The Challenge: To Do or Not To Do
I have just finished the April 2016 AtoZ Challenge with about 1346 other bloggers. I had two blogs in the challenge, Barb’s Garden Observations and Paso Robles in Photos. The challenge was to write a new post every day in April except Sundays. You could choose your own theme for each blog. I chose Plants for the gardening blog and Things You Might See or Experience in Paso Robles for the other. I have now come to the end of that long road and have experienced both the positives and negatives of the challenge. If you are presented with the opportunity, should you commit to an A-Z Challenge?
Are You Ready for a Challenge?
Before you accept the challenge and start to climb that mountain to complete it, evaluate how it might affect your life. Different personalities might be affected differently. This is especially true if you are not able to complete it. Life happens. Will you feel like a failure if you don’t finish something you start, even if there’s a very good reason for it? If so, maybe you aren’t the person who should take the challenge. I see that many of those who started it did not complete it. It’s easy to fall behind. If you’ve got a lot on your plate already, maybe this isn’t the right time.
Are you the sort of person that will complete it or die trying? That’s the sort of I am. I almost did die trying. There are a couple of times I maybe should have gone to the emergency room for heart symptoms, but that would have thrown me off schedule and since they weren’t really bad, I opted just to take it easier. Trying to complete the challenge on both blogs often kept me up when I should have gone to bed. I didn’t allow time to fix proper meals on some days.
Count the cost before accepting the challenge. Know your limitations. Know what the challenge requires. I did much more than was required in most posts because I did not want to compromise the usual quality of my posts. Had I just done the minimum, I would not have been as stressed. If you tend to be a perfectionist in your blogging who wants to feel a post is the best work you can do, maybe a challenge isn’t for you. You might be better off posting on your regular schedule on topics you think are important and writing them to meet your own goals instead of trying to do a post a day of lesser quality just to meet the challenge.
Pros of Accepting an A-Z Challenge
I learned a lot doing these challenges. It wasn’t a waste of time.
- I learned to be more disciplined about my writing schedule.
- I got some new followers who were also doing the challenge, since we were encouraged to visit others on the linky for the challenge.
- I started getting more traffic on one of the blogs I had not posted much to this year, because posting was more consistent and there was more content for Google to search.
- I improved my vocabulary as I read the dictionary trying to find subjects for those odd letters like “X.”
- I met other bloggers I wanted to follow.
Cons of Doing the A-Z Challenge
- I put too much pressure on myself and added unnecessary stress to my life.
- I sometimes found myself posting just to post on subjects out of my comfort zone in order to conform to the alphabet. This often affected the quality of my blog, which I felt didn’t meet my usual standards when the alternative would be cutting back on more sleep than I could afford. This might cost me followers, but so far it hasn’t.
- I was neglecting other online work that ultimately was more important than getting the challenge finished, but my personality is such that I didn’t want to quit until I completed the challenge.
Would I Do Do the A-Z Challenge Again?
I think I’ll probably pass on it next year. I did it this year because some of my friends were going to do it. I didn’t think it through or count the cost. I tend to be impulsive that way. When the unexpected health situations hit both me and my husband, I still wanted to finish. When Google made a change in policy that made it important to redo links in many blogs, I delayed making the changes because of the demands on my time with the challenge. And besides all that, I’ve used all the “X” and “Z” words that apply to my blog topics.
When all is said and done, I’m not sorry I did the challenge. I feel good about having reached the top of the climb. It was a long journey, and sometimes I did feel like quitting before I reached my goal when the going got tough. I have a sense of accomplishment instead of the failure I might have felt had I given up. If I ever say I want to do it again, though, please give me a little kick.
Have you ever taken this official Blogging from A to Z Challenge that happens in April each year? What was your experience with it?
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Some people blog to keep a record of their thoughts and activities for their own use or to share with friends and family. Technically, that’s where the word blog came from – weblog — shortened to blog. Originally blogs were online diaries or journals of daily activities. Some blogs still are. Unless you are a celebrity, though, that kind of blog is not likely to make money today.
People who want to make money for the writing they do on their blogs have to attract people who want to read what they say. There are currently over 150 million blogs on the internet. That’s a lot of competition for eyeballs. How will you get those eyeballs to your blog?
After reading dozens of blogs on this subject, most agree a blogger who wants to earn money must present a solution to a problem a reader has. That reader will probably go to Google looking for answers to his or her problem. Goggle will present links that people have paid to have appear at the top, and underneath will be links to the pages Google thinks will best help people find solutions to the problems they are trying to solve.
If your blog post helps people solve a common problem better than other blog posts, or if your post solves a problem not too many other bloggers have dealt with, you are likely to get traffic from people who will actually spend money to solve their problems.
To make money, you first have to know which problems people are trying to solve and then write something that will help them solve those problems. Review products that will help solve the problems. A desperate person whose kitchen counter is full of ants just may click your affiliate link to buy a product you suggested. A person who can barely function because he can’t sleep at night just might click on a link to buy one or more of the product solutions you proposed. Of course, people have to find your blog first, or they will read someone else’s and buy the products from them.
I have been reading many blogs written by people who make money from them. Some review one product and do it very well. Others have websites aimed at those looking for gift suggestions with tabs for different categories. Both sorts of blogs are focused on solving people’s shopping problems
Other bloggers who make big bucks make their own digital products like courses and eBooks to help solve people’s problems. Then they sell them to people. They offer free samples in exchange for joining an email list, and then that list is used to directly market more products.
You can, however, be doing one or more of these things and not be making any money yet. Usually this is because
1. No one is finding your blog.
2. You aren’t giving people the solutions they believe will solve their problems.
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Blogs Should Be Written in Standard English
I belong to a lot of blogging groups and networks where people share links to their blogs with the hopes that other members of the groups will read and comment on the blogs and share them on social media. I do a lot of that. There are many people I really like and would like to help by sharing their work, but I can’t. Most people on my Twitter networks are professional people – teachers, authors, professional bloggers, and others with college degrees.
No matter how clever or interesting I find a blog to be, it would not be appropriate to share something that is full of grammatical errors with that audience. If I were to share that sort of blog, I would lose followers. People will make allowances for the kinds of errors made by those who are writing English as a second language if their native tongues have a much different structure than English. Many foreign students who have graduated from American universities still have not mastered the parts of our language that have nothing comparable in their own.
Example: My husband was born in Serbia and grew up speaking Serbian. After graduating from UCLA and speaking English here for over fifty years, he still cannot always use a, an, and the properly because his native language doesn’t have any comparable words before nouns. Americans just naturally say “The house,” “an apple,” etc., because they grew up hearing it. My husband would say “I bought loaf of bread” or “I ate apple.” That sounds strange to American ears, but it has the same effect on an American native listener as hearing someone speak with an accent.
What doesn’t go over well with those who speak and write standard English is reading blogs and articles that any high school English teacher, and I was one, would have marked with a lot of red ink. There are certain mistakes that high school graduates should not be making, and many bloggers I read from groups I belong to make those errors.
Common Mistakes I See that You Can Fix
Use Irregular Verbs Correctly
One error I see frequently is misusing verb tenses. One of the most common is writing or saying “I seen” instead of “I saw.” “To see” is an irregular verb. Regular verbs form the past tense by adding an ed or a d to the end of the verb. Example: I remember becomes I remembered, I cook becomes I cooked. Some verbs, though, form their past tenses differently, and you just have to memorize the correct forms.
Here is a list of the most frequently used irregular verbs. This resource also explains the forms and how to use them. I suggest you check it out if you make any of these mistakes.
To use to go properly in all three tenses, one would say I go (present tense) or I went (past tense) or I have gone (past participle). It is a mistake to say “I gone to the store.” That is using the past participle form as the past tense. It is the same mistake people make when they say “I seen it” instead of “I saw it” or “I done it” instead of “I did it.”
Most American-born English speakers who make these mistakes make them because they hear verbs used this way at home and among friends and this usage seems normal to them. It is not what they were taught in school, unless their teachers also grew up hearing non-standard English. To be taken seriously as a writer or blogger in English, though, you need to write standard English.
I’m not suggesting that you try to memorize the names of the parts of speech. I am suggesting you look at the chart and practice using the tenses properly. Every day, practice reciting the proper forms out loud several times until they seem normal to you. Here’s a list to practice:
I was. They were.
I came. He came with me. They came later.
I did it. She did it, too. They did it all the time.
I drank a glass of water. She drank milk. They all drank lemonade.
I went to the store. She went alone. They went crazy. We went to the movies.
I rang the bell. He rang the bell. They rang the bell.
I ran away. He ran after me, We ran for twenty minutes. They ran a mile.
I saw the show. She saw the dog run down the street. They saw a bank robbery. We saw the new baby.
My sweater shrank. The clothes shrank.
I swam across the river. She swam behind me. We all swam in the new pool.
If you learn these and use them correctly, you will be taken more seriously when you speak and write than if you use them incorrectly. If the sentences above sound strange to you, you need to practice them until they don’t.
Don’t Make Sentence Errors
Sentence errors definitely will keep people from taking you seriously as a blogger. They indicate you haven’t mastered basic writing skills, since the most basic element in writing is the sentence. Some bloggers who have great content make it unsharable by writing in sentence fragments, comma splices, and run-on sentences. Their writing looks something like this.
I love my dog he is so loyal. His giant appetite makes it impossible. To give him enough food to keep him satisfied. He’s always wanting to go for a walk. By the lake next to the park. When it rains and it’s muddy out. He tracks mud back into the house. Yesterday we went for a long walk, we got very muddy.
I think you get the idea. That paragraph contained all three kinds of sentence errors. Did you spot them? Learn more about sentence errors and how to fix them from this video. If you haven’t the patience to watch the video, the content is written out below it. If you want a simpler video, try this one, which is a bit more fun.
If you still have questions or need more information, this is more complete.
It’s Worth the Effort to Clean Up These Mistakes
If you want people to share your blog posts with their social networks, you need to make sure you have mastered writing standard English. Proofread your work carefully to make sure your sentences are complete and are not run-on sentences or comma splices. Get yourself a good reference book on writing and English usage and grammar. I personally use Writers Inc, an English Handbook that is very user friendly. It tells you everything you need to know about how to write in standard English.
Only you can decide to improve your skills. You can continue to be read only by your blogging friends who are more interested in what you say than in how you say it, or you can polish your skills and expand your audience. The choice is yours.
Wikinut Will No Longer Pay Writers
I have not paid much attention to my three articles (nuts) on Wikinut in some time because Wikinut really wasn’t paying enough to merit my spending time writing there. I had signed up after Bubblews started to go downhill and some of my online friends were writing there and seemed to like it. I didn’t really like having to have all my articles approved by a moderator before I could post, and I didn’t like the way they paid, so I was never enthusiastic enough about the site to post much. I pretty much let my posts sit there and occasionally I promoted them.
Today when I opened my Facebook group The Writer’s Door, the group owner had posted an announcement from the Wikinut site. The meat of it is that after December 10, 2015, they will no longer share revenues with writers. They will only provide a free publishing forum so members can continue to be read. They will pay members who have earned enough to be paid the December 10 payment. One last payment in will be made in January. From today on there will be no more money earned for page views and user activity. New sign-ups will also be suspended while the site is updated to reflect the changes in the terms.
What You Can Do with Your Wikinut Account
Current members are offered three options. First, they can continue to write without expecting to earn anything for it. Second, they can stop writing new content, but leave their content up for people to read. The last option is to delete one’s account and one’s profile and pages. I have chosen the last option.
The owners of Wikinut say they’ve been forced to make this decision because the site was never profitable and because the financial incentive of revenue sharing caused the usual suspects to defraud the site with fraudulent clicks on ads. Too many people were also using ad blockers. You can read the rest of the details in the Wikinut Statement.
This announcement follows one by Seekyt recently that they have changed their payment plan to direct pay to approved writers instead of any kind of revenue sharing. Several other revenue sharing sites have also closed completely in the past few months. It appears this is the direction content writing sites are going. If you have not backed up your work on any sites you publish on, this is the time to do it.
What the Future Holds
If you have depended upon these sites for income, I think you can expect them to produce less in the future. Even those that remain like HubPages are not paying as well as they used to. I think whatever future there is for writing online for income is in freelancing or in owning and writing on your own sites. I’m not even sure we’ll be able to count on free hosting from Blogger or WordPress.com indefinitely. I don’t think we can depend on any site to be here forever.
What are you doing to prepare for having sites you write on shut down? Wikinut, Zujava, and Squidoo gave notice. Bubblews and some other sites did not. The handwriting is on the wall. How will you get ready for the inevitable? Or do you think I’m wrong?
There is no doubt that Bubblews is now dead. Some are willing to let it rest in peace. Some who feel they have been cheated wish they could find a way to get what they were promised and denied. Some are threatening to sue, but it’s hard to get anything from someone who is broke. Many are complaining that they had no notice of the site’s closing and have lost work they had not backed up. Me? I’m sorry I lost almost $50 (one missing payment and the balance in my bank when the site closed, but my overall feeling is one of relief. The wondering is over. The other shoe has dropped.
Bubblews is not the first site to close during the last two years. Many were shocked when Squidoo closed in August, 2014. Squidoo did give notice and made arrangements for members to move their work automatically to HubPages. They were warned to make back-up copies of work they wanted to move elsewhere. No one was happy Squidoo closed, but at least they had fair warning.
Zujava closed shortly afterwards. It, too, gave notice so that members could back up their work to facilitate moving it. Then Seekyt sold out to new owners who made drastic changes in the way they paid and finally stopped any revenue sharing at all, choosing instead to pay up front for work they wanted. I haven’t yet had time to deal with the three posts I still have there. But I have made copies.
I was caught off-guard by what happened on those sites, and others have been adversely affected when sites I had never decided to join closed suddenly, stiffing their writers. The closing of Bubblews, however, should not have caught anyone who was paying attention off-guard. There were plenty of warnings that Bubblews was not going to make it. They say we see best in hindsight, so I’ll share some of the hints I picked up that gave me adequate warning. If you look back, maybe you will see them, too. Maybe we can all learn something from this.
Before I joined Bubblews, the friend who told me about it said up front that they paid well, but would never be able to keep paying such high rates. His advice was to ‘milk it while you can.” So I never expected it to remain the cash cow it was at the beginning.
It was obvious from the beginning that the owners were not writers and did not know what kind of platform and editor writers needed. Highest on my wish list was a decent editor that would let me use bold and italics and punctuate properly without breaking something in the program. When the promise of the wonderful, awesome update in July 2014 was made, I hoped it was the editor that would be fixed. When instead that update butchered all my photo essays and then the administrators took away the ability to edit them so they would at least make sense again, I knew the programmers either had no idea what they were doing, or that they did not care at all about how the site looked or how their writers would feel about having their work ruined. I was pretty sure then that the site would not last.
In the background were always the voices of those who were missing payments, claiming they had followed all the rules. At first I thought those people might be rule-breakers who just wouldn’t admit it — until one of my own payments went missing. After that I knew things were not being run well — even if my missing payment did happen during a time when the site was down. When we redeemed, there was no way — even with a screen shot of the bank page – that one could prove the date of redemption and the amount. It was a wait and see game as we watched for that confirming email in our mailbox from PayPal. No other site that I know of operated that way. On most other sites, you could check to see when a payment was due, and you knew approximately when the payment would be made.
Another Bubblews policy I saw as a sign of trouble was that of voiding an entire redemption because of a violation in one post. In most cases, the writer didn’t ever learn what the violation was or in which post. I knew that I was gambling with my time and energy to continue to write there, but the payoff was still good when I won, and I won most of the time. I did become more cautious, though. After I had redeemed, I stopped posting until my payment email came. That’s one reason I didn’t lose hundreds of dollars. I made sure I’d never lose more than the amount of one minimum redemption of between $50 and $65.
When we all got the bad news about redemptions that would not be paid and lower rates for the future and all the rest that I can’t remember now, I knew the site was finished. Those of us who didn’t leave immediately either weren’t there for the money or just enjoyed the communications for their own sake. I wrote what I expected to be my last post to my friends with the reasons I was leaving and to let them know where they could find me. The plan was to leave that up for a month and not post anymore. I did make one more post to respond to one of Arvind’s last announcements, and then I pretty much went silent unless I was responding to a post someone else had linked to and I wanted to help them with my comment.
Bubblews was a wild ride. I enjoyed it while it lasted. By the middle of July 2014 I knew it couldn’t stay alive. By the end of last year I knew it was almost dead. The last throes took longer than I expected, but it’s now dead and pretty well buried. All that remains are the memories, the friends I made there who I see in other places, and the things I bought with my earnings. I am not in mourning.
Would I do it all again? I think I would. The only thing I would do differently is to make actual complete web page copies from my browser of all my photo essays so I could see which photos I used and where I put them. I have text copies of all the posts except the last two posts — my Swan Song and my response to Arvind. I figured they would be of no value to repost anywhere else.
Did you ride on the Bubblews train? If so, would you get on that train again? Is there anything you would have done differently on the ride?