Showing posts with label Blogging from A to Z Strategies. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blogging from A to Z Strategies. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

If the List Doesn't Exist...#atozchallenge

         What?!!   No list?!!

          Judging by the Theme Reveal test run it seems a good many of you had no problem working without a list.   After all, it's nothing like walking a high wire without a net.  No list ain't gonna kill ya!  And, by golly, the Theme Reveal proved that!

            I can't say for sure because I didn't count, but by all estimations it appears that well over 200 bloggers participated in the Theme Reveal event as of my writing of this post on Tuesday afternoon where I am in Pacific Daylight Time.  And that count is just estimated from the comments on this blog.  There were also theme reveal links left on other social media outlets.  I'm not sure how this all measures up to the over 500 links that typically appeared on the Linky sign ups from previous years, but one good thing is that everybody who did leave a link left a link to a blog that was actually participating.  So in my view that's not too bad.   I'd call the Theme Reveal a success and an good indicator that those participating in A to Z 2017 will catch on just fine.

           However if there is still trepidation with any of you about participating in the upcoming A to Z Blogging Challenge without a list, never fear for I am here with some consolation and a few hopefully helpful suggestions.

There Is A List If You Look For It

         Actually there are many lists available to you if you aren't on the social media platforms like Twitter or Facebook.   Those platforms will provide all the links most of us can handle in a day's time, but some of you just don't like to be on any sites like that and I can't say that I blame you for feeling that way.  However, there are many other ways to find A to Z Challenge participants.

          You can find a lot of A to Z participants by going to some of the blogs of other participants you already know and going through their comment sections and visiting the blogs of those who commented.  This is a way to meet other bloggers with similar interests even if you aren't doing A to Z.  A well frequented comment section can keep a person busy for a good while.  You might not always find A to Z participants, but you might make some other new blogger friends.
         Use a search engine to search terms like Blogging from A to Z 2017 or #atozchallenge.  This can be work, but it can also yield interesting results.  After all search engines like Google provide the biggest lists around. You might have to weed through all sorts of results, but if you're a search engine (Google) fanatic like I've become you might enjoy this method

         Look for other bloggers who have set up their own lists.  The blog community site Blog Chatter has a list of bloggers who are participating.  Other bloggers might have compiled similar lists on sidebars or on special pages--keep your eyes open for these (if you have one on your own blog you can leave a comment below with your link).   I've started one on my own site and intend to continue adding more blog links as I blog through April.  My link list can be found at Tossing It Out. I doubt whether I'll be able to keep it loaded with every participating blogger, but this is my experiment.  Maybe you'll want to try compiling your own list.

         Use a blog reader app such as Feedly.  This is something I've never gotten the hang of using, but I know many of you probably already use this method.  I sometimes used to use the reader Blogger had on its site and found it to be helpful when I remembered to use it.  Maybe some of you more adept at using readers can offer some more help in the comments.

Sometimes Work Is Involved!

       Even with the Linky List we sometimes had to weed through blogs we didn't want to read or that weren't participating or had fallen behind.  Successful blogging does sometimes require doing some of your own work.   Not all of you have that much time to spend on blogging so I understand the desire for shortcuts.  The fact remains that effective blogging requires effort.

       If you've ever wondered why you don't get many comments or it doesn't seem like you get many blog visitors, it's mainly because you aren't promoting your blog enough and not visiting other bloggers like you need to in order to get reciprocated visits to your own site.  I learned this early on in blogging.  In fact that's why A to Z began and that's how I made it grow.

       As Alex J Cavanaugh stated in an earlier post on the A to Z Blog, when I started the very first A to Z Challenge in 2010 there was no Linky List.  I created a sidebar list using some of the methods I've outlined above.  This required work on my part, but it was worthwhile.  Just look where we are now.  You think Blogging from A to Z in April is too difficult?   Well, it can be.  But if you do it right, do it with a method to your madness, use practical approaches, and pay attention to what is going on, then you'll find that it might be easier than you thought and it can be actually fun.

      After all, I called A to Z a Challenge for good reason.  My Challenge to myself was a way that I learned a great deal about blogging and networking.  I extended that Challenge to others and they came and they too conquered that Challenge.  You can do it too.

      If you're still concerned about not having that Linky list to lean on, then think again.  The lists are there and if you don't like the lists you see then create your own.  This is called customization.  You decide what kind of list will suit your needs and then make your list out of the lists that exist.  They exist everywhere if you look for them and you don't have to look that hard.

       This year's A to Z will work and it will work well.  You might have to do it your way just the way I did it my way that very first year, but this is all a learning process.  Blogging starts with expressing yourself.  If you want to share what you've expressed then you will have to do some networking.  A to Z is about networking.  That's how it started and that's how it still is.

         Are you ready to network?   Fine--follow the advice I've laid out in this post.  And if none of this makes much sense to you and you'd still like to Blog from A to Z in April?  That's fine too.  Just blog like you always blog, but pay closer attention to what's going on with others and with the action on your own blog.  This is all a learning process.  But it's also fun.  Don't worry. Don't stress.  Just blog.



Monday, July 25, 2016

What Blogging Strategy Works Best? (#atozchallenge)

        Our thanks to guest poster and A to Z Challenge veteran Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin who blogs at and   In this post Stepheny shares her April blogging strategy--some tips you might find helpful in your own blogging.  

Reflecting on the A to Z Blog Challenge

“It’s true, with bloggers or a box of chocolates,
you never know what you’re going to get.”
Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Everyone comes to the blogging world in their own way with interests that are particular. The Challenge is like taking a class from a plethora of teachers who demonstrate what works, and more importantly, what doesn’t. I know I’m a better blogger for this teaching. After four years of participation, I hope this reflection adds to the consideration of the matter.  

There is major agreement that it is important to start early with the research and writing, placing your posts in a queue before April 1. Visit as many blogs as possible, leaving a comment behind will improve your stats as people return the favor. If you didn’t get a lot of comments perhaps the process is too complicated to be worth the effort. When I find a new blog that has my name on it because of content and presentation, I feel rewarded for the time it takes to work through the participation list. I gladly hit the FOLLOW button when the stars align, but I have high standards in that decision. If it isn’t readable, or the site is difficult to navigate, I’m a step away from moving on. An edgy blog does not persuade me either. Clarity: background/font size are essential. I want an uncluttered presentation that does not take away from the point of the be able to READ the information. Short posts work best not only during The Challenge, but all year long. People are too busy to take the time no matter how worthy the content.

The subject matter you pick for the challenge has ramifications. Remember, a visitor might find you on day one or later in the month. You have one shot to intrigue them. A long tale that makes no sense on day 12, or a subject that is heavy, worthy as it may be, isn't great for what I call a "26 day expiration date opportunity." I encourage careful consideration of this goal: posts which demonstrate your blog is easy to read, the writing is your best effort, and that your blog is worth someone's valuable time to return and follow. NEVER start a post with, I don’t know what I’m doing, but here goes. Ask yourself, have I picked a subject that is better published at another time? The time frame of the Challenge should influence these decisions.

Whatever theme I have followed during April, I want people to know that the blog will continue on with content you would expect a writer, gardener, addicted reader and book-alcoholic to write about. I ask them for their company in the coming year. After reading this reflection, do come and find me by the garden gate at where I’ll be waiting, or visit my 2nd blog about the revitalization of a small southern historic downtown, Rocky Mount, NC. Let’s have sweet tea and talk about blogging.   

IMG_1068About Stepheny Forgue Houghtlin

Stepheny grew up in Evanston, IL. and is a graduate of the University of Kentucky. She is an author of two novels: The Greening of a Heart and Facing East available on Amazon. She lives, writes and gardens in NC. Visit her: or

If you'd like to contribute a guest post to the A to Z Blog, please let us know. We are happy to consider any topics that might be of interest to the A to Z Blogging community. Contact emails can be found at "Contact" tab at top of the page or you can contact me at

Monday, July 18, 2016

April In July (#atozchallenge)

It’s July. Time for beaches, bar-b-ques and planning your A to Z posts!
Why so early you ask?

Blogging in the A to Z challenge takes time. If you are not used to blogging every day there is that, but even those of us that do blog everyday there is more time needed for this challenge. Especially to make it successful and more importantly fun.

So for me, July is the time I start planning my posts for next April.
I start off with a simple spreadsheet with letters A to Z going down the rows along with the date and days.  Sometimes having a particular letter on a particular day might influence me.  Like one year Z appeared on Saturday. Since I did a regular posting every Saturday about the comic book character Zatanna, I knew I was set.

Now for me I love to work with themes. I have been doing the A to Z Challenge since 2011 and been doing it with themes since 2012.  Themes give me focus and make me reach as a writer and blogger. Over the years I have done Games, Witches, Demons, Vampires and most recently Adventure.  For me a theme helps bring people back. I know there were several blogs I followed because of their interesting themes.  I want to choose a theme that first of all my regular readers will enjoy and then one that new readers will also find compelling and want to come back for more.  Since I am typing everything into a spreadsheet (a in truth I am using Google Sheets for this) I can actually develop a few themes at a time. Presently I have three I am working on.

I know there is the big theme reveal closer to April so I am kinda stealing my own thunder here, but the themes I am considering are “Undead” (like vampires, ghosts and the like), “OSR Games” (games of the old-school renaissance) and finally “Free Games” (games that you get for free).

Ok. I have my spreadsheet in place. I have an idea of my theme or two (or three).  What do I need to do now? Well I have nine months, give or take, to start writing my posts and gathering up what I need to make this all work.  Some of the posts of my themes almost write themselves.  Most don’t.  So I start to fill in the blanks to see what I have for each theme.  Some letters, Q, X, Y and Z I know will give me some issues, so I try to figure out what will go there first.
Well for Games and OSR I can use the game “X-plorers” and “Zfers” for X and Z respectively.  So that is a good start. For Undead I have “Zombie”, so not quite as good.

And...the search goes on. But you know what? That is OK since I still have some months yet.
A week or so later in July I am much closer to figuring out what I am going to do.

I know there is a big reveal in March, but I am going to give you a spoiler now.
I put down my first post for April 2017.  It’s for B and I picked “Basic Fantasy”.  I am going to focus on free games that you can download and play right away.
It is set now. I am committed. I just need 25 more posts! But now I know what I am going to do and a pretty good idea what the content of each post will be.   Come April I can concentrate on visiting all of your blogs now!

I say this summer spend a couple of extra minutes each day doing your April posts and make your April more enjoyable.  Sooner than you think 2017 will be here!

Tim Brannan is a blogger over at The Other Side a gaming and horror blog. He have been blogging since 2008 and been a participant in the A to Z Challenge since 2011.

He is also up for an ENnie Award (something like the Oscars of Gaming) for Best Blog and he would really like it if you voted for him. 
Please click on the link and vote "1" under "The Other Side".

Monday, July 4, 2016

Lessons from the Failure (#atozchallenge)

      And now for a bit of a confessional with some lessons for all from blogger Amita Gulia who can be found at Amita's Pen and Quotes.  Amita was also part of the 2016 Arlee's Ambassadors Team.  Don't feel too badly, Amita, at least you did some things right and most importantly you understand what some of your errors were.   Read on and enjoy...

Lessons from the Failure

         I first heard about the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge in May 2014 and was bit disappointed since I was late. I subscribed to the A to Z Blog and waited patiently for 2015. A to Z challenge 2015 was my first participation in the challenge and I was determined to survive it. I finalized on a theme and did some research. With some hiccups, I managed to complete the challenge and went on to write my reflections post. I was so proud of myself. Posting every day with relevant content on the blog made me feel bravura.

       My confidence touched no bounds as I managed to pull it off on two blogs simultaneously. Amita's Pen where I blog more often saw some great Indian women who made the road clear for future ladies in various professions. The other blog - Quotes, made me pen down at least one self-made sentence on Pregnancy. That section is very close to my heart and the words came directly from inside as I was expecting my second baby at that time.

       Then came 2016 and I was very confident of completing the challenge again. "If I can do it on two blogs at the same time while being eight months pregnant, nothing's going to stop me now", were my thoughts at the back of mind. I went a step further and went on to be on the team of Arlee Bird's A to Z Challenge Ambassadors. I had a great theme and finalized more great topics for each letter. April 2016 started and so did my challenge. After 10 days, I actually gave up. I knew I had failed it this time. I was sad. I felt embarrassed on not being able to contribute to Arlee's team - I volunteered myself for it and I was not doing anything. Honestly, I still feel bad more about being a non-active helper more than being a non-survivor.

I asked myself, "What went wrong?' 'Where did I lack?” My inner self shouted the following answers:

1. You did not Schedule the Posts

Plan, draft and schedule the posts. This is the top advice or tip anyone would get when it comes to any blogging challenge. And there I was an existing survivor and still ignoring this important advice. Mark it in bold letters:  If anyone want to survive the challenge with flying colors along with good content, scheduling the posts is a must.

2. You did not Seek Help

I have never had guest posts on my blog. May be this was the time to let the curtains up. I could have approached my friends and I am sure many of them would have helped even if I gave them the topics. But, I did not even try it. So next time, if you are having a hard time coming up with enough of your own original posts, try calling your friends - bloggers and non-bloggers both might be willing to lend a hand.

3. You were Over-Confident

Remember - success is never guaranteed. Just because I succeeded last time, does not mean I would continue to do so without more effort. Challenges often get tougher with each passing moment. Be prepared for them so they won't become insurmountable.

So, does that mean my failure was all my fault? Actually, I would not be so very harsh to myself. In my defense I had a very, very busy month at work. I was writing programming scripts at work all day long throughout the month of April and each day I when I took time to work on my blog posts, I got more behind at work. The official work pays me and needs to be completed at any cost. Thus, I forgive myself--just this time--for ignoring my dear blog. I would keep the learning in mind and definitely take up the challenge again in 2017.  Next year I hope to heed the lessons I learned in 2016 to make my life as a blogger far less stressful and uncomplicated.

PS - I hope I would still be chosen to assist on a team next time - Guilty me!  I'll do better next year!

        Thanks, Amita!   I'd be happy to give you another chance on my team.

         We're accepting guest post proposals for the A to Z Blog.   If you have something that you think might be of interest to the A to Z community of bloggers, contact us with your idea.   I'll be happy to work with you on a post for this site.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Personal Challenges and Light Bulb Moments (#atozchallenge)

       This guest post comes courtesy of writer/blogger Lissa Johnston.   If you would be interested in contributing your guest post to the A to Z Challenge Blog please contact us

Personal Challenges and Light Bulb Moments

2016 is my first year participating in the A to Z Challenge, though not my first blog challenge and definitely not my first writing challenge. I’m familiar with deadline pressure - what writer isn’t? - but the A to Z presented a couple of different types of pressure, for different reasons. As I progressed through the challenge, and even afterward, my opinions on some blog-related issues have been swinging back and forth like a West Texas weather vane, to wit:

To Theme Or Not To Theme
When I started the challenge, I didn’t realize what was going on with the ‘theme’. I thought ‘A to Z’ was the theme. Once I figured it out, I thought, Whew! So glad theme is optional. Themes are stupid. Themes tie me down and restrict my writing. I’ll write whatever the heck I feel like. And of course after the hundredth random theme-less blog I visited, I was so thankful to stumble across blogs that had such narrowly focused themes I marveled in their ability to find 6 topics to write about, much less 26. I became a believer. Themes are the bomb. Themes are like fences. They may seem restrictive and unsightly, but in addition to keeping good things in, they also keep bad things out.

Categories and Comments
After the challenge concluded, we were encouraged to post a recap of our experiences. Of 1300+ bloggers who completed most of the challenge, less than a third shared a recap. Still, that’s over 300 opinions, and I’ve worked my way through nearly half.

Two areas were mentioned repeatedly: requests for tweaks to the blog category codes; and hand-wringing over the low percentage of participants who visited and commented at other blogs. My flip-flop on these two issues is intertwined.

First, to the categories: When we registered for the challenge, we were asked to describe our blogs using a two-letter code. The idea was to give other bloggers some idea of what your blog was about before they clicked. Many participants thought there should be more categories added. Some also suggested they should describe the theme, rather than the blog, since the two could vary wildly. My initial reaction to the category idea was, Categories? I don’t need no stinking categories! I assigned myself one. But I basically ignored other people’s blog categories because I wanted to visit ALL of them, regardless of topic.I will also admit my initial reaction to blogs being categorized is that it had the potential to hurt some blogs that might be at a disadvantage if ghetto-ized into a category with a very small niche.  

Secondly, the comments: Some participants said they didn’t leave comments because they couldn’t think of anything to say. And I’m like, What? Most bloggers are writers, for crying out loud. Surely you can come up with 10 words on the fly, like that old Toastmasters improv exercise. If you can’t come up with a few words for a token comment, blog comments are the least of your worries.

That’s how I felt about categories and comments - until I had my light bulb moment.

I’ve been listening to several writing podcasts recently. One in particular really solved a problem I’ve been having with a current WIP. I couldn’t wait to get to the keyboard and type up a comment. And that’s when I realized: If I’m not that excited about every comment I leave, I shouldn’t be leaving it. I shouldn’t be wasting my time on meaningless ‘hey, just dropping by from the A to Z’ comments in a likely fruitless attempt to increase my page rank.

After my light bulb moment, I now understand why people want the categories to be clear, unambiguous, and definitive of both blog and theme if possible.The bloggers who are asking for this have already had the light bulb moment. They know what they are interested in and where they will have the best chance of finding blogs they will want to comment on organically. Otherwise, they’re wasting their time as well as yours.

I like to think I have an open mind. I’m willing to change my opinion when I’m wrong, especially when learning through personal experience. The 2016 A to Z Challenge was full of those experiences for me. What were some of your light bulb moments this year?

Lissa Johnston is a writer. Her latest book, The Dala Horse, is a middle grade adventure available now at Amazon. She blogs at

Thursday, January 7, 2016

A to Z Advice from Jolie Du Pre

“Jeez! I don’t understand it.  Another A to Z, and, once again, her posts are perfect.”

* * *

It’s 2016, and soon we will enter a new Blogging from A to Z Challenge.  I’m proud to report that this will be my fifth consecutive A to Z. 

Back in 2012, I remember how nervous and apprehensive I was about my first challenge.  How in the heck would I blog for 26 days?  But even though I had reservations, I knew that the challenge would be the perfect way for me to bring attention to my blog, Precious Monsters, which was new at the time.

I was right.  I couldn’t believe how many visitors were coming to my blog, and I had a great time reading and responding to the many comments.  If you work A to Z, it works for you.  Visit the blogs; leave comments; have fun, and you will be rewarded with bloggers stopping by your blog to see what you have to say.

One thing you will notice during the A to Z Challenge is that every blogger has their style.  Some bloggers are extremely organized, put informative content in their posts that are the result of lots of research, and schedule their posts way ahead of time.  As a Type-A personality who wants everything perfect, even though it never is, I’m jealous of these bloggers.  

I want to be organized.  I want to include posts that are researched and filled with information. I want to schedule my posts way ahead of time.  But every time I try, I’m good for the first couple of weeks.  Then, I'm right back to my frantically attempting to keep up.

It’s always the best-laid plans for me when it comes to the challenge.  I always complete the challenge, don’t get me wrong, but never the way I want.

So what do you do if you keep trying but don't make it?  Beat yourself up for it?

I'm proposing that you don't.  In other words, try to stick to your plans for Blogging from A to Z, but don’t feel bad if you fail.  The event is a "challenge", but it's not meant to be stress-inducing.

That said, you would ease most stress if you do schedule your posts.  So do give it a try.

My goal is to write one blog post on Saturdays and one blog post on Sundays on up until the event begins.  If I stick to my plan, I’ll be done by the beginning of April.   

I’ll start on January 9:

1/9 – A
1/10 – B
1/16 – C
1/17 – D
1/23 – E
1/24 – F
1/30 – G
1/31 – H
2/6 – I
2/7 – J
2/13 – K
2/14 – L
2/20 – M
2/21 – N
2/27 – O
2/28 – P
3/5 – Q
3/6 – R
3/12 – S
3/13 -  T
3/19 – U
3/20 – V
3/26 – W
3/27 – X
4/2 – Y
4/3 – Z

I’ll have to work hard to stick to my schedule.  I’m a busy article writer, and I’m the author of the Pierce vampire books.  (They're a mixture of horror and paranormal romance. You can try my series for free because book one is permanently FREE.) Of course, because I write about vampires now, my A to Z theme is vampires!

It’s a new year, and it’s time for me to start again.  However, if I don’t follow my plan for scheduling my posts – there will be no negative self-talk about it for this Type-A.   If I don’t make it, if I’m scrambling once again to get all my posts up, in 2017, I’ll try again to be more organized.

Sign-ups for the Blogging from A to Z Challenge begins on January 25.  So stay tuned!

Our thanks to Jolie Du Pre for this excellent advice.  What are some methods you've used to prepare for the Challenge?   Do you plan ahead of time?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Cleaning the Garage from A to Z

English: A handyman project was to de-clutter ...
 A handyman project was to de-clutter a basement which tends to get filled with things when it's not certain whether to throw or keep them. When a basement becomes too cluttered, it's hard to find things that are really needed. One way is to move clutter to a second location where it can be sorted into two piles (1) trash (2) items to keep. Source of picture: here (see public domain declaration). Questions: write to my Wikipedia page or email me at (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

       A frequent theme of posts on this Blogging from A to Z Challenge site involves ideas for the April Challenge.   It's a natural topic here!   How often do many of us wonder what we will be writing about come April Challenge time?    Often I read exasperated laments from bloggers who don't know if they can even participate in A to Z because they don't know what to write about.  To alleviate some of those feelings of doubt and fear, let me offer another of the infinite ideas that might spark some creativity in your mind.

        Instead of staring at the computer screen as your mind jumbles up with this idea and that, why not take a break from blogging for an hour or two or maybe even a whole day.   Get up out of your chair and go clean your garage.   Now, you might substitute "garage" with closet, drawers, car, or what have you, but the essence of this idea is to go take care of some accumulated clutter and get organized.

         When I think of organizing one image that comes to my mind is filing papers in an orderly fashion which typically entails separating items into easy to find A to Z fashion.   Using a cluttered garage as an example, you can even take filing to a larger scale organizing everything in your garage in some logical fashion.  Alphabetically might not be the most practical way to organize a garage, but it could be something to think about.   The point here is to clean up and organize.  Get some house work done!

         And once you've started diving into that amalgam of messiness (unless you are more fastidious than many of us) start thinking in A to Z terms.   Your garage might have anything from Ajax to Zap cleaner, old adding machines to non-functioning Zenith television sets, or accordions to zithers.  I think you're getting the idea.

        Your house is a wealth of A to Z inspiration and sometimes digging through the artifacts of what we amass over the years can stir up all sorts of thinking.  Take a look at ten or twenty items that you immediately see around you and consider what each item conjures in your mind.

         Can you remember when you first obtained that item or when you used it?   How did the items affect your life?   Why did they end up where they did in a state of disuse?   How useful were the items then as opposed to now?   Would you recommend these things to anyone else?  If you were going to give the item to another person who would it be and why?

          One cluttered closet could be the inspiration for numerous books, stories, or articles to an extremely imaginative person so it stands to reason that this same closet might be excellent inspiration for the 26 posts of April A to Z.

          Fiction, memoir, how-to's, photo essays, humor--there is no limit to what your clean-up jobs can inspire.  There's no good reason for anyone to come up with the excuse that they don't know what to write about for A to Z.   Your posts in April don't have to be exotic or even something absolutely unique.  Good content is always desirable, but excellence in writing can outweigh the most original ideas that are written about tritely or dryly.

         Maybe give it a try.  Start a household chore with A to Z in mind.   Even if you don't come up with an A to Z idea this time around, you can try again later.   And if the A to Z idea doesn't come from your efforts then you've still ended up with a positive accomplishment--you'll have a cleaner more organized house.   Not much of a downside to that!

         Have any of your A to Z themes been about common items around your house?    What are some great discoveries that you've come upon while cleaning house?    Are there any A to Z themes that come to your mind in regard to this post?

Monday, June 2, 2014

Here's an Idea!: Playing Favorites (#atozchallenge)

Blog Machine
Blog Machine (Photo credit: digitalrob70)

Not Sure What to Blog About?

          One of the more common reasons bloggers offer for not participating in the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge is, "I don't know what to write about."   In fact that's a common complaint I hear about blogging period.  Personally I find that to be a rather curious excuse when topics to blog about are all around us.    Furthermore, if you have a theme in mind then the prompts for daily blogging can come even more easily if you let them flow.

        With this post I begin a series which I'm calling Here's An Idea!   I'll be offering some good suggestions that you might want to consider for the 2015 Challenge.  If my ideas don't quite work for you then maybe my brainstorming might start sparking some other ideas in your own mind.  Let's come up with some month long blogging themes!

People Love Lists

      One thematic approach that I've seen used in past Challenges is a series of lists from A to Z.  Lists can be favorites, worst, best, funniest, or most existential--or you name it.  Possibilities are endless when picking the approach you can take with this idea.

      Once you've decided on a general theme you can start the lists for each letter.  If you start now you can keep adding to your list over the next several months leading up to next April.  You can make the list as long or short as you like and expound upon it as much as you like.

        Coming up with a list is fun and usually easy.  When you get stumped you can always hit a search engine for other similar lists or ideas to inspire you.   Starting early will give you plenty of opportunity to go back to add new items to your list.

       An advantage to using lists on blog posts is that you can engage your audience more easily and stimulate their minds to interact with you.   Everyone has their own opinions about what should be on a list.  You can have fun creating yours and get the audience involved thinking about what would be on their own list.  The list offers a great opportunity to ask questions that lead to comments and blog post sharing on social networking sites.

         I used the list approach on my own blog Tossing It Out in 2013 when I offered examples of movies in various genres or with certain thematic ideas.  For example, A for Auto Accidents in film, V for Venice in film, and Z for movies about Zoos.    I had a great time coming up my lists and my readers seemed to be entertained as well.

         Think for a few minutes about the list concept for April and I'll bet your mind will run rampant with great ideas.   In fact you might want to start compiling your lists right now!

Focus on Favorites

         Rather than a list you might want to focus on favorites.   This can be anything, but it will work best when you are considering things about which you are passionate.  Excellent fields of examination are favorite films, books, songs, places, or foods.  Others have done these sorts of posts in past Challenges as well as in everyday blogging, but there's always room for your point of view.

          And when you're dealing with favorites no one can say you're wrong.   You can invite some debate if you like to get readers involved in discussion.  Or you can ask your readers about their own favorites.  Most people enjoy weighing in on a topic such as this if you've presented it the right way.

          At my blog Tossing It Out I'm currently doing a series about preferences and why people like what they like.  In this series I'm talking about some of my favorites or what might be considered "the best".  What I'm doing in my current series could easily be expanded into a month long A to Z theme.   Who knows?  Maybe I will go with this as a theme!   No reason why you couldn't do something similar as well.

          Most of us like to tell others about discoveries that grab our attention and things that we like.  This is a fun and easy topic that adapts itself so well to Blogging from A to Z.   Take a minute and give this some thought:   What are your favorite (fill in your own topic) and then start listing them.   You'll probably start coming up with so many that you could fill Aprils for years to come.

          Please take a look at my current series to see what you could do with something like this.   While you're there don't forget to answer my questions and leave your answers in the comment section.   The first post of the series is The Greatest Story Ever Written? and I'm still looking for opinions on this.  I hope you'll weigh in with your own.   Other posts in my series are about "Favorite Types of Music" and "Favorite Movie"(coming on Wednesday June 4th).   You can find and follow this series at Tossing It Out.

         Some brainstorming now might even help you with your everyday blogging if you are one of those who gets stumped for ideas at times.   The ideas are out there and they're easy to find.  Just start making a list!

         Do you ever find yourself unsure what to write about on your blog?    Do you enjoy reading through lists?    What kinds of lists have you used on your own blog?

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Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Is Planning Now for the 2015 A to Z Too Soon?


Hello everyone. My name is Tim Brannan. I blog over at The Other Side where I primarily talk about games, RPGs and horror.  I am a game author so I use my blog as a platform to talk about my books, but also to share with others in my blogging community to sorts of things I like to write about.

I have been writing material for games nearly as long as I have been playing them.  I started in 1979 and my first "custom class" was a Healer. And....I am not afraid to admit my first new monster I ever wrote up was a "Smurf". Yeah. I was 10.  My first witch class was written sometime between 1985 and 1986.

This was my fourth year of doing the A to Z Challenge on the Other Side. I have also done it one year on my Atheism blog, The Freedom of Nonbelief and another year at Red Sonja She-devil with a Sword, a shared blog dedicated to the comic book character Red Sonja.  Plus I have guest-posted here before on how to use the A to Z challenge in your own writing efforts and the importance of having a theme to your posts.

One would have thought I would have been more prepared this year!

At some point in February I was still planning on doing an A to Z theme on Vampires.  I had started the posts last year when I did Demons. I had an idea for a book about vampires and I thought it would have been a good way to do some research.  It was. Till I shifted midstream.

My newest book is now at Kickstarter to get funding for art and printing.  "Strange Brew: The Ultimate Witch & Warlock" is, well, the most complete guide to playing a witch in the Pathfinder game.  A bit of background.  Back in 2000 the 3rd edition of Dungeons & Dragons hit the shelves with the "Open Gaming Licence" which briefly meant 3rd party authors could make their own books for D&D and not get sued or anything like that.  If you followed the admittedly simple rules of the Open Game Licence then you could do it.  Well I did and in 2003 I released "Liber Mysterium: The Book of Witches & Warlocks".  A friend of mine released a similar book for witches called "Way of the Witch". We liked each other books and we were happy.  2013 rolls around and this friend, Christina, decides it is time we mixed our books together with the newest version of the D&D 3rd edition game, Pathfinder (it's not exactly, but close enough).  We added in the Pathfinder witch and some others and decided to kick start it as a project.

So far things are going great!  But my extra writing time was taking a solid hit.  I have 13 years worth and thousands of pages of notes and material to go through.

So to save some time I switched over to the A to Z of Witches.

It was a good idea.  Go through notes, post ideas as they come to me.  I only managed to stay about 10 days ahead of schedule and that was nowhere near enough.  So much for my own advice about theme and planning!

I got a lot of great posts up and in fact have enough for another couple months of solid witch postings.   I got to participate in a "mini-hop" of people doing supernatural creatures during the A to Z as well and that was the best!  I have to give very special thanks to Tasha (Tasha's Thinkings) and Sophie (Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles) for helping me with the idea and then doing all the heavy lifting afterwards.  THEY, and everyone in the Supernatural mini-hop, really made this A to Z special for me.

If you look at my May 5th post I state I survived the A to Z challenge.  Survived is the right word. Not beat, not won, but survived.  Yes I posted everyday and still got in some of my other posts. Yes I visited my neighbor blogs, but didn't always comment on them.  Yes the material I wrote will find a home somewhere in Strange Brew.

But, I didn't get to interact with other bloggers as much as I wanted. I didn't visit every blog on the list like I have in years past.  And while I noticed that I was getting a good amount of traffic from the Supernatural A to Z and from the A to Z site itself, my regular readers dropped off.  So in that respect I didn't do as well as I would have liked.

I write about games.  That is who I am and what my readers want.  I tried to keep the topics I posted very relevant to gamers, but also to the non-gamers.  Most people in the world don't care if some beastie has 5 HD or 15 HD, you just want to know how tough it is. To gamers that is a big deal. It's a big deal to me.

I love doing the A to Z and I am taking my own advice to heart and starting my 2015 posts this summer.  I am still considering doing vampires. So to make it work there needs to be plenty of material for gamers (what we in the RPG biz call "crunch") and plenty of narrative material enjoyed by everyone else (what we call "fluff").

So what is my plan?

  • Start my post writing early.  Crunch takes longer to write than Fluff. I'll need the time.
  • Keep enough crunch to keep my regular readers happy. Especially if it something new.
  • Keep the fluffy interesting to keep the A to Zers coming back.
  • Visit and interact with more of the bloggers in the A to Z. If I write all my posts this should be easier.
  • I would LOVE to participate in another mini-hop like I did this year. That was awesome.

Looking forward to it!

About the Author 
Timothy S. Brannan is the author of The Other Side blog
He has worked on a number of games including the "Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG", and is 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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Friday, March 21, 2014

What's up with these #atozchallenge Category Codes?

Happy A-Z Theme Reveal Day! Stop on by to see the list of folks who are participating!


In the 2013 Challenge, we introduced a new feature to the sign-up process called Category Codes. These are codes which allow you to identify the general topics of your blog, to give other participants a bit more information about what they might see on your blog, before they click your link. In case you missed it, here are the instructions and the list of Codes from the sign-up page: 

There are categories for those looking for like-minded blogs. Select ONE category code and enter it after your blog’s title/name. The code applies to your blog, not your theme for the Challenge and is purely optional. However, if your blog has adult content, you MUST mark it (AC) or it will be removed from the list. Codes are as follows: 

2. BOOKS: (BO) 
3. FILM: (FM) 
6. CRAFT: (CR) 
7. ART: (AR) 
8. MUSIC: (MU)   

11. FASHION: (FA) 


14. GAMING: (GA) 
17. HISTORY: (HI) 
18. SCIENCE: (SC) 
19. HUMOR: (HU) 
20. TRAVEL: (TR) 

The A-Z Team thinks these codes are really awesome, and encourages everyone to use them. Here are a few reasons it's beneficial to use the Category Codes:
  • Interested in a certain topic? Look for folks with the appropriate Category Code marking and go visit their blog!
  • Hoping to attract others to your blog that are interested in the same topics as you are? Commenting on others' blogs is the best way to drive traffic to your own, so if say, you write about Education and want other educators to find you - go visit them first! Remember, A-Z is all about making connections so use the Codes to help you find your people.
  • Is there something that you aren't really interested in? You might skip blogs that are marked with that Code. But! The Challenge can also be a great opportunity to push your boundaries. In our humble opinion, our participants are the best of the 'net, so the Challenge might be the place where you find a really excellent blogger that shows you that a certain topic isn't so bad, after all.

As we are just over a week out from the start of the Challenge, and the sign-ups are just rolling in, we hope that new participants will stake their claim in a category, and hope that folks who are already browsing the list will start to take advantage of the Codes to find their future blogging besties!

A note on Adult Content blogs - this is the only category for which we have made it mandatory to identify yourself. Many of our participants have families and jobs, and we don't want to risk disruption of harmony in either of those locations if someone were to accidentally end up with explicit material up on their computer. And so we require that AC blogs identify themselves, out of respect for other participants. Any unidentified AC blog that is discovered by the Host Team will be immediately removed from the list. For more information, check out this post from a couple weeks ago. Thanks for your cooperation on this!