I can’t comment on the film, but in the book of Fantastic Mr Fox (by Roald Dahl), after Mr Fox gets his tail shot off by the farmers, he spends an uncomfortable couple of days digging hard to try and keep ahead of said farmers. They start digging with spades, and then move on to mechanical diggers. There are moments of respite. Sometimes the foxes get a lead, sometimes it looks like the farmers are going to scoop them up… #AprilA2Z is a bit like that, especially when you think you have a bright idea for a theme to carry you through the month…

But I’m jumping the gun a bit. This is my third time round on the #AtoZChallenge. Less than a year ago, once things had cooled down a bit after the last challenge, I had a bit of an idea. I thought we should put together a writing resources page here on Fiction Can be Fun. Debs thought that was a good idea, and we pooled ideas about what should be included. And then I started thinking about using those resources, especially various prompts and things to help set up a story and populate it with characters. I persuaded Debs that we could write a long form story for the challenge. To be fair, it’s Debs’ fault that I got embroiled into the Challenge in the first place. We batted a few ideas around, agreed that using a different resource everyday was probably a bit much, thought about using the “And they fight crime” generator to come up with our protagonists – and somewhere along the way we forgot all about that and ended up focusing on the NATO phonetic alphabet as a linking theme. I think we’d originally discussed using the Cockney alphabet (A is for ‘orses etc), but for one reason or another that didn’t feel right and we went with Alpha, Bravo, Charlie etc – which worked incredibly well, I feel.

The mechanics of writing the challenge might serve as a #Secondthoughts in due course, so I’ll finish off with a few thoughts on the #AtoZChallenge itself. I seem to be incapable of choosing a simple theme to run with, and also incapable of getting organised to prepare enough in advance: as a ‘planner’ rather than a ‘pantser’ this is quite stressful. April has been incredibly stressful, and I’m going to have to think very careful about whether I do the challenge again next year or not. But…it’s also been a lot of fun! I couldn’t have done this without Debs – the story, the writing, all of it has been a delight and a privilege and I’ve really enjoyed writing this story in partnership: if you can find the right person to work with, I thoroughly recommend a shared project. I haven’t checked in with as many blogs as I would have liked, but it has been brilliant to catch up with old friends and to meet new ones.


I’d participated in A2Z April for three years previous to 2018, but I’d never set myself an overly demanding challenge in terms of topic or theme. After the first year, I rapidly figured out that the way to manage the challenge best was to prepare as many of my posts in advance as was possible. For me, it was a bit of fun and rather more to do with the taking part. David, on the other hand, took the word ‘Challenge’ to heart and from the word go, jumped in with a corker of a subject. And he’s kept on upping the ante. This year, he took me along for the ride with a joint effort at this – our co-hosted site. I could pretend that there was kicking and screaming on my part but, in all truth, after we’d read and enjoyed Iain Kelly’s splendid series in 2017, we were hugely inspired by it, and I was very excited by the prospect of being able to do something along the same lines. In all honesty, it’s not something I’d have dared to dream about but David provided that courage and here we are – at the end of something which has been challenging, enjoyable, eventful and fun. What’s made it even better is the support and encouragement we’ve had from those who read along.

In a post-April tidy up of desk, I found a little bundle of my notes from our earliest discussions. I have a vague recollection of those early conversations – brought to mind by that pile of scrappy bits of papers, containing our ideas and thoughts. As always happens with the challenge, April rushed up far too quickly and my immediate difficulties with learning Scrivener in the time-frame caused a bout of hysterics. David remained calmness personified – for which my ‘Himself’ takes his hat off to him. Those wide-ranging ideas slowly became whittled down more by a lack of inspiration sparking than anything else – at least that’s how I remember it! And before we knew it, we were frantically writing the first tranche of posts. We started April with a week’s worth of posts written and scheduled, but by the end, it became considerably more frantic and last minute.

But, you know what, it was brilliant. I’ve not enjoyed an April A2Z as much before, despite falling ill in the middle. I enjoyed the way the story and characters developed, and the feedback and comments were even more appreciated than in previous years.

Despite co-hosting a site for a year, one of the major questions was whether our very different writing styles and pools of ideas would meld. But, as David has alluded to, we’ll be producing a joint #secondthoughts piece on the subject of co-writing, so I’ll say no more for now.

Working alongside David has given me the courage to take this huge leap of faith; there is no doubting I’d not be in this position but for his drive and belief. I’ve looked at those who’ve co-authored before and wondered not how, but why. But now I get it. Writing is a lonely old business and having someone to riff with, to bounce ideas off, to hear genuine enthusiasm in their reaction, and then to see the results … that’s why.


To everyone who’s taken a moment out to read, to like or to leave a comment – thank you. It’s made what we’ve done all the more worthwhile.

We’d like to say a particular thank you to Stu, Iain and Alan – who have not only stuck with us the whole month, but have commented everyday, kept us honest, and have definitely played the game, played along at home trying to guess the twists and turns in the story, and were delighted when the villain got his come-uppance. Your support has meant so much to us.

5 thoughts on “ZotA”

  1. Congratulations on finishing the challange, and sorry if I dropped off at a certain point, but I fully intend to finish reading your story 🙂

    David: I know, the challange is indeed a challenge, btu it is so much fun too. Would you really renouce to it? 😉

    Debs: I co-authored three stories years ago, with three very different fellow wrtiers, and it was such a forming experience. I’d always suggest trying co-auhtoring somethign at least once. We learn so much abotu ourselves, our writing process, our ability and potencialities. It’s a fantastic esperience as an author.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not renounce – but I might take a year off and just cheer from the side lines… Or not! 😉


  2. I meant to comment yesterday but things got a bit hectic – ‘Bank Holiday’ huh! 🙂

    OK on to the nitty-gritty. As a follower of both your individual blogs and FCBF I was greatly impressed with the way you combined your personal styles into one narrative. Apart from the obvious ‘scienty-engineering’ bits I found it quite hard to say who wrote what. Your historical research was impeccable, but on a couple of things that I can’t talk about I need to say that Wikipedia is not always authoritative! (But very helpful in following some of your thought processes! Billy Blind being a prime example)

    The narrative never dragged, even in the explaining bits: the tension was always there, especially when you appeared to wander off into irrelevance – only it wasn’t, was it?

    And it was very clever of you to enhance the tension with a daily ‘hunt the typo’! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    Thank you for all the pleasure.

    Liked by 2 people

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