I know you all had hoped that I was done talking about Nancy Drew. Wasn’t it enough that she had to take over the blog for all of April during the A to Z Blogging Challenge? Didn't she just teach us three things about writing? Does she really need to make an appearance yet again?
Apparently she does. Nancy is a stickler for doing things by the book and one of the things she thinks is important to tick off of her very orderly “To Do List” (written, of course, with her Mont Blanc fountain pen in a hand tooled leather bound notebook, which a grateful client gave her after solving a case involving a missing Pekinese dog) is to write a Reflections post so that the A to Z team has some feedback on how the challenge went this year and thoughts for next year.
So, in no particular order, here are some random reflections.
Just Your Normal Increase in Blog Traffic and Followers
I know some people get an increase in visitors to their blogs during the challenge and an increase in followers on their social media channels. I had a look back at my stats and, while bog visitors and Facebook followers increased during April, the percentage increase was on par with what I normally see on a monthly basis. I didn’t see any astronomical jump in numbers as a result of the challenge.
I suspect that some people who normally read our blog stopped doing so during April because Nancy Drew wasn’t their cup of tea, while new readers popped by from the challenge to take their place. Some folks may were turned off that I did a story in installments along with some thoughts on each day's letter (which made for some long posts) and never visited again, while others enjoyed the approach I took and visited more regularly. You're definitely not going to please everyone.
I did the challenge to have fun, experiment with blogging and meet new bloggers. I didn’t do it to increase blog traffic and followers, so I was happy with having a normal increase in stats. But, I think the challenge can be a great tool for some folks to raise the visibility of their blogs and increase traffic.
Pre-Scheduling Blog Posts = Sanity
Last year when I did the challenge, I had over half of my blog posts written and scheduled in advance. This year, I wrote and scheduled all of my blog posts (except Z) in advance. Honestly, I can’t imagine doing it any other way. I often get in a groove when it comes to writing blog posts and will sit down and churn out a week’s worth or more in advance (we normally publish every Monday, Wednesday and Friday), so it wasn’t all that different to churn out a month’s worth in advance.
Considering my theme was a Nancy Drew inspired short story broken up into 26 installments, it really worked well for me to write it all ahead of time in order to ensure the story flowed okay.
Also, my laptop broke towards the end of the challenge and I cannot even begin to imagine what I would have done if I hadn't had all of the posts already locked and loaded. Writing blog posts on your cell phone isn’t the easiest thing in the world.
Hats off to people who can write their A to Z blog posts on the fly. I’m not one of them and neither is Nancy.
Any Interest in Special Interest Groups?
There were seven sailing and cruising types of blogs participating in the challenge this year that I know of (you can see a list at the bottom of this post). Some of them were folks that I cajoled, conned and strong-armed into joining in the communal insanity of the A to Z challenge. I think we formed a fun community and special interest group, visiting and commenting on each others’ blogs given our shared interest in sailing, cruising, liveaboard life and a nomadic lifestyle. Hopefully, they’ll all join in the challenge again next year.
I wonder if it might be useful to have a more structured approach to special interest groups next year? I know that you can indicate what type of blog yours is on the sign-up linky, but not everyone does that (I don’t think I did) and it might not be the most user friendly way to find like-minded blogs. Of course, there are a few downsides of doing something more structured: (1) admin work required; (2) not all blogs can be neatly labeled and put into a bucket; and (3) folks might get too focused on blogs similar to their own and miss out on the opportunity to discover blogs that talk about new and exciting things they didn’t even know existed before the challenge. Anyway, just throwing it out there as food for thought.
Commenting Takes Time, But It’s Worth It
I’m thrilled with how many comments I got on the blog this year. I love it when people comment! It’s so reassuring to know that people are actually reading the blog and are engaged with it. I tried to respond to each and every comment (hopefully, I didn’t miss any) and that took a lot of time. But, it was so worth it as I discovered a lot of other fun bloggers in the process.
Of course, it’s not just about comments on your own blog, it’s about sharing that bloggy love with others. During the first part of the challenge, I visited five or more new blogs each day to check them out and leave a comment. By the end of the challenge, I have to admit, I did less of that and stuck more with the blogs that had become my faves. Having a computer that kept acting up also made it difficult to visit as many blogs as I would have liked.
Nancy has got an exciting new case to solve (something to do with alligator trapping in southern Florida) and Bess has whipped up some triple chocolate brownies with cream cheese frosting, which I need to sample, so that's all for today. But before I go, I want to say a huge thanks to the A to Z team! You guys are amazing!
If you want to check out other A to Z Reflections posts, just hop on over here. It's the perfect thing to do while you're having your morning coffee and snacking on a brownie.
We'll see you back here on Friday to tell you all about can openers imported from China via Aruba all the way to Indiantown, Florida. Trust me, you won't want to miss this.
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