Monday, 8 May 2017

A-Z Challenge 2017: Reflections

Yes, it's time to think back on the merry month of April and reflect on another A-Z Challenge. This was my fourth year taking part, and this challenge felt different to me for a variety of reasons. I'll get more into those below, but I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The main thing that comes to mind when I think about this Challenge is "quality over quantity". Not that there weren't vast swathes of quality participants in previous years, but it seemed pretty definite that there were less signups this year - the old linky list was hitting over 2000 but there only seemed to be around 300 daily comments on each Challenge blog post. Now of course, we have to account for the fact that many of those 2000 would drop off throughout the month, and that more than 300 might have been participating but just not leaving their daily comment (in which case, it would be that much harder to find them). Even so, this year felt more cosy. Manageable. Petite, perhaps. I felt like I had time to really take in what each person was saying and leave a considered response, rather than skim reading in a frantic effort to get to as many posts as possible. And this isn't to say I was short of people to meet during the Challenge. On the contrary, I met some wonderful writers who broadened my mind with amazing facts, made me laugh with some whacked-out stories, moved me with stunning poetry or inspired me with some uplifting quotes. I hope to nurture these connections by getting to know these people even better over the coming months and years, and in the end that's worth much more than just hitting high numbers of posts with one-off comments. I'll give a shout out to some of my favourite themes below.

Other thoughts: While I am very happy with how the Challenge went, I'm not entirely sold on the daily linkup list yet. I think it made it harder to meet more people as I kept running up against the same ones every day. With the old list, you could just keep working your way down, and although there would be many that had stopped taking part, you just closed that blog and moved on to the next. I definitely didn't manage to meet five new people every day, but as outlined above, that didn't take too much away from the experience. At the moment, I'm not sure what the best way forward is, but I realise that maintaining the giant list places too great a burden on the Challenge hosts.

Another thing is that perhaps if you comment too late on the daily post, less people are likely to see your link. Each post seemed to go up the day before that for the letter concerned, and I noticed a lot of participants doing this too; was this to post their link as early as possible? I tried to stick to posting at 5am GMT on each day, but I was often later than this; that was entirely my fault though, as I didn't have all the posts prewritten ahead of time. In fact, for the final week they were done on the fly. Definitely an area of improvement for next year!

In terms of commenting issues, I didn't notice anything too bad. Captcha seems to pretty much have been stamped out. The only thing I noticed were some comment systems were linked to Facebook and required you to respond to an email for the address you sign in to Facebook with. Unfortunately for me, that's my old address, which I don't check any more. Again, that's a failing on my part for not updating things, but I still think having to go and check your emails before being able to leave a comment is unreasonable.

Okay, I think that's my main thoughts dealt with. I didn't mean for this to get so long! Now it's time to give some props to some of my favourite bloggers and themes. Some were new to me, others I'd met before. Inevitably I'm going to forget some people, for which I apologise in advance. Some I might not even have got to that many posts - I suffered some issues towards the end of the month that affected my participation slightly, but I'm getting back on track now - but I enjoyed what I read all the same.

Megan Morgan - 26 Things to Hate about Writing. A brilliantly funny theme, lambasting all the pitfalls of being a writer in a deliciously sarcastic manner.
Debbie D, the Doglady's Den - Musical Memories. Just what it says, some of the author's enduring memories and the musical moments that soundtracked those times. Funny and sometimes poignant.
Shalini, Kohl-Eyed Me - Travel experiences in Thailand. Stories and advice about visiting this wonderful country. I've only spent five days in Bangkok and now I want to experience much more.
Nilanjana Bose, Madly-in-Verse - Brilliantly informative posts about Arabic culture, soundtracked by some excellent music. I felt educated by every post I read.
Pamela and Ken's Days of Fun - A tour around the Highlands of Scotland from a couple who moved there last year. They've packed a lot in already and collated some great posts about the quirky sights and experiences to be found in this beautiful region.
Debbie, My Random Musings - Motivational quotes for each day of April.
John Davis Frain - One of the most brilliant themes out there, the author got killed by an outlandish method corresponding to each letter before being resurrected for another unfortunate demise the next day. Just sorry I didn't get to more posts.
A Tarkabarka Holgy, The Multicolored Diary - Weird Things in Folktales. Bizarre and often grisly tales from around the world.
Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles - Dragon Diaries. A dragon for each letter of the alphabet. Some great flash fiction and characters.
Carrie-Anne, Onomastics Outside the Box - A walk through some of the weird and wonderful characters from (mostly) Greek mythology.
Anna Tan, Deeply Shallow - Cute and whimsical stories about the misadventures of various princesses.
True North Bricks - Of course I was going to follow a theme about Lego. Pure fun.
Rae Squiggle, The Quiet Writer - Very educational theme about Britain's abbeys and cathedrals.
C.D. Gallant-King, Stories I Found in the Closet - The surprisingly weird history of Canada.
Anmol Rawat - Delightfully creepy flash fiction. Again, I'm sorry I didn't get to more of these.
Click's Clan - Touching and often funny letters to the author's frozen embryos.
Darla M. Sands - Excellent musical selections.
Patricia Lynne - Flash fiction based on unusual words.
Keith's Ramblings - An entertaining introduction to the eccentric residents of the village of Amble Bay.

All in all, I really enjoyed taking part this year, and I'm already getting ready for 2018. How about you? Did you take part and, if not, would you consider doing so next year?

More Reflections posts can be found here.


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Nick - I agree with essentially everything you've said, particularly the list aspect ... I do not like G+, and there were quite a lot of comments that went to moderation - but c'est la vie ...

Thanks for coming over to visit so often - and a great list of bloggers you've listed ... some of whom I need to visit. Next here I'm not so sure ... the social media aspect put me off ...

Cheers and enjoy your writing now - see you soon - Hilary

Ronel Janse van Vuuren said...

I know what you mean about the commenting thing - a simple form would be so much easier than trying to log into various social media accounts.

Thanks for the list - I've missed most of the blogs mentioned. Time zones, perhaps?

I'll do my reflections post somewhere this week... forgot about it with my normal routine back in place :-)

moon said...

Hi Nick ! Thanks for such fabulous posts through A to Z . Really enjoyed my trips around your world . Look forward to reading your book. Hope there will be a way for international readers to access your book.
Thanks so much for your support and encouragement throughout the challenge . Grateful.
Best wishes with your book release . I wish you all success.

JazzFeathers said...

Pretty much my thought too.
I understand that managing the linky list is too much for the organiasers, but I'm not sure at all the comment section of the official blog is the solution. The time zone is definitely an issue, in my opinion.

It's only a feeling, but I too feel there were a lot less partecipants this year.

It was a fun challenge nonetheless. Can't wait for next year :-)

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I thought the daily letter went up too soon as well. You're not the only one to note that getting to it late meant less chance for people to visit.
Cozy is good. The first year with only a hundred was cozy.

The Cynical Sailor said...

It's interesting to read your reflections on this year's challenge. Sounds like there were some real positives about the approach taken this year, as well as some potential things to revisit for next year.

Natalie Aguirre said...

Glad you enjoyed the challenge and met lots of new bloggers. I need to take advantage of the IWSG more to do that. Enjoyed your theme and reading about your characters the days I stopped by. Too bad about the list issue, though.

L. Diane Wolfe said...

If the letter post was going up the day before, you can't blame people for posting early to get a jump on it.

You met a lot of new bloggers though.

Darla M Sands said...

Thanks for sharing these blogs! I am flattered you named me. Happy writing and blogging!

Anonymous said...

I noticed in the comments on the A to Z site it was the same people every day. Over on Twitter I saw more variety and a few times I just went there to look for posts. Maybe next year if they go without the list again, more kinks will be worked out.

Unknown said...

Thanks for the shout out! I appreciate it! :D

I had much of the same feelings about the blog posts vs. the Linky List, and about the time zone thing--if you didn't post until the actual day of, and later in the day, you were buried.

T. Powell Coltrin said...

I can say that I really missed being a part of the 2017 A-Z, the anxious feelings day and night, dreaming (nightmaring) about it, keeping up with all the other links and commenting. I really DID miss participating. :(


Emily in Ecuador said...

Well done, Nick! Thanks for the list of blogs - I missed many of them. Since this was my first year, I can't compare to years past. As the month went on, I found many new blogs by clicking on signature links in comments of blogs I enjoyed.

Emily | My Life In Ecuador | A to Z Reflections 2017

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Interesting to hear your perspective. It was easy to meet new bloggers on the linky list but it was a monster to maintain. Thanks for sharing the interesting links.

Keith's Ramblings said...

You pretty well came to same conclusions as I did. I have to say though, was I pleasantly surprised with the number of hits I got despite the new system. But I will be certainly among that campaigning for the old list to be reinstated. I really looked forward to your stories this year and you certainly didn't disappoint! Lastly thanks for the mention, and given that you announced the honours in reverse order, I'm doubly flattered! I'd like to thank my mum and......

Amble Bay: Reflections and other things

Josie Two Shoes said...

I totally agree with you about the links being posted up too soon, and I eventually started scheduling my own posts earlier so as not to end up at the bottom of the list. I hope they modify that for next year, not putting them up ahead of the actual date.

I was also amazed that the typical 2000 links became more like 200-300 comments when the linkup method was changed, but at least this way the links were for people actually posting and often we were told what the post theme would be, which really helped in choosing who to visit. I'd like to see that required for each link.

Your story glimpses were awesome, Nick, very well written and thought-provoking. I totally enjoyed my visits here during the A to Z, and had to keep coming back for more! :-)

Rebecca M. Douglass said...

Hi Nick, thanks for a good Reflections post. It sounds like it all went better for you than for me, and based on your list (I have to check out some of those!), the reason is probably that you spent more time at it. I really struggled with being a west coast person; my blog went live at 12:01 every morning PDT, but I didn't get to the posts to add the link until sometimes late morning, so that didn't work well for me.

My reflections post goes live at 12:01 PDT tomorrow :) Meanwhile, I'm back to doing what I do.

Rebecca at The Ninja Librarian

Liz A. said...

Captcha's been stamped out? Where? Because it caught me in its sticky web more than once.

Congrats on making it through. I saw some of the blogs you mentioned. Good selection.

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Lower numbers of committed bloggers is a much better idea than the tons of people signing up and never posting.

lissa said...

I blamed it on times zones for half of the people posting early and the other seems late but really I think we're all on time in our time zone. it's all a matter of where you are.

now that I think about, I didn't really think the link list works. I mean, there are just too many blogs to browse and who can remember which number they were up to? that's why I make a list of blogs to visit early on. I did this whether there is a link list or not.

I seemed to have overlooked a lot of blogs but that usually happens with so many people.

congrats on finishing. have a lovely day.

John Davis Frain said...

Hey Nick,

Thanks for the shout out. I had a blast getting murdered all month, I'm glad it was well received. Exhausting though, which I'm sure you can relate to.

Congratulations on making the finish line. Good observations. In fact, now that I've read your post I realize I need to do one. So thanks for the heads up. Good luck on your writing! One goal for you: Finish!

betty said...

All in all, it did seem like a good challenge for you Nick! It will be interesting to see what the hosts do next year as far as the list or go with how they did it this year. I'm not sure I'm going to participate or not, time will tell :)


Debbie D. said...

Hi, Nick; Congratulations on completing the challenge successfully. I enjoyed your snippets and apologize for falling so far behind. I hope to catch up, soon!

You definitely have a point about the daily link up. I posted just after midnight, but since I'm in the eastern time zone of Canada, it meant being as much as a day behind!

Thanks very much for the mention! Best wishes for your new novel.

Lynda R Young as Elle Cardy said...

Sounds like it was a good, if a little different, challenge this year. Unfortunately I couldn't participate.

Deepa said...

Congrats on finishing the A to Z challenge. I loved the story that you wove over the month. It was enchanting

Click Here to see what Mrs. Dash Says

JeffO said...

Once again, congratulations on completing the challenge! Interesting perspective on the whole thing.

I doubt I will participate next year. While it's no doubt a good exercise in thinking, writing and discipline, I have enough trouble with once a week!

Jean Davis said...

Congratulations on completing yet another year of A to Z. I've enjoyed your blog since discovering during another April years ago. :) Getting to know your characters was a lot of fun.

It did feel more cozy this year. I found more blogs to visit from reading comments on blogs I visited and clicking links than by going down the daily lists. The linky list always felt too overwhelming to me. I like this smaller setting much better.

Barbara In Caneyhead said...

Well thought out! I enjoyed your reflections. This was one of my favorite years. Many on your list, I also frequented, yet, I see some that interest me that I missed. Nice to have the reference.😊

Toni said...

Nick, it was a great challenge. I missed many of your suggestions but I think I'll go back and check them out. Thanks for the recommendations.

Arlee Bird said...

I'm in agreement with a good many of the points you make here. I also felt a more cozy sense about the participant community, but I didn't post my links like we recommended and mostly just reciprocated to past and early commenters on my site and they kept me pretty busy throughout the month.

The list is something we need to keep working on as I do like the idea of a list--but the right kind of list.

Glad your experience was mostly positive. Thanks for the thoughts and the participation in this year's Challenge.

Arlee Bird
Tossing It Out

Cathy Kennedy said...


There's mixed feeling in the A2Z community regarding signup list. I don't the massive size but I do like the link format with the option of using theme code provided. Always in the past, I tried to sweep through the list but failed miserably, so then I looked for themes that captured my attention first and then filled in with new bloggers. The latter method worked the best for me but this year adding one's URL in comments made that harder, but I didn't let it stop me. I tried to visit a few people before and after my link up. I decided to not stress over it but just have fun with it and in the end, I felt the most relaxed of any year yet.

It was the pleasure to find you during the A to Z Challenge. I believe you were one of my new discoveries, too. My reading attention span is limited so I really appreciated how you shared snippets of your characters to build interest without overwhelming. I know in the past when I came across authors who used the challenge to write a story then the posts were too long or I'd find them mid-way making it difficult to understand what was going on. I liked your style! :)

From the handful of bloggers you mentioned, I visited some but there are some new ones here I'm interested in checking out which I will when I leave here this morning.

Thank you for being a part of Art Sketching Through the Alphabet journey. Perhaps we'll find an occasion to meet on the Blogosphere corner while having our morning coffee (or perhaps tea) as we visit. May the blessings of this day be upon you, my friend and God bless!

~Curious as a Cathy
Art Sketching Through the Alphabet Reflections

PJ said...

Hi Nick, I agree with you that the challenge felt more cozy this year - as last year was my first, the list of over 2000 blogs felt a bit intimidating. Really enjoyed your stories and you're one of a few writing blogs that I discovered this year, which as a fledgling poet/writer, I found really interesting. Well done on completing another year and thanks for the mention above. See you in cyberspace.

Random Musings said...

I didn't come across many blogs with captcha this year either which was a huge relief - it doesn't matter what I put in the box I always seem to get it wrong haha!
Thanks so much for the mention - there's a few on your list I missed so I'll be checking those out too :)

Rachna Chhabria said...

Hi Nick, I have done the A to Z Challenge just once. 4 years is awesome. Seriously I am in awe of you all!

Click said...

Well done for making it to the end of the challenge. I really enjoyed your snippets through the month and although I didn't get to them all, I'm slowly catching up on what I missed during the month. Thank you for all your comments on my blog and for mentioning me in your list. :-)

I'm glad to see you're thinking about next year already!

Cait @ Click's Clan

Sara C. Snider said...

I think the best solution in finding new people to visit in the comments section is to visit the ones posted the day before. That way, you get everyone in there, and not just the people that share their links around the same time as you. Of course, that prompts new problems of having to click "load more comments" and such. But it is what it is. I don't know if the linky list is coming back (which I do still prefer). Anyway, congrats on completing the challenge! You had a really cool theme. I might try a similar one someday. We'll see. Some cool blogs you have listed too. The John Davis Frain one sounds really interesting, I'm sad I missed it hehe.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Interesting. I didn't know they'd changed the linky, but I wasn't able to participate this year. Glad you had an overall good experience. I'm going to go check out a couple of the blogs you mentioned.