After signing up for the #AtoZChallenge in February, I freaked out. A lot. Writing two blog posts a week was already two too many for someone who only started blogging last July. Though I had a vague idea of what I could blog about from one week to the next, at least I had several days to do each post. The #AtoZChallenge meant writing twenty-six posts in one month where I would, at most, have had to write eight. You do the math.
When I started with the #FolkloreThursday posts earlier in the year (moments before having this crazy idea of doing the #AtoZChallenge), I’d decided to challenge myself by writing one short story a week about the creatures I’d feature in my folklore post and add an extract from the story and the link to whatever platform I was publishing it on in the #FolkloreThursday post. It took a lot of planning, internet research and hours writing and editing just for one post. But it’s so worth it. So I knew that I’d continue this practice in April.
The catch: I’d have to plan beforehand if I was going to get the day’s letter, the folklore creature and the story to match.
F, the first Thursday of April, was easy: folklore. I rummaged through my files until I found a short story I wrote for the hell of it (and still didn’t quite understand except in my subconscious) and built a blog post around the story and folklore. I think it turned out quite nicely.
L, the second Thursday of April, was a little tricky: it’s the day I usually do a post about my series Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth which I post a new short piece every month on Wattpad. So I went through my folder about Faeries I haven’t used in my writing before. And I found the Leannan Sìth. Scary.
R, the third Thursday of April, was weird: I’m part of the Red Hat Society, and the birthday bash and the colour red was very much on my mind. So I researched Faery creatures that had the word red in their name. Only the ones I actually liked made it into the folklore post. And a weird short story was born: Red Hats and Red Caps.
X, the last Thursday of April, was limited: I opened my pocket dictionary and found only one word that spoke to me. Xenophobia. I knew the fourth tale in The Adventures of Saphira the Faery Dog would be perfect. And quite a few folktales have xenophobia at its core. Ugly Duckling, anyone?
After I did these four posts and short stories to go with them, figuring out which Fae I’d like to showcase in the challenge was easy enough (though I had to choose between a lot of creatures starting with the same letter…). I outlined those in detail, mainly because there’s something really wrong with me. And left all the other letters to be decided on the last moment.
And it worked. I had a few finished posts, almost-there posts, half imagined posts and a couple that I could just wing.
I didn’t miss one letter during the challenge. And I even finished rewriting/editing my Camp NaNoWriMo project on time. Yeah, I mainlined caffeine…
All I learned during prep, was that I have a touch of OCD. Which isn’t all that bad, right?
In the first half of the challenge, I learned a lot about how WordPress works. Things that I didn’t notice before was wrong on my blog and username (like the wrong URL appearing when I comment), got fixed after I was made aware of the problem (and I used the FAQs to get to the answer). I think my blog is all the better for this. I also learned how Google+ and all those other wonderful Google apps work.
I used to be a lurker. I’d read blog posts and neither like nor comment on it. Except if really compelled. The challenge helped me to become less inhibited where it came to sharing my thoughts. And it gained me quite a few new friends on all my social media platforms (okay, so I blog, tweet and dabble on Google+ ).
I took the linky list and copied it to a doc.x the last day of March (though I knew I’d miss a few last minute entries) and highlighted all the blogs marked as being writing blogs in light grey (my own in purple). Then I went through that behemoth list again and marked every blog with writing/writer/author in the title in dark grey. That was a lot of blogs to visit (definitely wouldn’t make it by only visiting 5 a day). Then, because I obviously want to set the bar too high for myself, I highlighted every blog with an interesting name/about animals in yellow. I then divided the highlighted blogs in 26 and waited for day 1.
Day 1: I woke up early like a kid on Christmas morning (looong before my Rottweilers or chickens). Cosying in at my computer, something caught my eye on the printed out MS of my Camp NaNoWriMo project: a weird looking apostrophe. I looked it up. Got licked in the face by Antonio who’d just woken up (he smelled like a puppy) and wrote that morning’s post: Abused Apostrophes. I published it and went to the first name on my list for day one. They hadn’t started yet. Then someone commented on my blog, I returned the visit and found solace on Twitter with bloggers who’d posted the letter A. And made friends 🙂
The first four days weren’t too bad – I was able to blog, blog hop and comment, approve and return comments on my own blog, revisit, tweet the URLs of blogs I’d visited that day, and still rewrite/edit my Camp NaNoWriMo project. Then the boys got a little sick (I was frantic), they got better (I punished them for eating too many rats in secret), I got swallowed up by my WIP (finishing the first ten chapters, whoo-oo!) and suddenly it was Saturday. Now, I didn’t forget to post: I did that before 5am every morning. And I did visit blogs: but only those on my list of revisits and those I’d enjoyed earlier in the challenge. I didn’t visit new blogs. So on Saturday I copied a revised linky list (you can’t believe how many blogs had been removed of challengers who had fallen behind), and visited two dozen new blogs.
And the numbers on my own blog soared. I kept the visits to new blogs to about 12 a day, and saw steady growth in my blog’s statistics, followers and new friends. The last few days of the challenge, I had already visited all my highlighted blogs so I only visited blogs I’d liked earlier in the challenge.
I did learn though, that not everyone I visited would return the visit or even comment on or like my posts (though every post I read I commented on – except those that made it impossible to comment). I did have a lot of lurkers… And comments from people not associated with the challenge (which happened rarely on my blog, so that’s good).
Will I do this again? Yes. Uhm, I actually have a scribbled list of interesting words beginning with X…
I’d like to thank Damyanti Biswas @ Daily (W)rite for introducing this challenge to me. “Get ready for the Adrenalin rush, the madness, the followers and friends, the exposure and the mayhem for this April.” (Why is a #Blogging challenge good for you? #atozchalllenge)
And do I have bloodshot zombie eyes as I predicted at the end of March? Why, yes I do. But that could be thanks to veldfires too.
I went wireless for the first week of May (for good behaviour). And to catch up on much needed sleep. And to shop – I wanted to try out the wonderful vegetarian recipes on Vidhya’s blog. Yeah, I’m one happy vegetarian.
“Artists are meant to be madmen, to disturb and shock us.” – Anne Rice
How about you: have you done the AtoZchallenge? Have you learned anything from it? Will you do it again? How did you hear about the challenge in the first place?