I competed in the December 2010 monthly contest at InfoBarrel. I wanted to share my thoughts on what I learned during the month.

The monthly contests are a points based contest. It is not just writing more articles than everyone else, or writing on a certain subject. Rather, you get points based on the length of the articles. Short articles (500 to 799 words) get 1 point. Medium length articles (800 to 999 words) are worth 2 points. Articles of 1000 words or longer earn 5 points. It is obviously beneficial to write longer articles.

Everyone who writes during the month participates in the contest whether they know it or not. Just by posting an article you get the points. There is no need to declare that you are part of the contest to earn the points.

Long Articles Get More Points

It takes work to bang out a 1000 word article. While it is faster to write two or three 500 word articles, you ultimately end up writing many more words for the same number of points. Most of the participants who were ahead of me after the first couple of days in the contest were cranking out lots of short articles to my few long ones. By the time the month was half way through the contest belonged to the three of us who were writing the longer articles. The exception was AJWalton. He was beating us in sheer volume. On the 15th he was ahead of me by 40 points while writing mostly 1 point articles. (By the 21st two of us distinguished ourselves from everyone else.)

To get enough material to write a good 1000 word article you have to do a considerable amount of research. Some articles come easy and there may not be much research involved (like this one). However, to actually try and win the contest you will probably need to do a good amount of research. Try to plan several articles from the same research. Find different aspects of the subject and go into detail.

I have a series of articles that I am doing that takes right at 1 hour to write each 1000 word article. That includes research time. I keep thinking to myself that I can write on other topics more quickly, but the truth is that with research it always takes me longer.

I was particularly pleased with one article that I wrote on the last day of the contest. It was very easy to write because it involved very little study. Since I have been wearing a tie most days of the week since I was 10 years old, I have a lot of experience on how to tie a necktie. That was an easy 1200 word article to write. It took me only 40 minutes. However, when I started to close the browser tab on the little research I did do, I discovered that I may have explained something wrongly. I needed to spend another 20 minutes fixing a significant mistake. So even "fast" articles take time to write. [It ended up that I did not explain it incorrectly, but the time it took to convince myself of that ate up precious moments.]

Long Articles Come Easy For Me

I am a teacher at heart. Any article that describes a process will naturally (at least for me) be longer than an article describing a product. Theoretically, a product based article will yield more ad revenue. I do plan more product articles in the future, but not until I am done needing to pour out 1000 word ones.

Early in the month I had trouble limiting myself to 1000 words. I didn't have a clear idea of what 1000 words was, nor how much material I could cover in 1000 words. I wrote one articles that was 2200 words in the rough draft. I was able to split it into three 1000+ word articles.

The Importance of Writing Offline

Because you waste a title if you decide the title you originally chose is now inappropriate, it is best to have the article written before you input the title in the InfoBarrel editor. If your originally chosen title no longer fits, you can change it before making the mistake.

Having said that though, choosing a keyword appropriate title first should help you focus you writing. I have read several recommendations that you should get your title and then stay true to it. I do this, but I choose to write in a word processor so that I don't have to waste a title on InfoBarrel in case I need to change it.

Writing offline gives you a chance to use all the word processing tools your computer can offer you. Spell checking is easier with the computer rather than in the InfoBarrel editor. You also may have grammar and writing tools that can help you choose the best words.

I don't do any formatting in my word processor. Then when I paste in my text I always paste it in as plain text. I lived through a time when programs like FrontPage and Microsoft Word created some horrifically coded HTML (I suspect they still do). I don't trust the system to be able to clean up the mess a word processor can make.

There is also the added benefit of having a copy of the article in case something goes wrong with posting it. Sometimes an Internet connection can go down at the worst possible moment. If you are creating an article in the InfoBarrel editor it can be lost if you are not able to post it.

Most Beneficial to New Writers

The requirement to keep writing or get hopelessly behind in the contest is a motivation to stay productive. I started out the month 40 points behind after the first few days. I knew I could catch up with 5 point articles, but I would need to be consistent.

As new writers there are a couple of things we need to focus on and others we need to ignore. All of us need to write, backlink and bookmark our articles. But as a new writer who does not have much inventory, focusing on backlinking the few articles you wrote last week will not be as effective as writing new content. With new content you can bring more traffic by interlinking the articles you have.

After you have completed articles, you can find out which ones are earning well. You can participate in a contest instead of spending all of your content creation time on backlinking articles that will never earn. This will help you keep your mind off the extraneous items: items that are important, but secondary to content creation.

New writers need to learn to research and write. Experienced writers know how to quickly research and put thoughts on their computer screen. The way they became experienced was by writing. By participating in a contest I was able to increase my experience and efficiency.

December 2010 Contest – Glad It's Over!

I think I have become a better writer by participating in the contest. The timing was right for me since I was able to dedicate the time to writing this month. I was also anticipating that many people would be tied up with all the holiday activities. It seems my guess was right.

It was also a good time for me because I really needed to crank out the content. Getting my article count over 100 articles was a big goal I had. The contest helped me trudge towards that goal.

I want to publicly thank LoveSpaces and AJWalton for making the contest a challenge. I didn't sleep much the last couple of weeks, but I sure enjoyed the challenge.