- I had a heap of religious commitments come up throughout the month as I am a member of the lay clergy in charge of my congregation. To make matters worse, another member of the lay clergy has become quite ill, laying a heavier-than-usual load on my plate.
- Work was intense, as the boss is worried about advertising; therefore I received a new assignment from him to sit in on all the advertising meetings as a witness to the various agreements and negotiations. Training had to continue on a new member of the staff, so answers to basic legal questions had to be dredged up out of my head on a more-often-than-usual basis.
- Family got crazy with some extended family nuttiness (we'll just leave that one alone).
- Then we had my questionable judgment to agree to participate not only in the A-to-Z Challenge, but also the One Page Dungeon contest.
- I had a commitment to the gaming group for at least one six-hour session.
- In addition, I had committed to paint one of the other guys' character's miniature for him.
- On top of that, the DM gave me the assignment to paint something enormous for him. No, really...the thing is gigantic. Easily the largest miniature I've ever had to paint. Right now I'm sworn to secrecy; hopefully I'll be able to fill you in on this project later.
- As for projects, my friend Dylan Hartwell asked for my proofreader's eye on his latest offering, the Horrendous Heap of Sixteen Cities! This project was truly the least onerous of anything else I had committed to do in the month of April, largely because of my sick, sick love for all things proofreading. I plan on offering a more detailed review of this product soon, but suffice it to say: BUY IT. It's a great setting, and I'm not just saying that because I helped to edit it. It's a unique setting and some amazing ideas that can be ported into a campaign. (Note: I have received and will receive NO monetary remuneration for my referrals, review, or any sales of the product. I just edited it. And enjoyed it.)
And most of all of this chaos fell into place AFTER I'd made a personal committment to participate in the A-to-Z Challenge.
Enough time has now passed from the Challenge, I think, to reflect on it in an objective matter. At least relatively objective. So....
- How did your journey through the alphabet go? Did you meet new bloggers with similar interests? Are there any you would like to feature and share with others?
There was enough indication in mid-March that April might be a little hairy (I had NO idea) so I sat down this year with a calendar and first set out each "letter day." I then spent an hour or so with some different online random word- and name generators. I used those as creative sparks for NPC names, spell names, item names, and place names. Each one was assigned to a letter of the alphabet. In this way I was able to fill up about 20 letters pre-April and begin the idea machine percolating. I was even able to get about a week ahead before April began--a buffer that quickly evaporated.
As far as other bloggers, there were several of my fellow RPG-bloggers that I had known previously who participated. Several more came out of the woodwork. Unfortunately, in part because of my busy schedule, I did not get a chance to visit as many other bloggers' sites as I would have wished. Certainly not as many as the Challenge is designed to send me to read. I was, however, able to find several new sites to follow.
Confession time: my biggest reason for failing to visit a lot of other sites was a concern over plagiarism. I found out last year (and on one occasion this year) that after I visited a site and liked the idea(s) presented there, some idea, nugget, or heck--the entire subject--seemed to creep into my creative pool and demand attention. While that may be expected or anticipated, I don't like to see it happen to my work. I understand that it happens, and it IS supposed to be the sincerest form of flattery. But for the A-to-Z Challenge, I prefer to try and keep my posts based on my own ideas. (I should note: I'm not calling anyone out here. I appreciate that it happens and happens often, particularly among gamers, as ideas spread and build upon each other. I'm simply criticizing my OWN tendency to want to steal ideas during the month of April instead of relying on (what I believe to be) my own ideas.
- What were the highlights for you? (lowlights too...we want to hear it all)
I enjoyed seeing my numbers go up on the first week of the Challenge. It was great to be able to expose people who were not familiar to RPGs (or those who hadn't gamed in a while) to the hobby. It was also great to see these aforementioned non-gamers appreciate the creativity and/or the ideas involved in my posts.
- Did you enjoy posting daily? What was your biggest hurdle? What was your easiest task?
Frankly, it was difficult for me to post daily. My preparation in having a title or idea for my posts in advance made it a little easier. Some changed as the month went on because I found something more interesting to do with a letter. It was nice trying to keep a buffer, even though it didn't always work. I found that if I jotted something down, whether a thought, statistic, or even an entire post, in my spare time (sitting at court waiting for my cases to be called, sitting in traffic, sitting in front of the television) that I was able to keep at least a day ahead. It wasn't until the last five or so days that I was writing on the day OF the post. My biggest hurdle was probably finding something for some of the "stranger" letters such as 'X' and 'Y'. Oddly it was also difficult weeding out some of the ideas I had for letters such as 'M' and 'S'.
- Was time management an issue?
Like I said above, time management was not an issue to begin with, having prepared many of the titles and ideas in advance. This allowed me to schedule a post the day before the letter was due. Time became an issue the final seven days or so when I hit a rough patch made up of 'no time' and 'letters for which I could develop few or no ideas' (such as the aforementioned 'X' and 'Y'). There were a couple of days--especially the final weekend--when I was posting late in the day ON the day in question rather than a day ahead.
- And what about your content - did you have a theme or did you wing it? Was it easy to come up with ideas for each letter, or were some harder?
Wow. Another question I've already answered.... It seems I'm anticipating some of these. As I said, I didn't have a "theme" so much, unless you count RPG Gaming Material as a "theme." Because it's the theme of the blog, I'm not sure it qualifies. My pre-month prep allowed me to have a pretty good variation between spells, items, and NPCs. Some of the lesser-used letters were difficult. 'X' has given me trouble both years. So has 'Y' and, oddly, 'U' has well.
- How about commenting - did you stumble upon lots of sites still using word verification? Did this prevent you from leaving a comment? What worked for your blog?
As I said above, I didn't get a chance to do a lot of visiting. I can only remember maybe two sites that still used word verification and I don't seem to recall having issues with it. I will echo some of my fellow bloggers' complaints: Wordpress was NOT user friendly for either commenting or for following. Certainly not as simple as Blogger.
- What will you do different next year?
I will probably start a bit sooner than the end of March to pre-prepare titles and ideas. I will certainly try and resolve some of the other time consuming issues before and after April. I may even try and narrow down an actual theme.
- What pearls of wisdom do you want to share with the Co-Hosts of this event?
I'm not sure there is anything TO suggest. It was a good experience for me. I appreciated seeing some of the Co-Hosts visit and comment on my blog. It showed to me that they had great buy-in into their Challenge and that they embraced the spirit of the Challenge that they were trying to impart to the rest of us.
In conclusion, I'd urge anyone who HASN'T tried the A-to-Z April Challenge to try it next year. I know there are a lot of bloggers--especially RPG bloggers--and readers who believe that it is forced, contrived, or simply downright annoying. It can be done in interesting, intruiging, and compelling ways. It can also be done in quite subtle ways; at least one of my acquaintances pulled off an A-to-Z without my realizing it.
Just like any challenge, you get out of it what you put in. You can make your theme(s) and posts as detailed or as cursory as you want. Creativity is the goal (at least for me) and exposure to new ideas a secondary goal. The reduced timeline is, for me, a good driving force for focus and creative stretching, much like NaNoWriMo is in November.
And not only do I have a bunch of new stuff to throw at my players, I also have a dozen more ideas that were named/brainstormed but were passed up as the month went along.
Cue Evil Laughter.