Being my 4th year doing the Blogging from A-to-Z challenge, I chose a theme for this year – Why Make Movies? – to find a purpose for pursuing a filmmaking career and approaching all that comes with the job.
My preparation for posting in April included making a list of topics for each letter of the alphabet, and interviewing film directors based in various towns across the country. When the challenge began, I knew the topics that would be the central focus for most of the month, except for a few remaining letters including K, U, X, Y and Z – all five of which I wrote at the last minute by coming up with a topic, word or theory that was related to my other A-to-Z posts in one way or another. Between transcribing, arranging and editing hours of interviews, and working on the next moves for my short film, completing this year’s A-to-Z Challenge was tougher than I expected or experienced before -- even in 2013, when I did the challenge despite not having internet access.
The major benefit of doing the A-to-Z Challenge that I experienced, like in previous years, was my building an editorial calendar and sticking to it. I also received a boost in social media interactions and blog followers, which may be a plus to many participants but having a following – no matter the size – means little to me if it doesn’t result in engagement of one’s content.
Although I did get several re-tweets throughout the challenge, I believe that my social media activity – particularly tweeting links to my blog posts – did not bring me much in terms of comments. Thank goodness for readers such as Angela Brown at Pursuit of Publishness, Herman Turnip at Terrible Analogies and Maurice Mitchell at Film Sketchr and The Geek Twins who stop by my blog regularly to discuss their take on movies, careers, life and many other topics in between.
It was also nice to have responses from LuAnn Braley (one of Ayjay’s wHooligans) at Back Porchervations, Jolie Du Pre at Precious Monsters, Andi Roo at The World 4 Realz, C. Lee McKenzie, Tara Tyler at Tara Tyler Talks, #teamDamytanti members Sam Geary at WriterlySam and Vidya Sury at Going A-Musing, and my co-hosts MJ Joachim, Damyanti at Amlokiblogs, Tina Downey at Life is Good, Pam Margolis at Unconventional Librarian, Jeremy Hawkins at Being Retro, Arlee Bird at Tossing It Out and Wrote by Rote and the Ninja Captain himself, Alex J. Cavanaugh; there was a surge of excitement whenever I saw their comments on my blog posts.
Among my favorite A-to-Z Challenge posts this year are Letter A because of the perspectives people shared, about winning awards, in their comments. Surprisingly, my Letter I post became one the ones I loved because those who commented on it really opened up and shared their stories about being "In Too Deep."
I am disappointed in the low volume of comments that my 2014 A-to-Z Challenge posts received after all of the work that I put into them – spending up to 5 hours or so on many of the pieces written – not counting the endless hours interviewing filmmakers to round out certain points about the topics I covered on my blog. Still, as I write this, there are a few A to Z posts of mine with ZERO comments.
I’ve noticed this lack of comments on other participating blogs that I visited too, which makes it all the more difficult for me to tolerate having blogs on the list that are not only 4 or more letters behind but haven’t even had the courtesy to post a notice, or announcement, or brief mention of why they aren’t keeping up with the rest of us. As a result, I decided to invent another of my A-to-Z Challenge Hacks, and started visiting blogs that were active on Twitter, rather than visiting blogs on the list. That way, I knew that the five daily blogs that I set out to visit would be up to date on their A-to-Z Blogging. In a sense, the #atozchallenge hashtag became my “list” and that is where I chose to find participating blogs worth visiting, for me, at least.
I was also surprised to learn that my blog traffic in April was much lower compared to most other months of the year during my regular blogging activities. More people visited The Madlab Post last summer, and at the beginning of this year, than during the 2014 A-to-Z Challenge in April – a troubling discovery, given that I was out of town doing post-production on my movie during one of those most high-trafficked months last year. So, how is it that I get a lot of traffic when I’m not even blogging regularly due to being miles away in another part of the country, but I get little visitors when I blog every day as a participant in a blogathon with over TWO THOUSAND participants?! That’s enough to make me want to carefully reconsider whether the A-to-Z Challenge is right for my blog or not.
I was also annoyed when visiting blogs that were jumping the gun – doing letters, and in some cases, the entire alphabet -- early before we even get to the end of April, let alone the end of the challenge. Also, I didn’t like to see people writing about their A-to-Z experience prematurely before reaching Letter Z, a move that sorta takes away from the whole point of doing Reflections posts in May. The reflections post provides a great opportunity to cover one’s lessons learned and more; I also believe that unless you completed the challenge, then you haven’t truly “survived” the challenge in terms of making it to the end of the alphabet.
THE ACTION SCENE
My A-to-Z Challenge Hacks invention from 2013 came in handy this year, particularly that of posting the body of the post sans images, to make the daily challenge deadlines by 11:59pm and then going in to add images to those posts sometime after midnight, or later the next morning.
Sometimes, I also chose to skip photos altogether, which made it easier to get something up quickly when time was of the essence. This no-photo approach worked for my shorter posts such as the one about Opportunistic Observations but I would likely not have done it for my longer posts such as the one about Making Money. I’m also glad that my posts varied in length because I had a feeling that they all would be long but started noticing that some of my topics didn’t require me to post much about them. Of course, that all depended on the style of my posts.
One of things I’ve learned is the importance of scheduling posts beforehand. It was very difficult for me to try to do everything this year between co-hosting duties and my A-to-Z blogging responsibilities. I am almost certain that if I had my posts already scheduled, formatted and ready to go, the automation would have freed up more of my time to visit blogs, respond to comments on my own blog, attend more #AZchat events and be more active within the A-to-Z community on Twitter. Going forward, I plan to most likely write and schedule my posts at least one month prior to the start of next year’s A-to-Z challenge, so that it can give me some breathing room for other A-to-Z activities.
FADE OUT – THE CLOSING SCENE AND SEQUEL POTENTIAL
I would do the A-to-Z Challenge again, if only to test out my theory about pre-scheduling posts in advance to free up more time for visiting blogs and promotion.
That said -- having had the same experience of not receiving many comments during April in previous years, even after I increased my visits to other participating blogs, I am less likely to continue doing the challenge if there is little to no significant return on my efforts. Knowing that the challenge is what you make it, I will have to experiment with possible ways of increasing my comments and traffic during the month of April.
THE RATING/REVIEW: If I were the late Roger Ebert, I would give the 5th A-to-Z Challenge that took place April 2014 one thumb up. Considering that I did not get what I wanted out of doing the challenge, the benefits that resulted from participating in this blogathon still prevented my efforts from being made in vain. That’s good news in my book.
***SURPRISE 2014 A-to-Z Challenge GIVEAWAY***
To celebrate my surviving the 5th Annual Blogging from A-to-Z Challenge, and tip my hat to the film directors and media producers who shared their time with me for my “Why Make Movies?” theme in April 2014, I am giving the following prizes to six (6) randomly selected people who (already) commented on my posts between April 1st and May 5th 2014 when I published my Monday Movie Meme on Talking Toys.
Each comment counts as one entry, which means those of you who commented on multiple #atozchallenge posts I wrote, have more than one chance to win a prize. In an attempt to spread the love fairly, I will give out one prize per winner. Once a prize is selected, subsequent winners must choose from the remaining available prizes up for grabs. I will announce one winner per week month in one of my blog posts and this person has 48 hours following the announcement, to tell me what prize he or she wants, in a comment or by contacting me.
Here are the Prizes Up for Grabs in my SURPRISE 2014 A-to-Z Challenge GIVEAWAY:
One-Month Gift Subscription to IndieFlix
(Streaming, like Netflix) 2 Avail.
The Indieflix package comes with unlimited access to thousands of movies from around the world including shorts and documentaries from film festivals such as Sundance, Cannes and South by Southwest (SXSW). Watch on your Xbox, PC, Mac, Smartphone,Tablet and even Roku. No commitments, cancel anytime. IndieFlix strives to be an add-on service, encouraging subscribers to keep their Netflix and Hulu, but add IndieFlix.
Mystery/Sci-Fi feature film “PIG”
(Streaming only) 2 Avail.
PIG synopsis: A man wakes up alone in the middle of the desert with a black hood on his head and his hands tied behind his back. At death's door, he is discovered by a woman living alone in the desert and is nursed back to health. Upon regaining consciousness, the man realizes he has amnesia, and has no idea who he is. His only clue, a piece of paper in his pocket with the name "Manny Elder" on it, sends him on a journey to Los Angeles to discover his past. But things and people are not what they seem and clues lead to something bigger and more unusual than the man could have ever imagined.
Tipsy Bartender: I’m Having a Girl Over
(Kindle E-Book) 2 Avail.
About the E-book: Skyy John, the internationally famous host of the Internet's top bartending show “Tipsy Bartender,”has compiled the perfect cocktail recipes for guys to entertain and impress the ladies. He uses recipes that properly mask the strong taste of alcohol, creating delicious drinks that go down smoothly with no after burn.
His cocktails are very easy to make, and the ingredients are cheap and super easy to find. This is the ultimate guide for making mojitos, margaritas, martinis, shots, daiquiris, ice cream floats, and more. This book is perfect for the ladies, ideal for those people new to drinking, and exactly what you are looking for if you do not like the strong taste of alcohol.
SHOUT OUTS to my Mighty Minion Bureau Assets Andrea MusicFan at Miss Andi's Musings and Twelve Steps to Cloud Nine - My Road to Happiness, Deniz Bevan at The Girdle of Melian, Sydney Aaliyah at Happiness, Passion, Love & Faith, Melody-Ann Kauffman aka Safireblade at MAJK INK (who featured 10...yes...TEN participating blogs in her A-Z posts), Dale Smurfwaite at Smurfin' the Web and SA Larsen at Writersally, who each helped me keep the A-to-Z Challenge laws in order!
Also, SHOUT OUTS to my 2014 A-to-Z Challenge Co-Hosts Heather M. Gardner at The Waiting is the Hardest Part and AJ Lauer at Naturally Sweet who helped keep the #AZchat active while providing other social media support!
Was April 2014 a productive month for YOU?
What are some of YOUR most favorite experiences or discoveries that occurred last month?