Reflections: A to Z 2023 #AtoZChallenge 2023 Who Killed Sir ABC?

Hello! That was fun! Here are some of my thoughts about this latest A to Z:

Word Count

I wrote just under 40,000 words for this A to Z. Actually, I wrote many more words than that—my guess would be around 50,000—but my goal was to keep my posts to a reasonable length, so they all got trimmed, some of them pretty drastically. For most posts (I made exceptions for the very information-dense posts), I thought of 2,000 words as my still-too-long-but-okay upper limit, but tried to keep them at more like 1,200 words. Some of them were under 1,000 words, and that was always great, too. I figured it would be nice to give my readers shorter posts, every now and then. Especially for anyone playing catch-up.


Having A Plan

This year (unlike most years), I planned ahead. That was nice. It was comforting, to go to sleep at night knowing that, whatever challenges would crop up the next day while I was writing my post, I at least had notes to fall back on. For most of my posts this year, I had snippets of dialogue in my notes, and a list of information that should be established.

But mark that word “most.” My plan had some giant holes in it, especially near the end. I had nothing planned for V, W, X, or Y, for example, and all I had down for P was “Crowner and Mug explain what they found out at Miss Polly’s cottage. Documents. Anonymous letter, maybe a diary entry. No names.”

Of course, I also had last year’s A to Z to guide me. That was great—every character had a story, and I knew that the telling of that story was going to form a part of each character’s post. Sometimes, when I didn’t know how else to start, I’d just begin by letting the character talk about his or her situation, and go from there.


Too Many Characters!!!!!

I loved this A to Z, and the crazy, complicated story that came out of it. But, if I were writing this as a novel, I would eliminate at least half of the characters and make some of those that remained way less prominent. And I certainly wouldn’t try to focus suspicion on 26ish (or more like 25? “N” wasn’t a suspect in either A to Z, after all!) characters in turn. That is too many suspects!!!! And, of course, Sir Adam ended up being almost goofily evil, which was the only way I could think of to give him the required number of enemies.

So, this was a fun experiment, but structurally less successful than, say, my 2015 A to Z, which was also a mystery, and which also passed the narrative off to a different character every day—but sometimes that character was just witnessing a part of the mystery, and the story did stay more focused on a handful of main characters. I also did costumes! And, by the way, my 2015 A to Z was my first Inspector Crowner story.


That Empty Feeling

I always enjoy doing the A to Z, and this year was no exception. Of course, now I’m left with that dead feeling, which I find sets in whenever I finish a writing project. I’ve just spent a month with these characters, and now I have to leave them and move on to something else. To be honest, I miss them.


Will I Disappear Again?

My habit, which is lamentable but also just a fact, is to blog every day during the month of April, and not at all for the other 11 months of the year. And every year, I think that this time it will be different. But here’s the thing: it never is. And that is partly because I don’t really think of this as a blog. I think of it as a repository for crazy writing projects. And by “crazy,” I generally mean “writing projects with a large visual component.” So, when I do post in not-April, it is usually something big and elaborate that I have been working on in secret for months or years. Like The Perils of Sir Reginald, a Twine game with, I think, very beautiful visual elements that I painstakingly constructed out of Clip Art (for anyone who wants to play the game, I will just mention one helpful thing: Google Translate will do Latin). Or The Objulak, which is a horror story told in the form of a series of elaborately-constructed diary entries.

I did do a more standard blog-like thing in 2020, because the lockdown made me feel chatty. And that was a lot of fun, and I don’t regret it, even if it did show more of me than I’m usually comfortable with. But it also isn’t something I see myself doing regularly.


What is a good number of suspects to have in a mystery story? Is 3 too few? Is 8 too many?

Which characters in this A to Z would you eliminate? Which characters could be folded into other characters?

Do you have any suggestions for crazy writing projects you’d like to see me tackle? If I were to write more regularly, what would you be most interested in reading?

If you are an A to Zer, do you prepare your A to Zs ahead of time? How far ahead of time? How extensive are your plans?


And that’s it! Thanks again to everyone who followed along this year! See you next year, if not before!!!!

Bookmark the permalink.


  1. YAY.
    You wrote a Reflection piece!!

    This was a pleasure.

  2. I need to catch up on the AtoZ, but I think I might need to catch up on last year’s too, so…At this point I don’t know who should be cut!

    In terms of the right number of suspects…I think it depends on what sort of story you want to tell. You only need one if you’re doing a Columbo-esque howdunnit, and you’ve got ten in ‘Ten Little Indians’. I think three is probably too few for most stories – they’d end up too exposed during the run of the story. I think you could probably make 26 work…you could lose a few fairly quickly, lose a few more, bring one or two back…

    I don’t do A to Z every year, but when I do, I like to have some sort of plan. Sometimes that works better than others…

    You always have great ideas for crazy projects and I’m not sure us making suggestions would work, but how about some kind of detective story where the detective is a cthonic entity?

    • PS – one of the issues with a long form story hanging on an AtoZ framework is that the alphabet is both a blessing and a curse – helpful in terms of a prompt, but constraining in terms of things occurring in a certain order, which may or may not make complete, logical sense. The opportunity to rewrite/reframe/expand in a non-linear alphabet world may also help with working with 26 characters. Maybe.

      I don’t know if it is your cup of tea, but James Anderson wrote a trilogy of detective stories all set in the same historic mansion, with a core aristocratic family, and a different set of house guests. The books are The affair of the blood-stained egg-cosy, The affair of the mutilated mink, and The affair of the 39 Cufflinks. Humorous, comical even, but perfect detective stories for all that, and a very likeable detective at the heart.

      • (In response to your PS) YES!!!!!! You are so right! This year, I was using characters I made up last year (with help from commenters), and so everyone was already set, and of course they all had to have their scenes in alphabetical order. Sometimes, it would have made all the sense in the world to go to a different person next, but… the tyranny of the alphabet! I had to do some pretty transparent maneuvering to get the next person in the alphabet to go next, sometimes.

        I bought The Affair of the Blood-Stained Egg Cozy (mostly because the title appealed to me), but haven’t read it yet. I’m thrilled to hear that they are actually funny, because I was worried they might be too good to be true. Good! Now I’m excited.

    • Hi David!!!
      Catching up on A to Zs is often kind of an overwhelming prospect. I know that, during the A to Z season, I tend to get behind, and then spend Sundays playing catch-up. Or that is what I did this year, anyway. I think in former years, I’ve been even worse about visiting.

      I am usually not a big fan of howdunnits, with (probably!) some exceptions. And yes, 26 can work, if you treat most of them as not-very-serious suspects. But it is good to focus on a handful, I think.

      Plans are good! Lots of years I just let my theme and the letter (and desperation!) inspire me, but it was a big relief to have more of an idea of what I was doing this time.

      Like a ghost? Or a god of the underworld? Hm… that could be interesting. Sort of solving the case from the other side of the grave. Like, the first time they meet the victim is when that person crosses over. So, the death is the beginning of the relationship, instead of the end. “The dame walked into my office, and by the contusions on her throat and the many missing fingers, I knew she was gonna be trouble.”

  3. I took a brief survey of the two people in my house and they said 8 was too many and 3 about right. But they also have poor memories. I do think 26 was A LOT! You can always name the alphabet word be something besides a person. An explanation even – Gadzooks! or something.
    I enjoyed following along and look forward to your next project. The detective and victim operating from the beyond the grave is an interesting idea.

    • Thank you for doing this helpful investigative work, Kristin! I think 3 is good, but maybe a few more is ideal. Then again, 3 keeps things tightly focused, which is good. Hm…

      26 was way too many! But of course this year I was working with what I’d done last year… I guess I could have eliminated some of the characters, though, or made them into just witnesses.

      I like the Gadzooks! idea.

      Thanks for following along! 🙂

  4. Ah, your reflection is so shiny!
    I think I’d say maybe 3-5-ish suspects to take some degree of pains over, and certainly a handful of others who could be raised only to be dismissed quickly. Please note that I pick those numbers at a wild guess, without actually bothering to think hard about the best mysteries and how many suspects they involve. (Because thinking hard, while certainly something I have been known to do on occasion, is not something that I happen to feel equipped for at this particular moment.) But yes, if you were to make this into an actual novel rather than a novelty, it would take a fair bit of pummeling and would almost certainly have to abandon the alphabetic structure, or at least modify it heavily, as Kristin suggests, by not making all the letters stand for people and their alliterative motives.
    I do like the idea of the afterlife mystery. However, I’m not sure you could walk into the Hades Detective Inc. with throat contusions, not knowing who had strangled you. So it might have to be a poisoning, sniping, trap, or other murder-at-a-distance.

    • I think you may be right: a small group of serious suspects, and a few more semi-suspicious characters to confuse things a bit.

      The alphabetical structure would be out the window if I made this into a novel, and I also wouldn’t write it as one long drawing room scene. I’d probably start with the dinner party, spend a chapter or two on the evening (with Sir Adam being unpleasant and lots of background established or hinted at) and then end that part with Sir Adam tumbling out of the window. Maybe open, say, Chapter Three on Crowner and Mug, discussing the case as they arrive in the village. And I’d eliminate most of the characters in the novel version. I’d have to pick which romance to go with: Eli/Ingrid or Bruce/Meghan. Or I guess I could have both couples in it…

      I think I’d keep Uncle Ulric, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *