Reflections on the A to Z Challenge
Last year, when I finished the A to Z Challenge, I said I wasn’t going to do it again. The topics I picked made it hard to come up with enough posts, and I’d found myself scrambling for the last few entries, and repeating myself a few times. I mean, it’s hard doing so many posts, especially when you’re a fiction writer.
That sounds kind of weird, because writers write, right? But if you read about how to blog, it’s all for business owners who are selling a specific product like time management or planners. The blogs tell us we need to be an expert and that translates into doing posts like the “10 Writing Tips that Will Get You Published!”
Over the last year even, I thought that maybe I should stop blogging because I still wasn’t getting many people stopping by and I wasn’t sure it was worth the time I was spending.
So what changed?
What I enjoyed about the A to Z Challenge
I kept noticing that though no one commented, two posts kept getting visits:
- Hair for Women in the Military — It’s not easy!
- The Army gets a new uniform for women — it’s about time!
I was surprised that a topic that I found rather routine was getting such interest. So I started shifting the blog over to more posts about the military and saw an increase in visitors. Every time I had thought about writing about my experiences in the military, I thought I had to do the big things. Instead, I’ve found that people are fascinated with the ordinary (to me) life of the military.
It’s also been something that, now 24 years after Desert Storm, that I do need to write about, now that I can do it without being angry or complaining about it. A blog is a very nice form for doing that. So that’s how I picked my theme for this year, and contrary to past years, I actually had more ideas for posts than I needed.
What I could have done better
1. Tags. Tags have always been a problem for me to come up with, and I need to learn how to be better at them. People do search off them, but they’re sometimes hard for me to come up with.
Copyblogger says, “To a certain extent, they could be used to replace searching, if done well.”
2. Subtitles. Anne Allen’s blog on how to write blog posts also appeared last week and reminded me that I need to pay attention to subtitles on future posts (which, as you can see, are in in this post):
“Subheaders aren’t just for drawing the eye through and letting the reader know what’s coming up. They also need to spell out your most important points. And include keywords.”
Subtitles are good for scanning, which is a key piece of internet reading.
3. More links to other sites. I need to do more links in my posts, but that’s always been hard. Writing about the military doesn’t always lend itself to other blogs. Sometimes all I get is historical sites.
What the A to Z Challenge Could Do Better
Last year, I suggested that the rule about post titles having to be something like “D is for dialogue” should be changed. After doing two challenges, I’d discovered that none of the posts got any further interest. The titles made sense in the context of the challenge, but six months after, when a Google search turned them up, no one found the titles interesting to click on. The requirement was removed from the guidelines this year.
I was surprised that no one else seemed to notice this had changed. The result was:
- Hard to tell what posts were about: I did a lot of my reading through Twitter streams. I could easily scan the tweets and pick what I liked. Frankly, it was hard to find posts, and I couldn’t always tell what the posts were about. In a lot of cases, I may have been passing by posts that I would have enjoyed. Titles are very important in drawing the reader in.
- Posts sounded like a glossary, not a blog post: This was particularly a problem with fiction writers where the glossary posts made me feel like they were checking the marking box rather than genuinely participating.
So I think removing the requirement wasn’t enough. It needs to be defined better and maybe actual examples given. From what I can tell, I was one of only a handful of people who noticed it had actually changed.
Would I do it again next year? This time, it was a good enough experience that I’m not saying no, but I’m not saying yes. We’ll see.