Tuesday, February 11, 2014

How to use the #atozchallenge to help your writing efforts

How to use the A to Z Challenge to help your writing efforts
Timothy S. Brannan, The Other Side

It is that time of year again. The holidays are done. The kids are all back in school. It is way too cold for yardwork or being outside so naturally our thoughts turn to writing.

Or maybe that is just me.

Strange Brew cover by Peter Bradley
I think I will hear some notes of agreement from many of you when I say I am not sure what I would be doing if I couldn’t write.  It is what keeps me sane…if you consider listening to imaginary people in my head and writing down what they should be doing sane, then yes.

I write. I blog. The lines blur until it comes to the final product.  But honestly it doesn’t have too.
Allow me to take a step back.  I have been blogging now since about 2007, prior to that I maintained a website since about 1995 or so.  I have always had something to say.  I began blogging as a way to gather up my thoughts for the book I was working on at the time.  So for me there is a lot of harmony between “book” writing and “blogging” writing.  I first took part in the A to Z Challenge in 2011.  I made it my own goal to visit and comment on everyone’s blog.  My own efforts though were less focused, I posted what I wanted on that day.  Yeah. I was pretty busy in April of 2011.  For 2012 I went really crazy and blogged on a theme (which is in my opinion the best way to go) and I also posted on my other blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief with the A to Z of the atheists that had most influenced me.  Both of these were good and it was a lot of fun, but I was still really busy.

Last year though I hit on the magical recipe.  On my main blog I actually focused on something I was doing for my book writing and made the A to Z part of my research and rough draft cycle.

The Witch
I write game books. That is books for Roleplaying Games. Think Dungeons & Dragons. Actually that is exactly what I was doing.  I began my blog as a sort of a “design journal” for my WIP “The Witch”.  As I went on I added another book, “Eldritch Witchery”.  So yes I write a lot about witches, magic and all that fun stuff.  Last year I did an A to Z of Demons.  This will all become part of my next book which I am currently working on the drafts.   This idea though really struck a chord with me.  Not only did I get my posts start and done sooner, I could use the feedback given by all my visitors to make edits in my document.  It went beyond the normal theme and into “theme with a purpose”.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to do the A to Z again this year.  I have new Kickstarter out for my next book on witches (and it is a huge manuscript) and that is taking up a lot of my time now.  Plus I didn’t get as far as I wanted on the demon book as I wanted.   But yet the material I got out of it last year is just too good NOT to do it again.

So this year I am once again doing my “Theme with a purpose”.  At present I have a few WIPs on my hard-drive. I am a freelancer and I use Kickstarter to help fund editing, art and layout so my projects are largely my own.  Top of my list is an A to Z of Vampires.  I have wanted to get a vampire book out for some time and it was almost my topic last year.

Here is my strategy:

  1. Make the A to Z posting part of my own research.  I tend to research all over the place, so with something like this it is good to start early.  I might not have anything on Aswang yet  but a lot on Baobhan Sìth.   
  2. The posts are notes, not the final document.  With the Demons last year sometimes I all had was a name and a vague idea on how I was going to use it.  Other times I had material that I could almost cut and paste right into my document.  The goal though isn’t to be “cut and paste” ready but have an idea on what I want. 
  3. Post for feedback.  During the A to Z I get a much wider variety of readership than usual.  I also get more people replying to my posts.  You might not know anything about my games but there are enough horror writers on this challenge that I am certain to get some great feedback.
  4. Make it worth your time and make it fun.  No one will read my posts if it looks like they were a chore to do.  If I am phoning it in so speak cause I can’t find a Vampire for “Q” (and I haven’t yet) then why should I expect anyone to read?  By the way if you do know of a Vampire that starts with Q then email me!
As of the writing of this post there are almost 600 people signed up for the A to Z Challenge and about 20% of these self-label themselves with the Writing (WR) or Book (BO) labels.   So this is something they could certainly try and anyone could do it.

Doing the A to Z Challenge is a Challenge, but it doesn’t have to be a Chore.

About the Author
Timothy S. Brannan is the author of The Other Side blog,
He is also the author of “The Ghosts of Albion RPG”, “The Witch”, “Eldritch Witchery” and the upcoming “Strange Brew” which is currently in a Kickstarter Campaign. Please stop by and see if this is something you would like to support.

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Rob Z Tobor said...

I do agree about making the A to Z fun, it is one of the main reasons I do it. I certainly have no commercial or professional reasons to do it as I just write for me, although it is great if others read and enjoy some of it, which is why I have a blog.

Anyway we all love a good vampire, as for the Q have you considered Vampire Queens . . . .

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Vampire Queens are actually a pretty good idea.

Jean Katherine Baldridge said...

You sound delightful and as if you actually seem to learn as you go! AND know what you are doing to begin with! So I am enthused by your post here, as I just broke down and signed up again ( I have been doing this since...2010?, I think, with no idea what the heck I am planning on writing about). But I live to write, too!
Have a great day! jean

Anonymous said...

There are so many great points in this article, Tim, and tons of food for thought! Thanks for sharing such an exciting article with the A - Z blog today :)

Tina said...

Hi again, Tim! I remember your guest post last year was one of our biggest "hits" (ba dum pa).

You've hit the nail on the head here: this is a fantastic idea. So many of us have dust-gathering WIPs, so now we have an idea for a theme if we didn't already.

I'm so glad you shared this with us. Would you mind sending your Kickstarter link and I'll add it for you so those who are feeling the love can GIVE you some love for your latest project?

I wish you well in the Challenge, and hope it provides the feedback you need. Though I know nothing about vampires, now that I know the extremely useful purpose of what you're doing, I'll be by more often to offer my thoughts. Maybe someone who isn't at all into your genre would actually be a useful "critic"?

Tina @ Life is Good
A to Z Team @ Blogging From A to Z April Challenge 2014
@TinaLifeisGood, #atozchallenge

Tina said...

Geez, it's early...should have checked the links before speaking. Didn't realize that Strange Brew IS the Kickstarter bad.

Nicole said...

Great way to approach your writing process as well as your participation in the A-to-Z Challenge. Your choice to choose a "Theme with a purpose" is a prime example of what I was talking about in January when I wrote How to Hyper Blog Like a Pro her at the A-to-Z Challenge Blog.

I love how you are organizing your A-to-Z Challenge blogging activities to coincide with your research and writing. It is a great way to make the challenge work for you and help you make progress toward your research and note-taking goals.

2014 #atozchallenge Co-Host
Blogging @ The Madlab Post

Anonymous said...

Really great post and full of useful advice. Thanks

Stephsco said...

Very interesting approach to the theme! Especially if you are blending your research with creating a fun, readable blog post. I stumble upon blogs I never would otherwise during A to Z, and find myself engaged in stuff I would maybe never read about if the writer presents it well.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

That's a smart way to do it. Mix it with your work and kill two birds with one stone. Sounds like you are ready to rock again this year.

Timothy S. Brannan said...

Thanks all!

I hope this helps someone come up with a good idea.

Arlee Bird said...

Written like the A to Z pro that you are. Thanks Tim!

Wrote By Rote
An A to Z Co-host blog

Anonymous said...

Hi Tim we were in this together last year , I have just rejoined your followers, to keep up to date with what's going on.
I have my A to Z all prepared for the big day.
Good luck.

Unknown said...

Hi Tim,

What a great concept! I am all signed up and looking forward to the challenge (which it will be) starting!

Unknown said...

Hi Tim,

What a great concept! I am all signed up and looking forward to the challenge (which it will be) starting!

Donna Smith said...

Quackula. Really. Look it up. Not the same character as Count Duckula.

Anonymous said...

Quinn (Full name-John Quinn) (Night World)
Quinn Drake (The Drake Chronicles)
Qhuinn (Black Dagger Brotherhood series)