Gearing up for a Blogging Challenge

This April I’ve decided to participate in the A to Z Blogging Challenge, writing one blog post about each letter–one blog post for every weekday of April. It’s a massive undertaking with almost a thousand participating blogs and a strong community. Bloggers are encouraged to comment on at least five blogs every day, particularly those close to them on the list.

There are many different blogging challenges which ask you to write a blog post every day during a certain month and allow you to share those posts with a larger blogging community, each with its own focus and community. The A to Z Blogging Challenge draws bloggers on all topics but I was drawn to it because certain authors I love(including Susan Gourley, who I worked with at Musa Publishing) participate in the challenge and it seems to attract a lot of bookish people in general. Also, the challenge idea is a lot more fun than just “post something every day for a month”.

Anyway, enough about why I signed up–here’s how I’m preparing for the A to Z blog challenge(and how you can prepare for a challenge of your own):

Step One: Pick a Challenge

There are probably hundreds of blogging challenges I don’t know about but a quick Google search shows student blogging challenges, 30 day content improvement challenges and even challenges to read & review 104 books in a year(no, I’m not kidding). Choose one that spans an amount of time you’re actually willing to commit to and if it has a topic, make sure it’s one you’re actually interested in enough to write 25+ posts about it.

Step Two: Read ALL the Rules & Sign Up

Every challenge requires you to sign up in a different way. Some have a sign up form and allow your blog to be categorized by topic. Others ask you to leave a comment on the blog post about the challenge. They also have different rules about whether or not you absolutely have to comment on other blogs, how much you have to comment and what kind of post content qualifies. Most of them have pretty loose definitions but a handful are more strict, so make sure you pay attention. Some challenges such as the student challenge linked to above also have other requirements for entrants like the need to be a student or a certain demographic.

Step Three: Brainstorm Some Content!

It is possible to jump in with absolutely no plan and no drafts on day one of the challenge and still complete it successfully, but you’re far more likely to successfully complete the challenge if you start planning your posts well before the challenge begins. At the very least you should brainstorm until you come up with at least as many ideas as the number of posts the challenge asks for. Be prepared to come back to the drawing board several times.

I personally think the A to Z challenge is in some ways easier than most of the other challenges because it gives you a definitive framework for your content. If you already have one or two specific topics for your blog it becomes easy to make the associations. Certain letters like V and X might take a long time to choose words for but others are easy. I came up with 10 good words just writing the alphabet down!

Step Four: Start Writing

Unless your chosen challenge specifically states that you need to write the blog posts on the same day they go up you should definitely start writing posts sooner rather than later. I would suggest getting at least the first half of the posts you’ll need written before the month begins. You never know what can happen to you in a month and you don’t want a health issue or other crisis to completely derail you mid-challenge.

I haven’t actually started this step yet because I’m busy writing up the rest of my posts for March, but it is one of the biggest items on my to-do list for next week.

Step Five: Edit, Edit, Edit

In a daily blogging challenge I suspect people are more likely to forgive the odd error but remember that this is your opportunity to draw in a massive amount of new readers. And while many of these challenges require bloggers to read and comment on content from other participants the only way people are going to share your posts is if they’re actually compelling. If you write massive epics with no obvious point or make constant spelling mistakes you probably won’t get any long term connections or readers out of the challenge.

Step Six: Schedule Posts!

Scheduling posts as far into the month as possible(i.e. scheduling every post you’ve finished) is the best way to make sure you don’t miss a day. A month is a long time and you never know what can happen.

Step Seven: Share

The blogging challenge will draw some natural traffic to your blog as other participants look to find moral support through the crazy challenge, discover awesome blogs and make lasting friendships, but you should still be marketing these posts. You should also share other awesome posts by people participating in the challenge, spreading the spirit of the competition and strengthening your connections. There’s no point doing the rest of this thing if you don’t shout it to the world and show off what you’ve got.

A blogging challenge is an excellent way to stretch your writing muscles and connect with other bloggers–and if you start preparing well in advance you might not find it to be such a terrible challenge at all.

Have you ever participated in/considered participating in a blogging challenge? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

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