OCD?

Tips from the Field

1)  Go now and scroll through the list of bloggers at the A-Z site. It’s under the link for “Sign-Up”. Take a look at what people did and how they did it. Some used quizzes. Some gave straight factual information. Some wrote poems or flash fiction.

2)  Think of possible post themes in areas of interest. Start accumulating terms for those categories. Add to it whenever you think about it. Or when something you’ve just read triggers your categories. Keep your ideas in a file labeled “A-Z Challenge 2016.”

3)  Mark your calendar to start checking the A-Z site from mid-February on so you can sign up early. Most folks, I think, start at the beginning of the list to find bloggers of interest. Put your name as high as you can.

4)  Pick a theme from your “A-Z Challenge 2016” folder options. When you sign up, select a category for others to find you. Start writing posts that day!

5)  Encourage friends to sign up so you have a support group as you work you way through the month.

6)  Write ahead as many posts as you can and schedule them for publication on the appropriate date. Writing ahead makes it much more likely you will finish. If you leave it to do each day, it gets to be a grind. (That’s what I did my first year.) Writing ahead also gives you a cushion for the days everything in life is falling apart. And write short. I never follow that advice, but it is good advice, especially for your first outing.

7)  Roll out your theme on the same day in March the A-Z people suggest. This calls attention to the challenge in time for others to sign on. It also is your public commitment to participate.

8)  Visit others’ blogs and leave your calling card so they can visit you. Invite some bloggers you enjoy to guest post for you later in the year.

I hope to see you next year! It’s a great way to meet new people and ideas! And see how you get an idea for another blog post (or two) just by participating?


  1. Well said as a summary and how to go about joining if someone is interested. What I failed in this year was pre-planning. I'd started planning but somewhere along the line, I failed to continue. So the end was more hectic than it should have been. :)
    @dino0726 from 
    FictionZeal - Impartial, Straighforward Fiction Book Reviews

    1. Thanks for the feedback, Diane. I find with my novels and with my blogs and other writing projects, it is impossible for me to over plan. I find my creativity unleashed more when I am not agonizing over deadlines.

  2. You've written the best reflection post I've come across. How thoughtful of you to give readers such great tips for next years challenge. I intend to follow them . I've always had a theme - crime fiction, which is why I am eager to go back and read all of your posts. This year I made the mistake of not writing all of my posts in advance. Won't do that again. Next year I intend to sign up early. Great idea because , you are right on the money about that. Most people start at the top and go down. I intended to read every blog at least once and of course I had to give up on that crazy idea after week one . I am going to continue visiting five or ten from the list every time I have a little free time . I hope you go with ways to kill people next year but personality quirks and traits would be just as intersting to read.
    I am number 424 on the reflection post sign up list.
    Melissa Sugar

    1. Thanks so much, Melissa. I will find you and read your posts as well. It's so great to meet another person who kills for money (well, not much, I'll concede) and fun!

  3. I only just found out about this challenge and would love to participate next year. I think I'll book your post with all these wonderful tips, thanks!

    1. Oops, that should say bookmark :)