Ruminating on the A to Z Challenge

posted in: Various Musings | 0

So the folks running the show for the April 2016 Blogging from A to Z Challenge asked us to write one final post reflecting on our experiences. I’d written a little bit in two previous posts but decided to gather my thoughts here, even if just for myself—because I will probably do it again next year.

Overall, the challenge was a good thing. Yes, I write every day already, but the challenge forced me to push myself. WriMos always do that (writing months, a la NaNoWriMo), because I set goals for myself and I’m accountable. Usually, I have goals but I’m not public about them and there’s no one to answer to. Even had no one actually read my posts, they’re out there forever, so anyone can see if I 1) continually met my goals and 2) met them in a timely fashion. I’m happy to say I did both.

If you can’t remember what my goals were, you can check out the original post (A is for ACCEPTING the Challenge), but I can sum them up nicely right now. The first goal was simply to write Monday through Saturday and I had to write around a letter of the alphabet (day one was A; day two was B; etc.). Those were the official challenge goals. Beyond that, I had free reign to do what I wanted…so my goals were that I was going to write the beginning of a story and I was going to try to write 1000 words a day, and I was going to make the story as coherent as possible. I and other participants were also asked kindly to visit five other blogs participating in the challenge for various noble reasons.

So…the good part was that I met my basic goals. I did write at least 1000 words a day, but sometimes some of those words were discussing my writing process, because I realized early on that if I was going to post a rough draft, I should also use this as a learning/teaching opportunity (because once a teacher, always a teacher!), explaining my writing process and the things I would focus on in revision. I also wound up with over 20,000 words to the story when the month was over—nothing to sneeze at (the rough draft is done and in revision now).

The hard parts of the challenge: first, if I’d been writing like I normally do, I would have gone back and done some of my revisions before moving on. Big revisions I like to do when they occur to me; little ones aren’t so pressing. For example, I knew after writing the first 2000 words that I did something I often do, which is dumping lots of backstory at the beginning when I should instead be reeling readers in, so I knew I’d have to do some chopping and changing of that first scene (or two)…but I couldn’t go back. I had to spend my writing time working on new words, because that was the challenge! I kept notes, of course, and I’m revising now, but it was a very different way for me to write. It’s not a bad thing—just different and, therefore, hard to adjust to. That actually happened at several places and what was really funny was that readers got to see just how discombobulated my writing is pre-revision. Maybe my posts will be a lesson to all, that revision is more important than we sometimes think! Other things I will be changing during revision is making Slade a bit more approachable and less slick (more lovable!); correcting my mess ups with the crime that guides the story (was it a murder or suicide, for the love of all that’s holy?!?); and I hope to add more humor and tension in the mix. (Chapter One is almost done and the book itself is now a Wattpad project that I will begin publishing tomorrow—you can check it out here:

The Challenge was a great way to stretch myself and I know it was awesome for other bloggers, because I’m sure they got a lot more attention during that month. I know I got some eyes on my work who hadn’t seen it before, and I “met” a lot of cool writers. That was fun. But I’ll admit that some days it was pretty darned difficult to visit five and comment on their blogs—I’d set such a lofty goal for myself (and the fact that I work over thirteen hours a day away from home on Monday through Friday didn’t help) that it was tough. Add to it that others visited and commented on my blog too, and I’m sure you can see how that could become unwieldy, particularly when one of us struck up a conversation on a blog and it continued for a few days. But, I suppose, that comes with the territory.

Would I do it again? A resounding HELL, YEAH. Any opportunity I have to push myself is welcome. I’m like most others—if I write the goal down and talk about it (becoming accountable), I have a better chance of following it all the way through. WriMos do the same thing for me and that’s why I try not to turn them down. I used to avoid them, thinking they were silly because I already write approximately the amount of words generated for a WriMo, but then I realized the point it to ensure I do—and in a very public, accountable way. I’ve done NaNoWriMo for four years now, and I can tell you that, for me at least, it works. So now I have another month of the year to add to my writing calendar.

What I should change if I do it for next year (but I also know myself and there’s no guarantee I’ll actually follow through):

  • Do a little rudimentary plotting (although I had a plot in my head that I followed, a bit of an outline might not hurt for this particular challenge)
  • Figure out what the letters A through Z represent before writing the day’s work
  • Try to work ahead on the weekends and get some of the writing done beforehand

I’d say, “Wish me luck!” but we have eleven-ish months before the next A-to-Z Challenge, and I have two WriMos before that so, instead, stay tuned! I will do this challenge again! 🙂

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