Sunday, May 6, 2012

A to Z Challenge Reflections

Well, I finished survived the April 2012 A to Z Challenge and was fortunate to have been able to stay a week ahead of the game. I'm a planner and with a theme involved, it was really imperative that I write in advance.

Now it's time to reflect on the challenge, the HIGHS, the lows, the pros and the cons. {These my thoughts alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of other participants or the co-hosts.}

  1. Making new friends - I managed to find several great folks to converse with. It doesn't get any better than that. 
  2. Global connections - I now follow blogs in the UK, Australia and a couple of other countries. Far cry from my norm of the US and Canada.
  3. Finding new followers - I started the challenge with about 25 followers and ended up with almost 90. Hey, I'm a writer, I like to know that folks are actually reading what I write. Okay, realistically I know that many just clicked FOLLOW and will never come back, but that's okay. I may have done the same to their blog.
  4. Challenging myself - I had never written flash fiction until recently and this let me work on my writing skills, keeping things tight but still telling a story.
  1. Not being able to read as many blogs as I would have liked. I suspect I hit maybe a third of all the entries, no, probably a quarter. 
  2. Paring my blog reader list - I won't continue to follow all the blogs that I did during the challenge (for various reasons). I was already following over 300 blogs and had to put many of my RVing friends on stand-by status. Now I get to start paring the list down to something manageable. Ugh!
  3. ERRORS - I hated reading my blog post after the first comment of the day and finding an error. Eeek!
As to Pros and Cons, I think I'd rather list a few Tips for next year.
  1. Folks, turn OFF word verification! No matter how many times it was suggested, I still found blogs with Blogger's horrible CAPTCHA still turned on. Invariably, those blogs had no or very few comments. Google is now very good at filtering out spam.
  2. Be as prepared as possible if you are truly committed. For me that meant having my theme (yes, I will always use a theme) picked out, topics chosen and photo inspiration selected (read more about my theme selection process here).
  3. Do your best to visit/comment/follow the blog of everyone who comments/follows yours. I also initially picked one new blog commenter from those blogs to check out as well.
  4. If you have a WordPress blog, you can't use the Google Friend Connect. A good alternative is Linky Followers. I've even added it to my sidebar along with NetworkedBlogs [Facebook] to allow alternatives for everyone.
  5. If you have a Twitter account, show it on your blog page. Many times I wanted to share with you that I was tweeting your post but couldn't find a handle. 
  6. If you don't have a Twitter account, think about getting one. Follow some other great writers/bloggers, share their posts and they will share yours.
  7. Taking Twitter one step further is Triberr where like-minded people share each others blog posts quickly and easily to their followers, exploding your exposure. My daily reading statistics almost tripled once I joined and participated. 
  8. Read some of my earlier posts about getting ready:
I know of at least two friends who wanted to do the challenge but didn't make it. I found two who had to quit near the end or modify their posts. Several others ran into health issues. It's okay. This isn't a job, it's meant to be fun, increase your readership and help you find new blogs and hopefully new friends.

Would I do it again? Absolutely, in fact I'm already working on my theme. Flash fiction inspired by photos I've taken over the years. The words will come after the photos this time around. I may repeat the 10x10 concept but not sure. I may be more lenient, just use a max word count.

Hey, you're my readers - what would you like to see next April?

Oh, and my one comment for the hosts, I would love to see the blogs broken into sections like: poetry, photography, fiction, writing, music, religion. It would allow me more time to find blogs that would interest me, ones that I will continue to follow. I would still pop into others as time allowed, but feel this would make things more efficient in the long run.


  1. You're already working on next years? WoW.
    It's been great getting to know you and your flash fiction 10x10's were great! xx

  2. This year, my one goal was just to do the Challenge and finish it. Next year, I may get more ambitious and chose a theme. Thanks for the inspiration and encouragement. Thanks to you, I didn't quit!

  3. Well done. And you're already over a hundred followers, at least some of whom will be back. Well, I will anyway.

    Moody Writing
    The Funnily Enough

  4. Yay for themes! I agree with you that having a theme can really help out. I can't imagine not going into another A-Z Challenge without one.

  5. Donna, as per usual, you done good! Enjoyed all of your posts and really appreciated you twittering my links most days. And, no, I won't shoot you for conning me into joining the A to Z this year. It was fun (mostly)

  6. Donna , I really enjoyed your flash pieces during the challenge! I'm also fairly new to fiction writing (just over a year...) and also posted 26 musically-themed fiction pieces, in an attempt to improve upon and strengthen those "fiction muscles"...
    I will definitely be back to check out what you have to offer...

  7. Great tips for next year, especially the Linky followers for WordPress blogs. I was put off commenting a couple of time because it was such hard work, and definitely didn't return to see any replies.

    Congrats on going from 25 to 90 followers - that's an awesome leap!

  8. Well, working on next year means I've defined my theme. LOL! I'm glad you enjoyed my stories and I'm also tickled to have met you!

  9. Isn't it great to feel the sense of accomplishment! Congrats on the not's to next year!

  10. ...and I will continue to follow your blog! I finally broke 100 in the last couple of days. I thought I'd never break 25 for a while. LOL!

  11. Absolutely but I am in awe of those that managed to post daily and still have a cohesive sounding blog. LOL!

  12. So, you gonna keep up your blog? ;-)

  13. Thank you, Michelle. I followed your blog late and never got to read most of your posts. If I'm lucky, I'll squeeze out some tome to go back over them. It was an amazing theme!

    Oh, and us new fiction writers have got to stick together! ;-)

  14. Hi Annalisa, have to tell you how much I love the name of your blog. Glad some of the tips are useful.

  15. Sounds like we definitely have the same reflections and suggestions for the challenge. I'm glad I "met" you and was able to pop in now and then through this years challenge, hoping to get to know you better now that our blogging time is a little less stressed!

  16. This is a pretty glowing report I'd say. Thank you for that. That last request is something I'd like to see if we could swing next time.
    Thanks for your thoughts.

    A Faraway View
    An A to Z Co-host blog

  17. Lovely reflections post! I agree, Donna...if the participants were broken into different blog groups then I could focus on the ones I KNEW I wanted to follow and then would get around to others as time allowed...

    Donna L Martin

  18. You made interesting points in your reflections post i.e. adding linky followers. I'll need to try that. I also agree that having a theme for the challenge makes it fun and purposeful (for me anyway) :) I'm glad you survived! And I'll continue to drop by here to read all about what else you're getting up to! :) Amelia

  19. That was a great wrap up, Donna! I absolutely agree with the necessity of a Twitter account, and I concur with you that blogs should be categorized next time, it's a nightmare to find the ones you're looking for.

    It's been a great experience even so, and I'm glad to have met you (along with all those other wonderful people). :)

  20. awesome summation! so glad you came by!

    i'm still a twitterphobe...someday!

  21. @Martha Looking forward to continuing to follow you. Not sure where in FL you are, but we will be wintering in Clermont again next year.

    @Arlee You are so amazing! Thanks for stopping in and taking time to comment. Don't you ever sleep? LOL! Oh, over 50% of the reflection posts I've read (only a small sampling) all mention wanting categorization. Hope it can be worked out somehow.

    @Donna Thanks once again for stopping's been fun to see how many Donna's I've found on the list! ;-)

    @Amelia Adding Linky Followers is easy and it should help folks find you again. Also remind them they can use Google Reader and manually add you to their list. So, any idea on a theme for next time? ;-)

    @Vero Glad to have met you during this go-round. Sent you a Triberr invite but understand if you are full up with Tribes. ;-)

    @Tara Let me know when you decide to wet you Twitter toes and I'll send you some tips. Thanks for stopping by! Oh, and I still think your blog header is one of the best I've seen anywhere!

  22. Great reflections post. I liked your 10x10 format - it led to tight, powerful stories. But I can also how it might be very limiting and that you might want to have a bit more freedom next year.

    Thanks for your sweet comment on my reflections post. You're definitely one of the quality people I was talking about meeting. :-)

  23. I loved reading your stories, I'm so in awe at how you can tell a whole story with such few words. This was my first challenge and didnt know quite what to expect but next year I'll be better prepared so not to end up so exhausted.

  24. A very good round up of the ups and downs, good and bad of the A-Z Challenge. Nicely done! This was my first challenge and I was feeling quite apprehensive before starting out, but gained confidence as I progressed along! Although it took a lot of energy, I will certainly participate again next year!

  25. @Jocelyn
    Thank you...making new friends is definitely the #1 benefit of the challenge!

    I'm so glad you enjoyed them. I'm removing them and putting them all in an e-book, so if you know anyone who might like them, send them to my website. :-) Oh, and next year...we'll still be exhausted from reading other blogs. LOL!

    @C.M. Brown
    This was my first year, too, but since hubby was having double knee replacements in late March, I knew I needed to pre-write at least a week in advance. I think the closest I got was only five ahead. Here's to next year! Woot!

  26. Congratulation on finishing the challenge. I didn't visit all blogs during the challenge but, cross my heart, I'm visiting every single one with reflections post!

    Evalina, This and that...

  27. Sweet Advice!

    Reflection is a good thing, You have done a great job on the A to Z Challenge...
    Hopefully you were able to use one of my banners/badges for the Challenge, had as much fun designing them as seeing them around the blog world.

    Jeremy [Retro-Zombie]
    A to Z Co-Host
    My New Book:
    Retro-Zombie: Art and Words

  28. I agree with you on the categorization...
    Congratulations on surviving :)

    English Speaking Zone

  29. Oh my, you are wonderful!!! I am still trying to get back to a more regular schedule....LOL! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

  30. Thanks for taking time to visit and comment, Jeremy. You hosts were so amazing!!

  31. Lets hope they can figure out a way to do it, the categorization. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, Barbara.

  32. Were you interested in doing a guest post to talk about your A to Z ebook? If you haven't done so already, send us an email at to let us know what you'd like to do.

    Wrote By Rote
    An A to Z Co-host blog


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