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Monday, February 8, 2016

Navigating the Challenge with Clones and Ninjas! #atozchallenge

Just how does one visit over a hundred blogs a day? Either through the use of a time machine or a band of stealthy Ninja Clones!

Teleportation is also an option.

As much as I enjoyed writing about teleportation on my books, I decided that the Ninja Captain needed clones instead. And of course, a clone machine. Which does have its drawbacks. Everyone wants to borrow it. Plus there was the time I cloned way too many versions of Kate Beckinsale…

All kidding aside, I really don’t have any of those things. I’ve just made it a point to visit all of my blogger buddies, whether it’s during the Challenge or IWSG post Wednesday or just another day.

Yes, I do have a lot of blogger buddies! Where did they all come from?

I’ll give you a hint – it has to do with the alphabet.

In 2010, Arlee Bird challenged others to join him as he posted almost every day throughout April in alphabet order. At the last minute, I made the commitment and joined a hundred others in the very first A to Z Challenge.

My blog has never been the same!

I’ve been a co-host since 2011, managing the Linky List and helping in other areas. Of course, that’s not all I do.

I started this whole blogging nonsense as an up-and-coming author. Since that time, I’ve had four books published (CassaStar, CassaFire, CassaStorm, and Dragon of the Stars), one boxed set published, and been in numerous anthologies and magazines.

I also started this little group for writers. You may have heard of it – the Insecure Writer’s Support Group. We started as a monthly blog hop, and then grew into a website, two Facebook groups, and a newsletter. We even put out a free book for writers and last year partnered with a publisher for an annual IWSG Anthology Contest. (First anthology due out this spring.)

Offline, I maintain a full time job in web design and technical editing. I’m also a guitarist in a Christian rock band, as God and music both play very important roles in my life. I’m happily married, live in the Carolinas, and like to drive my sports car really fast.

Because darn it, teleportation machines don’t really exist!

Find me here: Blog, Insecure Writer’s Support Group, Twitter, What Are The Kargrandes, Goodreads, and Google+

Friday, February 5, 2016

Roll Out The Welcome Mat

This is for the rookies out there, who have never participated in the A to Z Challenge until this year. Many of you, I suspect, created a blog on Wordpress or Blogger just so you could do the challenge. I know that's how I got my start doing this. This is also for those of you that are getting complaints that people can't leave you comments, or for those of you that aren't getting comments and can't figure out why.

Both Wordpress and Blogger have settings that allow you to screen comments. Some of them are set as defaults and others are options you can set if you think they're necessary. They ensure that the commenter is a real person and not just a bot from which you'll be receiving junk comments for the rest of your existence. Setting the options will cut down on spam, but some of the options also make it practically impossible for legitimate bloggers (e.g. the participants in the A to Z Challenge) to leave you comments.

Kind of defeats the purpose of having a blog and participating in the challenge, doesn't it ?

There's also an impression out there that, while blogs on Wordpress are friendly to Wordpress commenters, they're mean to commenters that don't have a Wordpress account. You hear the same thing about Blogger: nice to people with Google accounts, nasty to everyone else.

Bottom line: You want to make commenting on your blog as easy as possible for anyone who drops by. Let's see how to do that.

WORDPRESS

You can find the settings for comments at https://[your blog URL]/wp-admin/options-discussion.php



Allow people to post comments on new articles - Should be checked. This allows people to comment.

Comment author must fill out name and email - Should be checked. Having a name and email address generally indicates the commenter is a real person. Of course, spammers can fill that in, too, but it prevents posting by bots.

Users must be registered and log in to comment - Should be unchecked. This means that you have to have a Wordpress account to comment.

Automatically close comments on articles older than _____ days - This prevents people from posting comments on old articles, a favorite trick of spammers. I turned this on and set the number of days to 60 for a while, then realized there were new readers who might want to comment on older articles, so I turned it off. If you start getting a lot of spam on older articles, you might want to set it.

Comment must be manually approved - Leave this unchecked unless you start getting a lot of spam, or if you've attracted a troll.

Comment author must have a previously approved comment - I have this unchecked. I don't think it's necessary.

Hold a comment in the queue if it contains ____ or more links - I have this set to 5. Some people like to put links to their blog here rather than in the box for URL's on the comment form, and if this is set too low, their comment disappears with no word as to why.

There are also areas to put in words or URL's in comments that will either get the comment put in the moderation queue or in the spam queue. Use these with caution, or you might be blocking comments you didn't intend to block.

BLOGGER

Sign on to Blogger and select your blog. Then click on Settings > Posts and comments.



Who can comment? - Typically you'll want to choose Registered User. This allows people who don't have a Google account to comment using their Open ID, Wordpress, LiveJournal, TypePad, or AIM account. Anyone allows anonymous commenting, probably not a good idea.

Comment Moderation - Setting this to Never means anyone can comment. If spam becomes a problem, you can set it to Always. Sometimes allows you to specify a number of days after publication when commenting is open, after which comments must be approved.

Show word verification - This forces a commenter to enter a CAPTCHA code before the comment is accepted. Most people think that's an enormous pain in the backside and might just leave without commenting and never come back. Turn it off.

Whether this is your first challenge or you're an old pro, welcome! We hope you have a good time, make lots of new friends, and find lots of new blogs to follow.

John Holton
The Sound of One Hand Typing on Wordpress
Simulcasting at The Sound of One Hand Typing FM on Blogger

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Blogging for #atozchallenge : does your #writing move your readers?

Now that the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge Signup list is in the hundreds, and likely to hit a 1000 soon, it is time to take stock of your blogging.

Do you run a popular blog? If yes, please go off and schedule a few A to Z Challenge posts. This post is for those of us who are struggling to build an audience.

Kidding.

It is a topic that all bloggers need to revisit from time to time, namely: RESONANCE.

Go read your blog posts from two months ago. Go on, I'll wait.

If you were a visitor, do you think you'd stop and read through, without skimming? If the answer is a firm YES, pat yourself on the back. All you have to do is visit more bloggers and get on social media to start interacting with other bloggers. Your blog will flourish.

If your answer is veering towards UNSURE or NO, examine your current posts. What do they offer a visitor: emotion, positivity, support, information, analysis, interesting tidbits, laughter? If the answer is a No, then you might need to re-examine why you blog, and your expectations of its popularity.

An audience will be loyal not just if you post regularly or comment on others' posts. You'll need to resonate with them, offer them intellectual stimulus or emotional support. Or good old entertainment.

Many of you are now deciding on themes for the A to Z Challenge. Before you finalise one, take the Resonance Test. Go back to a 2-month old post. You would now have become objective towards it. Check what you're offering your audience.

If you Resonate with your audience, they'll have more of a reason to keep coming back.

And if you haven't yet signed up for the A to Z Challenge, consider signing up now.

Do your posts Resonate? Tell us in the comments!

--Damyanti Biswas
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Email address is contactatozteam at gmail dot com
Twitter hashtag is #AtoZChallenge and Twitter id is @AprilA2Z.

We’ll hold Twitter chats on Thursdays at the tag #azchat starting Feb 18, 2016, 9.00 PM EST. Please follow the Twitter and Facebook handles, and the hashtags in order to keep up with the conversation.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Howdy Neighbour!

I know what I'm about to say has been said a time or two before, but it bears repeating. One of the things that makes the A-Z Blogging Challenge most enjoyable is the interaction with other persons doing April.

We're creatures of habit and tend to visit those we're friendly with first. Mixing that up a little means engaging other people, visiting their blogs before stopping in with our friends. While not everybody is going to reciprocate your stopover, there will be at least a few persons who will return the favour.

Nothing disturbs me more on the Challenge trail than finding blogs without comments and a few persons may give up, not only because they run out of steam, but because blogging is no fun without the comments from visitors. It's okay to leave enough feedback to let the blogger know you've been and that you've read their post.


Let's try and do as much as we can before the actual Challenge so that we'll have more time to make the rounds and meet new friends.

So are you game?

I know I am.


J.L. Campbell blogs at The Character Depot

Friday, January 29, 2016

#atozchallenge - Boost the signal!




One of the best ways for The Blogging from A to Z April Challenge to take over the world grow is for our amazing participants to tell other people about the Challenge!

We do try to spread the word ourselves, through our many social media outlets, but there is nothing quite like 'Word of Mouth' advertising.

Have you considered telling someone about The Challenge? A friend, a Browncoat, a neighbor, or a family member?

Have you ever shared a Tweet or a Facebook post to help get the word out?

If you have, Shiny! Thank you so much.

If you haven't...well, there's no time like the present!

There are lots of individuals, community organizations, and businesses that might be interested in using The Challenge to promote themselves, but they just don't know about it yet! 

So, let's get the word out there in the 'verse and make this an extra-awesome Challenge year!




Heather M. Gardner
The Waiting is the Hardest Part