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Monday, 4 May 2015

AtoZChallenge 2015 - Reflections

Just before I get to the reflections post, I have started a new weekly tradition on this blog today called Monster Mondays and today's post is over here.


So the AtoZChallenge 2015 is over and what a ride it has been. First of all I would like to thank everyone who organised it and everyone who took part - it has been an awesome year and I thoroughly enjoyed myself the whole month. I hope everyone else did too. I must apologise, I am still behind on answering comments for the last couple of days of the challenge, but I will catch up eventually.
For those who are new to the AtoZ - every year thousands of bloggers get together and post every day in April apart from Sundays using a letter of the alphabet to inspire their post. Many of us also have an overriding theme for the month. Then we try and visit as many blogs as we can during the month.
This is my third year taking part in the challenge and I think I have enjoyed it the most, simply because I found so many wonderful people to interact with. It was great last year too, but this year has been simply excellent.

Lessons Learned

I know some people were pantsing this year and creating their posts one by one, but if there are two things I have learned make the AtoZ easier it is:

Preparation & Organisation

My sister and I had four blogs enrolled in the challenge this year - one personal blog each and two that we shared. There is no way we could have managed without serious preparation. These are the things that made my life a lot easier:

Preparation
  • Choosing a theme made deciding on posts much easier.
  • Choosing a theme allowed me to take part in the theme reveal before the main event and it helped to connect to other themed blogs and choose initial sites to visit on day 1.
  • All blog posts were pre-scheduled before April even began (well almost all - I had three drabbles (100 word stories) left to write :))
  • I created a spreadsheet for the whole AtoZ list to mark down who I visited and who visited me on a certain day.
Example of a small part of my spreadsheet. As you can see I have no idea who visited me on the last 4 days yet because I'm behind on reading comments :)
Organisation

I reserved a certain amount of time every day to visit sites in the list and then used a routine which I stuck to day in and day out. I won't bore you with the details, but it involved noting down everything I did so I did not get lost. This routine fell by the wayside on the last 4 days due to personal matters, which is why I have not dealt with comments yet and helps to underline that it was the routine which kept me on track :).

Things that made me visit/come back to Blogs

So there were some blogs that I went back to time and again and some that I visited, but they didn't necessarily grab me. So I thought I'd share a few thoughts:
  • Blogs with questions at the end of the post were often easier to comments on, but only if the question was not too complicated. Blogs with multiple questions were even better because then I could pick and choose what to answer if all were not relevant to me.
  • Short posts with short paragraphs were definitely the best when trying to visit so many blogs.
  • Comments with blog links or blog titles made it much easier to return visits - there were a couple of comments where I couldn't actually find a blog to go with the person because there were no clues. I tried to return every comment, but sometimes I simply couldn't find where to do it.
  • Pictures are a lot of fun and make a post eye catching and memorable.
  • Mentioning the AtoZ at the top of the post (with one of the graphics was even better) or in the title of the post is a really good idea - I visited a couple of blogs that were a bit confusing.
  • Being creative and cheating a little with X is for etc can sometimes make the posts even more fun ;)
  • Short flash fiction works really well, serialised stories, not so much because if you miss one post or can't make it back for a few days you can't just pick up.
  • People who took the time to return my visits, even if it was just a couple of instances during the month, made me want to engage more.
Blogs I Visited and Enjoyed

So enough about my thoughts. I have decided to share the links to blogs that had me coming back every day or as often as I could after I found them. Be warned there are quite a few. They are in no particular order.
My Post for the AtoZChallenge 2015

And finally, here are links to all my posts for this year from this blog. My theme was Fictional Deities and Demons and I had so much fun. Thank you to everyone who visited.

April
SundayMondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturday
//////01 (A)02 (B)03 (C)04 (D)
//
//
//
Aslan, ArBelar, BarbasCthulhuDahak
0506 (E)07 (F)08 (G)09 (H)10 (I)11 (J)
EwyaLord FrithGozer the GozerianHerne the Hunter/ HathorIssa, Blind IoJareth, Jasmine
1213 (K)14 (L)15 (M)16 (N)17 (O)18 (P)
KrollLokiMuad'DibNiennaOnimar SynnPaladine
21920 (Q)21 (R)22 (S)23 (T)24 (U)25 (V)
QRaidenSutekhThorUmberleeVyres/ Vinz Clortho
2627 (W)28 (X)29 (Y)30 (Z)////
WxrtHltl-jwlpklzXoanonYaksha
//
//

Other Sites I contributed to in the AtoZ: Wittegen Press | Fantasy Boys XXX (AC) 
My Sister's Site in the AtoZ: Sophie's Thoughts and Fumbles

52 comments:

  1. Wow, you put more effort and organization into your blogging than I put into my day job!

    I had a lot of fun reading your posts this month and would like to thank you once again for stopping by an commenting on my blog as well. I also learned a lot and developed some blogging techniques for getting through the last month which I will have to share sometime this week. Your reflections will give me a kick in the pants to get me going!

    See you in the funny pages...

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    1. I think of blogging as part of my day job ;) It sells books - well sometimes it does anyway ;) I look forward to your reflections post.

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  2. Thank you so much for dropping by so often, I really enjoyed the chats on Curling Stones and have enjoyed reading Wittegen Press books too so far!

    Sooo impressed with your organisation, I thought I was organised by keeping track of which blogs I visited but your spreadsheet is sublime... I do like a good spreadsheet! I said last year I'd be more organised and wasn't (well apart from having a theme) but I swear I'll be organised next year, perhaps, maybe, possibly?

    Mars
    Curling Stones for Lego People

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    1. I'm so glad you're enjoying our books :) I have enjoyed your posts enormously. I had not idea beads were quite so beautiful.

      Spreadsheets are so useful aren't they and I love Googlesheets for the simpler ones like this one, so I can access it from anywhere. I have a word count one that acts like NaNo, but for any date range and I can only use it in Excel because it's a bit too complex for Googlesheets :).

      Every year I get a bit more organised and it makes things easier :). The first year I was pansting everything and got totally lost and then last year I had a theme and was a bit more organised, but this year I decided to have a system.

      I wish you luck with your organisation for next year ;).

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  3. Thank you so much for dropping by so often, I really enjoyed the chats on Curling Stones and have enjoyed reading Wittegen Press books too so far!

    Sooo impressed with your organisation, I thought I was organised by keeping track of which blogs I visited but your spreadsheet is sublime... I do like a good spreadsheet! I said last year I'd be more organised and wasn't (well apart from having a theme) but I swear I'll be organised next year, perhaps, maybe, possibly?

    Mars
    Curling Stones for Lego People

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  4. I should have made a list of blogs I tried to never miss. Mine would be long too, but yours would have been a definite highlight. It was a great challenge, and you're SO right...blogs with questions helped a lot, and blogs that played around with X were some of the most fun! Congrats for being an A to Z survivor!

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    1. Thank you :) April was such a great month this year.

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  5. Your posts (and the Vampires at "The Other Side of the Blog"....) were two of my favorite reads for the past month....
    Great work , dear Lady Tasha....

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    1. Thank you :) Tim's vampire posts were awesome, weren't they :)

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  6. I loved your posts and had fun reading about the different ones I had no knowledge of and learning about them. Thank you so much for visiting mine so often. I hope you had as much fun as I did writing them.

    Would you believe i have next year's theme chosen and all the letters filled! Even X and Q!

    Now to actually do all of them before April. That will be interesting to see. I will probably scramble like I have for the last two years. Those last posts always seem to sneak up on me.

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    1. I had a lot of fun reading your posts - so much information I didn't know.

      You've chosen next year's already! Wow! :)

      I had my theme planned by Feb this year, but ended up writing most of the posts in the last week before the fest began - LOL. Now that's procrastination for you.

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  7. Thanks for visiting my blog so much, Tasha, and for including me on your list. I really enjoyed all your posts too.

    The spreadsheet idea is brilliant. I just crossed my fingers and hoped I was returning all the visits I needed to.

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    1. You're welcome, I really enjoyed reading your fiction.

      I love using spreadsheets to organise myself - there's just something about sortable lists ;)

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  8. I don't know how you did it with all those blogs, but you did. Wow. And your organization skills are just amazing. I'm glad you enjoyed visiting my blog :)

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    1. So many blogs had me hooked this year :) I loved your word posts - short, but oh so very entertaining. Thank you for making me smile on many mornings.

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  9. Thank you so much for mentioning me and my blog! I enjoyed so many of the other bloggers on that list. Including you. :) But four blogs? You and your sister are crazy! How you stayed organized is impressive.

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    1. It really only comes down to two full blogs each when you think about it :) our personal ones and then half each of two others. I like lists :D

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  10. Great tips on planning, Natasha - I will definitely do better next year! I'm so glad you enjoyed my blog and appreciate the mention. I'm so glad I found yours - I loved your theme, and can't wait to tuck into Monster Mondays. Oh, my god, the first one is Wilson Fisk - how exciting! I'll save my enthusiasm until tomorrow - it's past 1am so I'll be back when I've had some shut eye!

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    1. I loved your fantasy squad posts - so many wonderful creatures :) I have to admit I am addicted to the new Daredevil - my husband and I watched it all last week. Hope you slept well. I almost didn't get to sleep until after midnight yesterday as well because I was catching up with Forever and didn't notice the time.

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  11. Thank you for visiting me so often. I found your blog early on and just couldn't stay away. I'm very impressed with that spreadsheet and your organization(America spelling), LOL

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    1. You're welcome and thanks for all the visits back. As I've mentioned to other people, I kind of love sortable lists so I often use spreadsheets to organise myself - except when I'm writing when I tend to pants it :)

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  12. I'm barely that organized when it comes to commenting, but I did my best to visit my commenters and leave one on theirs. As I said on your sister's posts, kudos to both of you. 4 blogs?! I think you two rocked the challenge.

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    1. I find if I don't write it down I forget where I've been :) It evens out to 2 whole blogs each really - since we had one whole one each and then two shared - so it's not more than lots of other people did :). Thank you.

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  13. I am so impressed with your spreadsheet! That's a great idea for next year. And thank you for all the comments you left on my blog, they really encouraged me to keep going! :) Your blog is fantastic - looking forward to seeing what comes next!

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    1. The first year I kept forgetting who I had visited and then last year I thought of using the spreadsheet - so much easier :). Thank you for all the wonderful advice on words :D

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  14. Tasha, you are amazing. That spreadsheet is a brilliant idea, and my life would have been soooo much easier if I'd thought of doing that. And yes, yes, yes to the pre-planning--I'm never doing this challenge again without pre-writing my posts.

    Thank you for including my blog on your list--that means a lot, especially since my blog gave you so much grief. I'm so grateful to you for persevering in spite of the frustration, and I'm so pleased to have met you through the challenge. It's bloggers like you that make this challenge worth coming back to year after year.

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    1. Thank you :D I love my spreadsheet - it kept me sane ;) The first year I did the challenge with only a little planning and it was nightmarish. Last year I planned more and this year even more and it has been easier each year :).

      I think, for some reason I cannot fathom, your blog kept trying to submit my comments twice, so I only ever got an error message about having already said it, when in fact it was the links that were causing the real issue :). Your blog was worth persevering :D

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  15. I'm loving your spreadsheet. Your Geek Rating has just gone up (and that's a good thing!). I agree with you that the challenge this year was really excellent. Last year was great, like you said, but overall, I enjoyed myself more this year. Good times.

    And that's a good tip on putting blog links in a signature. It kind of occurred to me rather belatedly to do that, so I'll have to remember for next year. Thanks for the shout out, and thanks for a great month! :)

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    1. Geeks unite :D
      Thank you for a great month too - I really enjoyed all your fiction.

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  17. Wow, that spreadsheet! Hahaha.... I tend to bulk visit (go through Bloglovin and read all 4 waiting in a row, for example) so my stuff probably looked weird, haha. And i know I didn't get to every post.... but! Now that April A-Z is over, you are in my 1st Priority folder for reading. :) I really enjoyed your challenge, and your comments.... in general, it really felt like I was getting to know you over the challenge, and even though it's harder for me to comment on Blogger than WP, you were one of the ones that was worth the extra hassle. :) <3

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    1. I've tried using some blog reading tools, but I find I get lost or forget, hence the spreadsheet :) Thank you so much for all your visits, I've really enjoyed talking to you and your challenge posts were a joy to read.

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    2. FWIW, I've really enjoyed Bloglovin', because you can save posts, or mark them unread again if you don't have time to comment right away... and you can divide all of the blogs into subfolders for easy navigating. It's been a life saver!

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  18. Thank you for including me and for visiting my blog throughout the challenge. I had a blast reading yours, as well! OMG to your spreadsheet. That's amazing. You're so organized.

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    1. I am a terrible procrastinator and the spreadsheet helped kick my bottom into gear ;) You're welcome and thank you so much for entertaining me all the way through April with 80s flashbacks :D

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  19. Wow, thanks for listing my blog - and more important, thanks for being such a lovely connection. I look forward to staying connected to your blog and seeing what comes during the 'normal' part of the year. -- Jeri (storytellingmatters)

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    1. I look forward to staying connected too. I really enjoyed your posts even though I came to your blog late in the challenge :)

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  20. Also, I think your suggestions for people in preparing, organizing blog posts, and why you returned for more was great. Maybe the A to Z honchos can include your handy dandy suggestions somewhere on a how-to page?

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    1. The posts on the AtoZ blog usually give out very good advice on the run up to the challenge :)

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  21. Wow- I didn't even think to track who had visited my page or not. I would typically just check out whoever commented and then add about 5 others a day. I didn't get to everyone. (I think this is the first time I have found yours actually ;)
    But I will certainly be back! I too found questions at the end of a post helped...especially because I was writing short sci-fi- a few days in I realized that people may not have exactly known what to say other than "keep at it" lol.

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    1. I find marking down who I have visited saved me a lot of time in wondering who I had remembered to visit and whose post hadn't been up yet etc :) Definitely helped with the timezones. I didn't get to close to everyone either, but the AtoZ is wonderful in that the list doesn't go away :).

      That's it, the whole sometimes not knowing what to say thing - the questions really help don't they :)

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  22. Thanks for mentioning my blog :) My gosh, you were organized!! That was impressive with the spread sheet you did with blogs you visited! I am amazed too with the number of blogs you had in the challenge, writing all those posts, even beforehand would be daunting indeed! I do agree though, it is organizational to get it all done.

    betty

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    1. You're welcome, I really enjoyed our back and forth visits. I am either organised or totally chaotic, no in between :D It really only came out as two whole blogs each for me and Soph, since we were sharing two and had one each as well - it just looks more impressive talking about them all ;)

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  23. You really were organised! I suppose with that many blogs you had to be. Yours was a great theme - thanks for the shout, I also mentioned you on my post and you namechecked many that I also visited on a regular basis! There were so many good themes. I wasn't entirely organised - I had half the posts written, but the rest were pretty much done on the day - which could take up to two hours, especially X, Y, Z... But I quite like working under pressure. Congrats on finishing!

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  24. Hello there.
    Congratulations on completing the challenge!
    You and I were on very similar wavelengths in that I too kept a detailed spreadsheet of my visitors/commenters and those I visited/commented on. I think it just added to my workload though. I always made sure to visit those who commented on my blog, sometimes twice. Like you, I also found it hard finding some of the bloggers. They weren't on the signup list, they had no signature or backlink and/or no blog attached to their profile. It got to be very frustrating sometimes and just consumed so much of my time. There were some nights I read/visited/commented for 4 hours+. Hubby was not impressed to say the least! I don't know how you survived with the four blogs, but well done all the same!

    Entrepreneurial Goddess

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  25. Thank you for the shout outs! I'm glad you enjoyed my blogs! :)
    You are probably one of the most engaged and active bloggers in the challenge I have ever seen. You got it down to a science :) I enjoyed your comments every day, and I also loved you posts!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary
    MopDog

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  26. Congrats on completing the A to Z Challenge! Looking forward to next year!

    Mary @ Jingle Jangle Jungle

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  27. Congratulations, Tasha! Your organizational skills are to be applauded and I plan to emulate them next year. It was fun reading about these colourful monsters and deities. ☺ Thanks for the mention and for your frequent visits to The Den, which I noted on my own post. Cheers!

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  28. nice post
    YOU HAVE A nice blog dear
    i followed you please follow back
    http://melodyjacob1.blogspot.com/ MELODY JACOBS
    thank you

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  29. Congratulations on finishing! Your blog theme for the challenge sounds awesome - I'm sorry I've only just discovered it now! I'll definitely be checking out your A to Z posts this month :). Well don on being so super organised - I've learnt a lot from this post about how to prepare myself for next year!

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  30. Hi Tasha - thanks for including my blog and links over .. would love to see the Witches Museum - that seem to gear everyone up. Your theme I knew nothing about - but it's still good to learn and meet you and Sophie again ...

    Great selection of fellow bloggers you've chosen ... I had a spreadsheet one year -= when blogger was giving us 'gip' - but I gave up the next year .. just dealt with things as best I could .. and I know I have loads of people to visit and catch up with this week.

    Thankfully feedly works .. but I had another project going and was completely swamped... still I'm still around! Cheers and see you soon - Hilary

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  31. Hey Tasha! I am just blitzing through for the A-to-Z Road Trip. I really enjoyed reading your posts for the challenge. They were inspirational and informational! My favorites were on Loki, Jareth and Barbas, although they were all great! I even learned a few new things!

    I did the challenge over at Promptly Written. I wrote a science fiction story for the entire month. This blog, The Rattling Bones, is my new one.

    I signed up for your email list and look forward to your posts.

    See you next April! ~Lori~

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