Blogging Challenges: Do They Work?

I’ve always been a fan of blogging challenges, whether it be to write something or to take a picture of something inline with a prompt or theme set by another blogger. 

Not only can these challenges improve the way you write or take photos, but they put you in touch with lots of other bloggers, all focusing on the same challenge.

Recently, one blogging challenge has got me on a new road to the way I write fiction; a path I thought I’d never travel. 

Not only have I been amazed by the results of this new writing journey, but so have many of my readers. They’ve given me valuable feedback about the new way I’m writing. 

How did it start? 

In the second week of January 2020, after Charli Mills published her 99-word flash fiction prompt, Doug, Sophie and Mike were created in my mind. 

Given that I intended to say goodbye to these three characters after pressing the ‘publish’ button, I was surprised they reemerged the following week.

If you don’t know Charli Mills and the 99-word flash fiction challenge she publishes every Thursday, then take a look at her blog and introduce yourself. Better still, join in with hundreds of other writers who participate in the 99-word flash fiction challenge every week. Click here for details.  

This was the challenge Charli set that week. 

January 9th, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a carried wife. Why is she being carried? Who is carrying? Pick a genre if you’d like and craft a memorable character. Go where the prompt leads!

#flashfiction #shortstory
Image credit: Charli Mills

Enter Doug, who is carrying his new wife, Sophie, over the threshold of their honeymoon suite. 

Everything looks merry and happy for the newlyweds, but not all is as it seems. Two floors below, a secret festers. That’s where Mike comes into the story. 

I’d given this piece of flash fiction a twist which not only did I love but so did many of my readers. Result! 

You can read the piece I wrote for the challenge by clicking here.

Only having 99-words to play with made this a tough challenge, but I had no idea that Doug, Sophie and Mike would reappear again the following week.

This is the challenge Charli published the following week. 

January 16th, 2019, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a protest story. It can be about a protest, or you can investigate the word and expand the idea. Who is protesting, where, and why? Go where the prompt leads! 

#flashfiction
Image Credit: Charli Mills

When I read the prompt, Doug, Sophie and Mike came into my mind. Should I carry on their story from where I had left them the week before, or should I create a brand new story?

It wasn’t long before I had the answer, although it was with the help of those three characters. However, I was about to make the 99-word flash fiction challenge even harder for myself.

How I turned a 99-word flash fiction challenge into something even more challenging. 

Given that I had three characters who all wanted to give their point-of-view of what was going on, I had to spilt the number of words I could use between all three. That gave me only 33 words to play with for each character.

At first, that seemed like an even tougher challenge than writing a piece of flash fiction in only 99 words, but with Doug, Sophie and Mike firmly embedded in my mind, I decided to take up my new challenge. 

Fast forward a few more weeks, and I found myself writing pieces of fiction in a completely different style to what I’d been used to. It was as if I’d unlocked a door to a new writing gift. 

#ThursdayDoors

I’d always thought that writers were in full control of the direction of their stories. However, here I was not in complete control of what was going to happen to Doug, Sophie and Mike each week. 

Every time I published the next part of their story, I had to wait for Charli to post the next prompt, of which I knew absolutely nothing about until publication.

During week seven of the challenge, I’d thought I’d have to call it a day and concede defeat. This was the challenge Charli published that week. 

February 20th, 2020, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about a library cat named Rainbow who escapes. Use this situation to write what happens next. Where does this situation take place, and who else might be involved? Go where the prompt leads! 

As Doug, Sophie and Mike were all based in a hotel, how on earth was I going to include a library cat named Rainbow into the story?

I also thought that a cat named Rainbow was something that was more suitable to a story in a children’s book (not one that had included spiking drinks, sleeping around, and lies).

Rainbow, the cat, proved to be a big problem for me, but I wasn’t going to allow this challenge to defeat me.

After a long, hard think about the challenge, I duly sat down, wrote something and wondered if my audience would like the new direction the story was about to take.

Given that I’ve published one more episode since Rainbow the cat first appeared (and I’ve another new episode lined up), I’ll let you be the judge of whether the introduction of a cat named Rainbow into the story was a success. 

Click here to read part one of the story, and follow the links to each part.

The icing on the cake

Last week, I received an email from a reader who ended their email with this –

 ‘…and I’ll continue to watch (with bated breath) how Doug, Sophie and Mike are doing.’ 

Not only do those few words tell me something, but I think they say it all. 

Thank you to Charli Mills who publishes her 99-word flash fiction challenge every week.

Not only do her blogging challenges help improve the way I write but they have now pushed me to think differently about the way I write.

Click here to read this week’s writing challenge from Charli.

#writer #blogger #author #flashfiction #shortstories
Author, writer, blogger, and head of the writing community at the Carrot Ranch, Charli Mills

And a big thank you to all the other bloggers who publish blogging challenges. You’re doing such an excellent service for the blogging community.

Do you publish a weekly or monthly blogging challenge on your blog? If so, leave a link to it in the comments section.

 Do you participate in blogging challenges? If so, which ones? Have they worked for you and changed the way you write or take photos? Have you had any success with them or do you think they’re a waste of time? Join the discussion and share your thoughts in the comments section.

Author: Hugh W. Roberts

My name is Hugh. I live in the city of Swansea, South Wales, in the United Kingdom. My blog covers a wide range of subjects, the most popular of which are my blogging tips posts. If you have any questions about blogging or anything else, please contact me by clicking on the 'Contact Hugh' button on the menu bar. Click on the 'Meet Hugh' button on the menu bar to learn more about me and my blog.

50 thoughts

        1. I think it’s a great idea. And I agree with you that reading too many blog posts about COVID-19 can bring you down. It’s even gone as far as to affect my writing. Now I’m not reading as many COVID-19 blog posts. And it seems to be helping me get my sparkle back for writing.

  1. You are certainly very talented Hugh and I’ve enjoyed you efforts so far! I have participated in several of these challenges over the years and have also surprised myself at what comes out of my head. The limited word count is a great way of getting the story out but having three characters must make it that much more difficult!
    Currently I try to participate in Terri’s Sunday Stills photo challenge and try to post a Wordless Wednesday post each week but this week I was travelling home and forgot – there is a lot going on in the world at the moment so I’m not berating myself too much. Hope all is well with you and yours over there.

    1. Without-a-doubt, having three characters in the piece of flash fiction (which is beginning to turn into a bit of a novel) and only allowed 99 words each episode is a whole new challenge in itself. However, I’ve now proved I can do it, so it’s only spurring me on to keep going, Debbie.

      Likewise, with what is going on in the world at the moment, I’ve not felt like doing much writing. This strange time we’re going through seems to have affected my writing mojo, although it may come back when I least expect it. There are so many doom and gloom blog posts out here about coronavirus that I think I need to stop reading. Maybe that will get the writing mojo back?

      Take care, Debbie.

      1. I hear you! I haven’t managed to write much lately either and feel distracted and overwhelmed with it all.

        You are amazing with your ability to tell stories. I’m staying away from doom and gloom posts as much as possible. Take it easy Hugh.

  2. Hi Hugh,
    I participated in blogging challenges years ago. I enjoyed judging the Bloggers Bash Blogging Challenge. Last year, bloggers had to incorporate the Number 5. That was an interesting challenge and a rewarding experience.
    Janice

    1. Great to hear you’ve participated in blogging challenges, Janice. I think they’re a great way to get yourself noticed as a blogger.

      There’s no Bloggers Bash this year. Given the current situation with coronavirus, I think it just as well we decided to postpone doing an event this year.

    1. There are lots of blogging challenges out there, although I think you already get plenty of visitors and comments on your blog. That’s down to the interesting subjects you write about, Michael.

      Sorry to read that your trip to Palm Springs has been cancelled.

  3. Hi Hugh! I’m so delighted with this creative response you’ve had. Not only have you crafted three interesting characters with dueling twists, but you have also fashioned an interesting format. Thank you for sharing your process and the challenges at Carrot Ranch.

  4. If you hadn’t before, Hugh, I think you found your (another) niche. These challenging stories you create are fantastic. And I like that they’re short as well, since I have so little time to read. I’ve heard it said before by authors that their characters “write” the story. Reading how you explain the process of this particular writing style, I now understand that sentiment even better.

    As far as blogging challenges go, I think they are great. If people think they’re a waste of time, then they shouldn’t join. Easy. In my case, if I had more time, I would join some of these photography and writing challenges. I have thousands of images that should find a home and I enjoy the writing process, especially when defined by prompts or boundaries. I think blogging challenges are fantastic instigators for quality blog posts and push bloggers out of their comfort zone. All good!

    1. Thanks, Liesbet. I agree with what you say about how short pieces of writing help when we’re limited for time. I don’t mind reading long posts if I find them interesting, but short articles can be just as good.

      I agree entirely with what you say about blogging challenges. I never try and participate in all of them because that would be just like spreading myself too thinly (and we know that’s not good for anybody). If a prompt motivates me, then I’ll participate, but I can also go a long time without participating in any of them. They do push you, but that helps improve skills.

      I’d never have published two short story collections had I never participated in blogging challenges.

    1. Thank you, Sadje. I seem to have built up a fanbase of readers who are following this story. Not being in control of the outcome is kinda exciting about what’s going to happen to our three main characters.

  5. Like you, Hugh, I enjoy Charli’s challenges but they are the only ones I participate in. I still have a few episodes to catch up with your trio but will do so, eventually. I’m looking forward to finding out where they pushed your writing.

    1. I believe you’re were one of the first bloggers to join Charli’s 99-word flash fiction challenge, Norah. As somebody who is still participating in them, that goes a long way in showing how much you enjoy participating.

  6. There’s always something sly in your writing – something beneath the surface! So fun. I am having problems keeping up with blogging – other life challenges in my way. Hope to soon get in the swing again.

  7. Yes! You introduced me to Carrot Ranch and I’ve been wanting to get involved. I’ll be submitting my own flash fiction in the next couple days! Thanks for introducing me to Charli and the Carrot Ranch, Hugh!

  8. Nice post, Hugh 😀
    Years ago, I did join blogging challenges. I haven’t had the energy and abundance in the last years, but hope, this will come back again. It is nice to join in together with so many other souls.

    1. They can be time-consuming, Irene, especially if you try and participate in too many. I try and stick with just a few, and I don’t join in every week. I don’t always have the motivation to participate. Plus, I don’t want to overwhelm my readers with too many blog posts in too short of time.

  9. Yay to blogging challenges! I’m so glad I’d found them, and it is a delight to read others’ work as well as it is to discover new ventures and adventures, and to sharpen my writing skills. As a full-length novel writer who tends to the wordy, the flash-fiction and micro-fictions are fantastic practice. I’m having fun with it and meeting others who help in mutual growth. What an excellent post! 🙂 Yah, Hugh!

    1. Thank you, Na’ama. I’m delighted that participating in blog challenges has worked for you. I’ve heard it said many times that writing flash fiction and short stories are far more challenging than writing a novel. When you only get a limited amount of words to play with, those challenges challenge our creative minds even more. Keep on doing them.

      1. I agree! I think it is all of it good stuff — and getting out of one’s comfort zone is CERTAINLY good stuff! I’m quite certain that I’ve strengthened my dialogue skills and scene-building skills in these little itty bitty fictionnettes! 🙂

  10. Hi, Hugh – I’ve greatly enjoyed following the tale of Doug, Sophie and Mike. I love that you have now given us a peek behind the scenes of the story’s creation. That is a wonderful story behind the story!

    1. Thank you, Donna. I promised to share my take on how I’m writing their story, especially given that I have no idea what prompt Charli is going to publish every Thursday. It’s been great fun, and I’m enjoying the whole process. The next part of the story is written and will be released this week. Thank you so much for following their story.

  11. You put the blogging challenges to good use, Hugh. I’m aware of some blogging challenges, such as Terri’s Sunday Stills. I enjoy reading the participants’ responses to the challenges. It’s something I’d like to try in the future. Atm, I have ideas to write in my head and they don’t align with the challenge prompt. #senisal

    1. Participating in blogging challenges certainly help me with connecting with new readers and bloggers, Natalie. They do the same thing as when leaving good quality comments on other blog posts. People notice you and may then visit your blog. I hope you’ll join in at some stage and try one or two blogging challenges out. I’m sure you’ll enjoy the experience.

  12. How interesting to read your creative process, Hugh. Definitely a new way to approach a series of stories. I’m glad it appeals to your dark side of storytelling and you are enjoying being challenged. Your readers are also clearly enjoying the ride. I agree about the value of challenges and have been grateful to discover the WordPress weekly photo challenge early on. Sad to see it go, it was singularly responsible for building my blog. Photo challenges inspired me to dig deeper into photography, a creative interest I’ve had since my college days. Seeing the incredible talents of other blogger/photographers is inspiring as well as compliments I receive for mine. I probably would have stopped blogging if I hadn’t resumed Sunday Stills (and thank you for your co-hosting skills). I even managed to write a book about properly using photos for our blogs. Who would have thought? We all need challenges in all aspects of our lives, so why not creative challenges for our blogs? Thanks for raising the question, Hugh, and keep up the good work!

    1. I agree, Terri. We all need challenges in our lives, so why not in the blogging world? They’ve certainly helped me not only improve my writing and photography skills but to publish two short story collections, too. I don’t think I’d ever have gone down that route if it had not been for participating in some blogging challenges.

      I used to run my own challenge, but it was so much work and took up a considerable amount of time. So thank you for continuing to host Sunday Stills. Without-a-doubt, I know that many bloggers will be thankful to you for hosting the challenge.

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