Hello all you A to Z Challengers in the blogosphere. April 1st and the 2012 challenge will be here in the blink of an eye, so I wanted to help you out with a couple of tips, tricks and observations I noticed from my participation last year. My name is Alana, freelance writer, mom to twin preschoolers, daydreamer and author of the Writercize blog.
First off, thank you to Lee for allowing me to guest on this page. And second, let me just say that I had an incredible time participating in the 2011 Challenge, and had the opportunity to "meet" some of my favorite writers and virtual friends during the challenge last April. It is not an easy challenge, but with a little preparation, it could be the most worthwhile blog network you will do this year. If it's not already on your list of things to do in the New Year, add A to Z Challenge to your New Year's List of Resolutions!
On to the meat of the message:
- Stay true to your voice and your blog throughout all your posts. The challenge is a great way to expose your voice to many potential new contacts and followers. Be honest and true to yourself and your readers, and you will gain much from the challenge. If your blog is about cooking, don't blog A through Z about movies or music (unless they are related to cooking) and expect to connect or click with the "right" kind of reader. If you don't already have an "about this blog" page set up, do it now, before the challenge starts, and make sure it jives with the content you put out there.
- If your voice and blog are loosey-goosey random, it may help challenge readers for you to pick a theme for the challenge and stick with it. Last year, two writer bloggers arranged a list of 26 emotions that were used as the basis for daily short stories and poems. Readers could jump between the two blogs and leave a guess as to the emotion in the comment form. It allowed them to take a break from writing about writing and exercise their writing muscles, and showed their voice through their quick writing samples. Plus, they could blog about other things during the month outside of the theme, and readers immediately recognized it as an "extra" post.
- Comment thoughtfully. It is ok to visit fellow challenger blogs and write something along the lines of "fellow A to Z Challenger" with your name and URL in the comment, but be sure to let the blogger know you actually read something in their post in that comment too. There is nothing more annoying than spam when you are churning your heart and soul out daily. Maybe you like their voice, or a photo or a word in the post. If you don't like anything about it, you might be better off just moving on to the next blog rather than leaving a spam trail in your wake.
- Forgive yourself. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to visit all of the blogs in the challenge. I know of 2 or 3 participants last year who did, and I honestly have no idea how they did it. Aim high, but be realistic. Visit as many as you can; use the "next blog" button that will surely be created in time for the challenge or refer to the list and work through it, but don't be too hard on yourself if you aren't able to visit 50+ blogs a day. It's a challenge, and I commend you if you are one of those speed readers with magical time management skills, but I also forgive you if you're just an average Jane like me.
- Make a plan. Write down the letters A through Z in a notebook. (Or computer program if you like to be modern.) Fill in an idea for a word or image for each letter. Give yourself flexibility for inspiration to strike on the day of the post, but be confident in knowing that you have something to fall back on just in case. If thinking of words for the letters A to Z makes you freeze up, think up a theme that you can work into your blog. Last year I saw photos, recipes, ideas for party themes, posts inspired by names A to Z (biblical, historical, fictional), movie reviews, book reviews, flash fiction from words submitted by readers, and more. The sky truly is the limit. If you're a geography buff, tackle cities or countries A to Z. If you love comic strips, share your thoughts or best lines from characters A to Z. If you're an illustrator, find a different way to draw the letters.
- Post ahead. Right around mid-alphabet, you may lose some steam and be happy if you have scheduled your post in advance. It will probably happen again around those pesky letters like Q, X and Z. Don't let yourself stress about it. Schedule those posts and take a break from blogging on those days as they come along, or spend the time you would be posting visiting extra challenge blogs.
- Tell your friends about the challenge. They'll thank you for it at least 75% of the time. And the rest, you can be miserable together as you compare finger blisters and dilated irises from late nights typing away!
I write an educational blog called Writercize, and I post writing exercises several times a week on a wide variety of topics and formats from fiction to nonfiction to poetry to real world applications. I started the blog last year about a month before the challenge and decided to dive right in when a writing friend told me about it.
In the spirit of writercize and the A to Z challenge, I would like to challenge you to the following writercize from the tips listed above. It will get the writing juices flowing and help you prepare for April all at the same time! I'd love you to share some of your results as a comment. Here you are:
writercize: Write down the letters A through Z in a notebook. Fill in an idea for a word or image for each letter.
Now, discuss. And best of luck in the challenge. I'll be reading!