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IWSG: The A-to-Z Challenge ate my NaNo

I love a challenge.

Run a 5K race?

Sure!

Fight in the ring?

Yeah, let’s do it!

Blog 26 times in a month?

Bring it on!

Write 50,000 words in a month?

Why not?

Blog 26 times and write 70,000 words for Camp NaNoWriMo in the same month?

Of course! Wait…um…er…this isn’t working, actually.

Signing up for a massive Camp NaNo at the same time as the A-to-Z Challenge was, in a word, idiotic. Something had to give, and in the end, it was my novel.

You might think it was also idiotic to choose blogging over my actual fiction, but I don’t regret it one bit. My novel is still there this month, and I got so much out of the Challenge.

I met amazing bloggers; reconnected with “old” blogger friends; and learned some awesome stuff. I was blown away by some of the year’s ambitious themes, especially the ones who wrote original short fiction and poetry everyday. Or Tarkabarka, who read 26 epics! I don’t think I could get through one.

One of the most important things I learned–and here’s where the insecure part of this post comes in–was that there’s a lot of people out there who love to read about the darker side of life. Who are as interested in the Loch Ness Monster, Ouija boards, serial killers, and unsolved mysteries as I am.

When I changed my blog to reflect the kind of fiction I write, I was really nervous there wouldn’t be an audience for it. My previous blog was full of optimistic advice about how to live an awesome life–which was great, and I enjoyed writing it, but it has nothing to do with my fiction. And there are a million self-help advice blogs out there that are written by people with PhDs in the subject. It was time for a change.

The reception I received during the Challenge proved that I was on the right path. I wasn’t getting 100+ visitors a day like Alex (thank god! I honestly don’t know how he manages to visit that many blogs everyday), but it was enough. It was more than enough. I’d found my people.

You are my people.

As writers, we’re insecure about many things. If you get an opportunity to discover you’re going the right way, it’s priceless.

That’s worth failing a challenge for.

Thankfully, I failed the right one.

Those of you who liked my creepy A-to-Z posts will most likely enjoy my book, and it’s cheaper than a cup of coffee right now. The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave is my first published book, and it just came out yesterday! Here’s what it’s about:

Sometimes evil looks like a fuzzy teddy bear.

Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn stuffed teddy bear from his new stepfather. He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy…and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things begin to happen.

Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth—Edgar will always get even.

The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave: 

Amazon | Samhain | Kobo | B&N | Trailer

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group’s purpose is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Original art by Cheesetor.

1 part newsletter, 1 part unnerving updates,
2 parts sneak peeks of new projects.

62 Comments

  1. You have found your blogging grove! Awesome. I really enjoyed your theme. It was fascinating. And it does fit with what you write.
    You don’t want to know how long it takes to return a hundred comments in one day…

    Reply
    • JH

      I can’t even imagine, Alex. It took me between one-two hours a day just to deal with mine, and I had a fraction of yours.

      That’s the price you pay for fame, I guess.

      Thanks for the kind words!

      Reply
  2. Wow! I couldn’t even imagine doing all those comments or trying to do camp nano and A to Z. I can barely manage one!

    But I’m going to do next year’s theme way in advance. As in I’ve already planned it.

    I think you’re going to love it.

    It’s …………………………..

    Going to have to wait until the reveal!

    Muhahaha!

    Reply
    • JH

      I’m looking forward to it, Djinnia! I’m sure it’ll be awesome.

      Mine will come as a huge surprise–I’ll be doing the same thing, just with different topics.

      And I could only manage one as well. Look what happened! Pure, 100% FAIL. 🙂

      Reply
  3. I am glad you had fun and you didn’t regret picking the challenge! 🙂 I enjoyed your blog, I think it looks great and your theme kicked ass. Keep writing! 🙂 And thank you for the visits and the shout out! 🙂

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
    Multicolored Diary
    MopDog

    Reply
    • JH

      You’re very welcome. Still very impressed with what you managed to do–I can’t believe you wrote TWO blogs as well!

      I’m glad you enjoyed my blog. Thanks for being my people! 😀

      Reply
  4. I’ve never done NaNo, but one year I’d like to give it a try. Maybe if I’m not done with my book I’m working on now I’ll do it this year. But write 70,000 words and do A to Z? Now that’s just crazy talk! ;P

    I really enjoyed your theme and your posts, JH. It was just what I love to read and things I’m interested in.

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s awesome, Chrys. Thanks for the positive feedback. It’s much appreciated!

      Yeah, trying to juggle both was a bit much. And then I got hurt in a tragic Tibetan yoga accident, which *really* threw me off. (Sounds funny, but it actually happened.)

      I recommend the NaNo in November, though. I’ve had a lot of success with it.

      Reply
  5. I loved your theme for A to Z and am glad blogging won over NaNo. Camp NaNo will be back in July, which is a crazy month it would seem. I’m so glad I found your blog.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Ula! The feeling is definitely mutual. Your posts were a joy to read (and to look at).

      July will be bad for me too, as I’ll be in Romania. Perhaps the camping version isn’t in the cards for me.

      Reply
  6. Love the title of this post! Made me laugh. 🙂

    I think a lot of people – including me, probably – would’ve beat themselves up for choosing to focus on the Challenge over the novel. Good for you for being confident in your choice.

    And changing the theme of your blog has obviously worked well for you. 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Madeline. I am rather proud of the title, I must admit. 🙂

      Oh, I did feel like a failure for not being able to do both, but I’m starting to realize I’m way too hard on myself and have ridiculous expectations.

      I’m a work in progress. 🙂

      Reply
  7. What an inspiring, uplifting post! At the beginning of the month, my editor sent over massive revisions for my novel. So I had to rewrite it while doing the challenge and balancing my freelance writing work so I could pay the bills. Oh–and also buying a house and packing to move. I’m glad April’s over!

    Reply
    • JH

      Me too, Stephanie! I admire you for getting all that stuff done at once. External deadlines really help, I find.

      I notice my freelance work always gets finished…

      Reply
  8. Hey, that’s really cool that the challenge helped determine how you can focus your blog. That’s a tough call. So many writers do writing blogs and then fans of your books don’t really connect. Writing about common creepy themes–yes, you will find readers!

    Reply
    • JH

      Hey Stephanie,

      Thanks for commenting, and welcome to my blog! I love to write about writing–I could talk about writing all day long, but there are a gazillion writing blogs out there.

      Ultimately, this was the best direction for me. Chuck Wendig can tell you how to find your theme–I’ll give you the latest scoop on the serial killer under your bed.

      Reply
  9. I haven’t been able to read as many A-to-Z entries as I would have liked, but the ones I have read have been awesome. So if I can’t keep up with just ‘reading’ all the blogs I can’t imagine writing them! Keep writing… I love reading!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Lisa. I highly recommend “D,” if you haven’t already checked it out. It’s my favourite.

      It’s great to see you back here! This blog isn’t the same without the dynamic duo of Lisa & Lisa.

      Reply
  10. I found you from your old blog and I enjoyed it very much. However, even though your A-Z posts weren’t as personal as your old blog, I feel I know you even better from what you write now because this is your passion. I never felt your old blog contained things you didn’t care about but your commitment to the creepy stories from A-Z shows how much you really love this stuff. You were writing some deeply researched pieces when a lot of us were just kinda goofing off.

    People’s passions are where you can really see who they are and I am glad to get a deeper understanding of you.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Frank. As always, that’s a beautiful way of putting it.

      My old blog was a lot harder on the soul, because I was talking about my own thoughts, feelings, and experiences, so when a post was ignored or trolled, it was difficult not to take it personally. I still very much care about my blog and what I write, but I’ve stopped bleeding all over every word, which is much better for me.

      I’m so glad I didn’t lose you as a reader.

      Reply
  11. I love your attitude.

    It’s nice to know that when you failed, you failed the right one.

    Congratulations on your first published book!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, SittieCates, and welcome to my blog! I hope to see you back here.

      I believe I failed at the right one. My publisher might think otherwise.

      Reply
  12. I failed my NaNo too. Though, my goal wasn’t nearly as ambitious as yours was because I knew there was a chance of failure due to being a co-host and having some medical stuff on top of it all. No shame!
    Your theme was great and I’m glad to see that you are appreciating other successes 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, AJ! Sorry to hear you had some medical challenges as well. I got badly hurt midway through the month, but thankfully it wasn’t serious…just painful. That’s what really derailed me, though.

      Thanks for the kind words and encouragement!

      Reply
  13. Love the image with today’s post. I think it makes sense to let your blog reflect your writing, especially if its a tool for bringing together potential readers with your book.

    For the A to Z Challenge, I let my blogs reflect a chunk of my life–former math professor–any the response was surprisingly good.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Tamara. I agree. I had to ask myself why I was blogging, and who I was blogging for. The posts I wrote to help others or inspire others seemed to get the least response, so something clearly wasn’t working.

      I’m glad you had a great response from the Challenge too!

      Reply
  14. I loved your A to Z posts. I am drawn to cold cases, mysteries that dip towards the paranormal, the macabre, but not the gory graphic. I draw a line. You did a great job researching and giving us lesser known details. I am a little leary of your book, however, because I keep thinking of the Chuckie series, and I read one possessed doll book when I was in middle school, and am still freaked out by it! So, good luck with your book. I think there is a huge following for you style of writing/storytelling. Glad to have connected with you during the challenge and IWSG. I also combined my reflections post with IWSG today. So much blogging….ahh!!!
    Play off the Page

    Reply
    • Mary, the book is worth reading. The book isn’t gory and Holli doesn’t over do Edgar’s creepiness. He’s just the right amount of creep.

      Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Frank! Frank speaks the truth, Mary. I don’t do gory. Mostly because I don’t find it scary–just gross. While my book suffers the inevitable comparisons to Chucky because it features a cursed toy, the stories are really nothing alike.

      Thanks for your support during the Challenge. I’m looking forward to what you do next. Your theme was definitely one of the most original!

      Reply
  15. Congrats on finding “your people!” That’s not easy in today’s over-saturated world. It’s something I am still struggling with: who the heck are my people and how do I find my focus so I can find them? I guess it just takes time and understanding. I came to your blog from your post on Chuck Wendig’s blog, and read every one of your A-Z posts. They were fascinating and very well written!

    Also, congrats on your book. That’s a huge deal and an accomplishment to be proud of!

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Jaime! It’s so awesome to hear that you found me through Chuck’s blog. Being featured on Terrible Minds was one of my greatest accomplishments thus far–I love that blog!

      You are most welcome here. Any friend of Chuck’s is a friend of mine.

      It took quite a while for me to get to this point. I started blogging in 2010. So never be afraid to try new things, and keep experimenting. You will find your people too–as you say, it just takes time.

      Reply
  16. I think you did the right thing too! I put aside my edits (I know I know) but the challenge comes along once a year. I think I can work the rest of it! I missed your challenge posts so I’ll have to come back and check them out! Great post today and I love the title! Lisa, co-host #IWSG, @ http://www.lisabuiecollard.com

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Lisa, and thanks for co-hosting. I imagine we’re not the only people who let a few things slide during the Challenge. It’s just so time-consuming to do it well.

      Welcome to my blog! I hope to see you back here.

      Reply
  17. Well, who wouldn’t like reading about serial killers? =D

    Reply
    • JH

      Exactly! My people are all about the serial killers. 😉

      Reply
  18. Awesome, J.H. Congrats on the Challenge.

    Best wishes,
    Diane, IWSG #108

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Diane!

      Reply
  19. Yup same here, I failed massively with Camp NaNo but I don’t really feel bad about it. Alex is a Ninjah Captain, so it’s his domain, me? thank God I don’t have to deal with such stress as a terrifying amounts of comments 😉 I followed your previous blog too, I think it was cool but this is way cooler and for a writer who can use some mystery and scary stuff in her work you are the best resource 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Haneen! I didn’t know you followed my old blog as well. We’re old friends then. 🙂 I’m happy to be your resource for all things scary.

      Sorry about Camp NaNo, but there’s always this month, right? You rocked the Challenge.

      Reply
  20. I’ve not heard of Camp NaNoWriMo. So that means there’s two novel-writing challenges in the year? Madness!

    I’m glad to be one of your people. I’ve been drawn to creepy stuff ever since I was a kid. I checked out Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew from the library when I was around 8 years old. My mom returned it before I had a chance to read it though haha.

    I’m glad you followed your heart and it worked out for you. Moments like that really are priceless.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Sara. I’m glad to be one of your people too. I really looked forward to your stories everyday, but I probably wouldn’t have found you if you hadn’t stopped here first. So thanks for that.

      Skeleton Crew is an awesome collection! I hope you’ve been able to read it since.

      Thanks for the kind words.

      Reply
  21. Congratulations!!!!!
    Your book sounds so scary, I am such a woos but I am going to read it anyway, during the day…a sunny day:)
    I have no idea how I missed you during the challenge but I will go back and read your posts. I had revisions and ended up in the hospital for a few days and am so proud I was only late with one A-Z post.
    That Alex is simply amazing.

    Reply
    • JH

      Welcome back, Doreen! I had no idea you were in the hospital–sorry to hear. I hope everything is okay now. Congrats on sticking with the challenge in spite of everything.

      And thanks so much for reading my book! It’s a bit scary, but in a psychological way–no gore. I think you’ll be okay. 🙂

      No argument about Alex. I have no idea how he does it.

      Reply
  22. I stopped by once and was fascinated with the topic of people disappearing in Russia during a blizzard. But I somehow lost your blog addy. Lucky for me I saw you on Alex’s today. You’re now on my blogroll and I signed up for the newsletter. I’m a horror writer too, but almost all my followers aren’t, and I haven’t been able to locate horror lovers who like and will comment regularly on blogs. Good for you that you have. Huge congrats on your new book! I hope it sells lots! 🙂

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Lexa! I’m really glad you found me again. I’ll make a point of checking out your site too.

      It takes a while, but the I found the Challenge really helped me connect with people who were interested in these topics. Are you published? I also have a great group through my publisher.

      Reply
  23. I think your fans say it all. But just in case you didn’t get the message, I love the stuff you write about. I seek out all kinds of stories based on just your subject matter. Can’t wait for yours.

    Here’s my link if you’d like to drop by 🙂

    Anna from Elements of Writing

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Anna! It’s great to have that kind of validation. You made my day.

      Reply
  24. Last year I skipped the A to Z challenge because I wanted to focus on my novel, and I felt pretty bummed out about that decision for quite a while afterwards. As you say, the novel is still there, but the challenge comes along once a year, and it’s such a special opportunity to connect with others.

    Your theme was terrific–I still haven’t gone back and read all the posts I missed, because I’m so busy catching up on life (and sleep), but I will. I don’t know you from your previous blog, but I’m delighted to know you in this incarnation!

    And now off I go to clicky-click on the link to your new book which will be in my library in scant seconds. Congratulations!

    Reply
    • JH

      Oh, thanks so much, Kern! That’s so awesome of you. I really hope you like the book.

      And I’m glad to know I did the right thing by continuing with the Challenge. The connections made are great, and it’s always sad when someone drops out during the month.

      No worries about reading the other posts. Take your time! They’ll always be here.

      Reply
  25. I’m so glad that we’ve connected! I like being a people!

    🙂

    You give me great ideas and now I know I want more spooky in my life!

    Heather

    Reply
    • JH

      That’s awesome, Heather! Maybe I should make that my tagline: “Adding more spooky to your life.” 😉

      Reply
  26. Hi again. I tried to subscribe with the banner at the top (twice) and it didn’t go through, but the subscription on the right side of the blog worked instantly with no problem. So cool, I have your free book now, thank you.

    I also viewed your book trailer and thought it was well-done. I haven’t seen many use live action. I found it amusing that we both have stories featuring bears, boys named Josh, and abusive step-fathers. Mine’s called Ursa Major and I’m sure it’s quite different, but these coincidences made me smile.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Tamara. Sorry for the issues. I’ll look into that right away and get it fixed.

      That is a strange coincidence! What’s your book about? I’ll check it out.

      Reply
      • JH

        I tried the banner with two different email addresses, and they both worked. It just takes a little time for the emails to come through.

        Reply
  27. I love the look of your blog! Sometimes we have to give up one good for another. I for one am looking forward to reading about evil teddy-bears.

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much, Christina! I really hope you enjoy the book.

      Reply
  28. The dark side always fascinates. It’s in all of us and some of us are better at covering it up than others. It’s satisfying to “watch” others being evil, then we can go on with our “normal” lives as if nothing even slightly twisted lurks inside us.

    Reply
    • JH

      True enough. There must be something really twisted lurking inside us for us to become writers! * Shiver! *

      Reply
  29. Just now getting around to visiting the blogs in the challenge. April was a busy month for me. Congrats on completing the A to Z Challenge! Looking forward to next year! See you on the Road Trip!

    Mary
    http://www.JingleJangleJungle.net

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks, Mary! I will definitely check out your blog as well. I appreciate you stopping by.

      Reply
  30. Hello there.
    Congratulations on completing the challenge! I didn’t get to visit your blog during the crazy month of April so I’m popping over today from the Road Trip/Reflections linky.

    Entrepreneurial Goddess

    Reply
    • JH

      Thanks so much! Did I sign up for the Road Trip? Please tell me I didn’t, because if I did, I totally forgot. I know I considered it.

      Hopefully you’ll stop by again. 🙂

      Reply

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