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If somehow you missed the entire month of April, let me remind you: I did the A-Z Challenge, posting a blog post for every letter of the alphabet through the month of April.

With this reflections post, I’m also looking at what works for authors when they take part in blog challenges.

Let’s start with the things I did differently this year:

I added the letter badge and link to the letter’s list at the start of each post.

I kept to my blog’s schedule (Twisted Tale Tuesday, Insecure Writer’s Support Group Day, mixture of writing advice and other writerly posts, and folklore posts on the days they were supposed to be).

I tweeted every post from another blog I read (if Twitter handles were available somewhere on the blog). A couple of blogs I visited every day, even if I only commented a couple of times. I definitely made new friends (a lot more than last year).

I pinned every post to my Pinterest board “A to Z Challenge Posts”.

Things I learned during the challenge:

For some reason my favourite word in April was “awesome”. (Oh, crutch-words!)

I should probably look into Feedly to follow all of my favourite blogs.

I learned how to make clickable links (it’s really fun to code), though I only used it for each letter’s comment on the A-Z blog.

There are a lot of lurkers out there: though most people I visited, visited back, not everyone did. Or maybe they did and just didn’t know what to say in the comments (probably thinking that “Cute pic. Visiting from the A-Z.” wasn’t good enough for a topic such as Canned Hunting or for any of the stories, folklore and stuff about writing I posted).

There is a “like” button… and my Twitter handle is linked to the “share on Twitter” button. Even commenting isn’t that difficult: you fill in a form if you’re not a WordPress user. *shrugs*

Burnout caught up to me and made it difficult to complete some posts (reason Z was about burnout and taking care of yourself after I’ve done a bit about it with L). Writing was difficult – I wanted my story featuring a Kelpie up before K to go with the Kelpie post, but it just didn’t happen that way. I finally got to the point where I felt the story was good enough to be published and updated the K post with an extract and the link of where it can be read.

I learned that by pacing myself and sometimes saying no (though saying yes can have awesome – there I go again – rewards) I can keep the beast called burnout at bay.

Links to all my A-Z posts:

Awesome Arrow #AtoZChallenge A is for Arrow. 

Rumour Has It #ShortStory #AtoZChallenge B is for Betrayal. 

Calling It #TwistedTaleTuesday #FlashFiction #AtoZChallenge C is for Calling. 

Daunting Blog Challenges #IWSG #AtoZChallenge D is for Daunting. 

Everlasting Monsters, Creatures and Fae #FolkloreThursday #AtoZChallenge E is for Everlasting. 

Faerie: Home of the Fae #AtoZChallenge F is for Faerie

Gallant Galno #AtoZChallenge G is for Galno. 

The Labyrinth: Home of the Cursed Fae #AtoZChallenge H is for Home. 

Idiocy #TwistedTaleTuesday #FlashFiction #AtoZChallenge I is for Idiocy 

A Job for Everyone in the Labyrinth #AtoZChallenge J is for Job. 

Capricious Kelpie #AtoZChallenge K is for Kelpie

Loafing is Lekker #AtoZChallenge L is for Loafing 

Murder Most Foul #AtoZChallenge M is for Murder. 

NaNoWriMo: How it Helped my Writing #AtoZChallenge #AuthorToolboxBlogHop N is for NaNoWriMo 

One Step Closer #FlashFiction #TwistedTaleTuesday #AtoZChallenge O is for One 

Playful Phoukas #AtoZChallenge P is for Phoukas. 

New Divide #ShortStory #AtoZChallenge Q is for Quickening 

Animals Make Stories Great #AtoZChallenge R is for Rottweiler 

Social Media Success #AtoZChallenge S is for Social Media 

Tales of the Onyx Labyrinth #AtoZChallenge T is for Tale. 

Under an Immortal Moon #FlashFiction #TwistedTaleTuesday #AtoZChallenge U is for Under 

All Fae are Equal, but Some Fae are More Equal than Others #AtoZChallenge V is for Vermin. 

Castle of Glass #ShortStory #AtoZChallenge W is for wailing. 

The Importance of Xylophones in the Echo Labyrinth #AtoZChallenge X is for Xylophone. 

Taking Chances #AtoZChallenge Y is for Yes. 

A Writer’s Zen #AtoZChallenge Z is for Zen. 

How the Challenge is great for Authors:

From practicing your writing by either doing a serialised story or doing flash pieces every day your writing and your readership will grow.

By visiting and commenting on other blogs, you’ll make new friends.

You can write about anything on your blog – you can do a bit of world-building, share research pertinent to your novel’s era, share strange folklore facts that you can later use in your own writing, share snippets from your upcoming novel to build anticipation in readers, write about writing in any way you like or write about blogging.                     

A lot of author/bloggers have used this opportunity the A-Z offers to build a basis for an ebook. (Perhaps a little something to entice new subscribers to your email list?)

Networking might be an ugly word to some, but there’s no greater way to interact with readers and other writers than by participating in a huge blog hop such as this one. And authors can do with as many friends as they can possibly make.

By learning how to properly market your blog posts every day on social media, you’ll also learn how to market your brand and – when it’s necessary – your novel.

Controversy about the A-Z Challenge:

I’m not going to go into everyone’s complaints about how the A-Z was different this year.

I loved it.

The difference? (You might ask if you haven’t done the challenge before.)

Last year (my first year doing the challenge) you had to sign up on a Linky list and wade through hundreds of blogs, trying to find what you’re looking for.

I had a handful of visitors a day.

This year participants had to add their link to the day’s letter on the A-Z blog.

The number one reason I loved this year’s A-Z: my blog’s stats show that views went from 25 visitors a day (my usual average) to 50 visitors a day to 100 by the last quarter of the challenge.

The new way of participating worked wonders for my blog.

Let’s look at other reasons I like the new way a lot better:

  • Every day I practiced writing a hook for that day’s post (something every writer needs to know how to do if they want their books to sell).
  • I knew exactly who had participated that day and what to expect from their post (no more blindly clicking on blog URLs hoping to find something interesting to read). And except for people who only posted a URL and expected you to click on it without knowing the topic – or if it’s adult content – I tried various new blogs. BTW at the top of every letter’s post, it was asked that participants at least tell the content rating and a little of what to expect from their post – so me not visiting, that’s on them.
  • I learned how to make clickable links (as mentioned under my favourite things).
  • The letter lists where I placed my posts’ URLs gave them more SEO visibility and people actually knew what the day’s post is about instead of just a vague blog title.

Got this on the survey about the A-Z I filled in…

I know that people complained (scary the frequency of that) about having to add their link to the list every day, but if you actually added the letter badge with the letter’s URL from the A-Z blog, you had to go to the original blog anyway to get the URL and – opened in a new window – that meant an easy copy and paste once your post is up.

It’s all about promoting your post, after all. (But maybe I got this wrong: the point wasn’t to place your post on all your social media networks with the #AtoZChallenge and get the word out?)

Will I do it again? Of course! I enjoy blog hops. (Every month I do the Insecure Writer’s Support Group and the Author Toolbox Blog Hop.)

What are your thoughts on the A-Z Challenge? FYI this is my opinion about the A-Z and you can find various others on the Reflections list on the A-Z blog (or on any other social media network you prefer). Do you participate in blog hops? Did you learn something new about the A-Z?

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