I learn new things whenever I do the A to Z challenge. I employed the lessons I learned last time, and it made for a better go-around this year.
What I Learned
- Pre-planning. I pre-planned my theme and populated my alphabet. I then did my posts ahead of time (when I could, on my own time) and scheduled them to post on the correct day. This pre-planning really helped A LOT. Most of my posts were done by the end of March.
- Audience. I thought about what audience I wanted to cater to, and this helped me focus my posts and have a consistency throughout. I wanted to make my posts interesting to an audience with varying levels of education. I tried to design them so people who didn't know much about astronomy could understand my concepts, yet be intricate enough to push those who had a bit more knowledge about the subject.
- Consistency. I wanted a certain level of quality control, so you pretty much knew what you'd get from post to post. Again, I was able to pull this off through pre-planning.
That said... the topic I chose is completely not relevant to my usual blog. My blog's about writing books generally and Romance specifically. So what topic did I choose? Astronomy!! The two rarely cross paths (except in a novel of mine that's coming out next year). Why did I choose my topic?
- Stand out. I wanted to stand out and offer something unique that the other AtoZers weren't offering. And while there were a few who tackled the same subject, none of them approached it in the same way I did, and that was good. I didn't feel I was duplicating anyone else's efforts. I thought if I blogged about writing, I'd get lost in the crowd. Probably was right, as there were quite a few writers writing about writing. However, I might go back to that next year and pull a Frain.
A to Z Changes
Part of the A to Z Challenge involves reading others' blogs. This year the Challenge ran a few things differently--no Linky List! This was a boon and a bane.
Boon: No long list of people who'd signed up, then never bothered to blog. You only heard about the people who were being active, and could go straight to their posts.
Bane: Having to post EVERY SINGLE DAY to the AtoZ blog to let people know you had stuff up. I don't get online every day, so this became quite a pain. I wish one could schedule comments the way one schedules blog posts. Since most of my entries were completed ahead of time, it would have been nice not to have to get online every single day to promote my blog. Also, if I came across an interesting blog, and forgot to Favourite it, I'd have to trawl through the blog comments to find it again.
I'd love to see a combination of the old Linky List with the new Blog Comment format. Bring back the Linky List, but you can only get on the Linky List if you've posted an entry. Then, post a weekly Linky List blog post where, if we posted entries that week, we can list them. The pre-registering is probably too much
I was amazed at how many bloggers there were who couldn't figure out how to make a simple anchor tag work, even when shown how.
Also, the absolutely best way to make me scroll past a comment on the A-to-Z daily letter blog post? Posting this:
. Here is my blog.
Nothing is more boring than that. At the very least post your theme. No, not your name, or even your blog's name, but your theme. That's what I'm looking for. Roslyn Core announced how she was cross stitching a Buffy the Vampire Slayer alphabet. You bet your sweet bippy that got my attention! (No, I'm not a Buffy fan, or a cross stitch fan. But what a juxtaposition!)
What Worked and What Didn't from This Reader's Perspective
What worked for me was a blog that was regular-ish, that had a clearly defined theme or topic, and provided interesting content.
Regular posts is good, because nothing is more disappointing than to come back day after day to find nothing new. That's a good way to lose me.
A clearly defined topic is necessary. It lets me know what to expect on a blog. Now, some topics simply didn't catch my interest because I wasn't their target audience. But the few posts I read were well put together and if I was interested in that, I would have definitely stuck around to read more.
What definitely turned me off were the "personal" or "inspirational" blogs that chronicles someone's inner journey. A lot of people did these, and frankly, I found them very boring. Topics like these are excellent for an audience of one. For the rest of us, "You" are not a sufficiently interesting topic. I'm sorry. Blog entries like "Gratitude" or "Spirituality" only have impact for you.
I noticed there were quite a few story blogs as well, writers posting fiction. Author J R Vicente had a clever "choose your own adventure" style, where the commenters got to choose what the blog post would be for the next day. She gets points for that.
Most of the fiction blogs couldn't hold my attention because the voice wasn't compelling enough. Sometimes I'm not your audience, and sometimes your writing's not as good as you think it is. Fortunately, the more you write, the better you get. I would never tell someone to stop writing simply because they weren't good.
And then there were some story blogs that completely blew me out of the water. John Frain. John Frickin' Manuscript Frain. If you didn't read any of his AtoZ this April, go back and read it. If you've read NOTHING ELSE this month, go back and read John Frain.
Frain wrote a flash fiction story a day, with him as a character that got killed. Every. Single. Time. (or did he?)
I don't think I will forget that one for a long time to come.
Blogs I Enjoyed
It's always fun going through the different blogs and see what others have posted. Some of the more memorable blogs this year were:
- Sharon Himsl wrote about "Female Scientists Before Our Time" --ancient women, pre-industrial women, women from thousands of years ago. Doing science!
- Spies and Spying by Sue Bursztynski. Totally nifty if you like spy stuff.
- Chris Votey put up some cool Character Astrology Profiles, which combined Greek and Chinese zodiacs to come up with some rather interesting character types. Not your grandma's newspaper horoscope.
- Megan Morgan's "26 Things to Hate about Writing". Amen, sister.
- Totally got involved in the story of Sandra Williamson's ancestor Martha Sarah Ellis. I love a good family history story.
- Sara Snider's Herbarium was also good, with mystic connections to plants.
- Zalka Csenge Virág (posting as A Tarkabarka Hölgy) totally got her weird on with "Weird Things in Folktales".
- Ozzypip quilted her way through the alphabet. Yes, quilt blocks have names.
- Sage also posted about Astronomy, though focused more on constellations and the stories behind them. (Note: Jupiter's a jerk who can't keep it in his pants.)
I read one blogger, who was rather new to blogging, never mind the A to Z Challenge. No, she didn't post every day, and that was understandable. She wrote about being a single parent to a high-needs child after a bitter divorce. Hers was a deep story about a hard life and I'm glad I got to read it. But can I find it again? No. I want to know how her story ends.
There were a few others I popped in from time to time. Overall, there were plenty of great blogs to read.
Her Grace will now be crawling back under a rock, as May is a very busy month for her in the Real World.