How To Write a Novel — Chaos

Day 41 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Jacek Dylag on Unsplash

I’ve started something scary here on Medium. It’s something I’ve done before, but never in public. I have a process that I’m going to follow, and I’d like to share it with you.

If you want to follow the journey from the start, go here.

If you missed yesterday’s, you can find it here.

Day 41 — Chaos

I have chosen a title chaos here because I’m thinking that is how the kitchen will look after Charlie has finished baking his cupcakes. Also, however, it is how I feel about the next few scenes.

In my story threads, I have a few scenes that don’t have a huge amount to them. The story is not moving forward that much, and the characters seem to fill in time. As I’ve already identified this problem, I’m going to do some work on these scenes prior to writing them.

The first change I’ll make is to move up the scene that includes the cleaners where Charlie learns about the terrible smell in the penthouse, that smells like someone died in there. This can come just after Charlie’s first day of baking (today’s scene). It will prompt Charlie to investigate the penthouse and give him a goal, apart from despairing about making his cupcakes.

I’m also going to merge two scenes into one — Sandy playing hide and seek with Woofy, Boo and Kay, and Staghorn, acting mysterious with lots of deliveries going up in the lifts. In this scene, Charlie also investigates the lift to the penthouse.

With these changes in place, the next few scenes move the story on much better.

The story threads I need to include for today’s scene are:

  • Every time Charlie puts something down, Kay eats it.
  • Charlie makes his cupcakes as fast as he can, but it still takes him too long.
  • Staghorn does the maths in her head and tells him at the rate he’s working, it will be impossible.

I will also need to include some information about The Smell Tower.

  • Sandy and Charlie enjoy a meal in the restaurant. They eat everything except toast.
  • Sandy sneaks some food up to her room for Woofy.
  • Sandy and Woofy visit the dog gym where he runs on a treadmill chasing possums on the screen.

Against the clock

As usual, I’ll be writing against the clock to keep the words coming. I’m aiming for 750 words in three fifteen minute bursts.

Charlie mused over what the dead body smell on Miasmus could mean whilst they ate their dinner on floor 7. The restaurant floor was almost empty and they chose seats by the window. There were no menus on the tables and when someone came to take their order Charlie asked what was available.

“Whatever you would like,” said the young man, “The Smell Tower Restaurant prides himself on being able to supply the food the customer desires.”

Charlie and Sandy gorged themselves on chicken nuggets, chips, pizza, ice-cream, cake and chocolate bars. As they finished, Sandy smuggled out some steak that she had ordered but not eaten.

“It’s for Woofy,” she said.

He gobbled it down in three bites and then Sandy took him down to the doggy gym.

Charlie watched the city light up as the sun disappeared over the horizon. He didn’t know what to do about his suspicions of Miasmus. He couldn’t talk to anyone about them without having to explain how he could see the dead body smell. And that was something he didn’t want to do.

Once he had tried to tell mum about how he could see smells. They had been on the beach, digging in the sand and making castles.

“Breathe in that salty air, it feels like anything is possible,” she said.

“Do you see the wide blue arms too?” he said.

She patted a shell window on to the castle. “What arms?”

Charlie struggled to find the words. “The blue expanse of the arms, of the sea, and the sand.”

“Did you put suncream on?” his mum said.

“Yes.”

“Do you feel alright?”

“I feel fine.”

“But you’re seeing weird blue arms?”

“Yes. I’m smelling them. Don’t you see them too?”

“I think we better go now,” said Mum. She hurried to pack the things up and knocked the castle down with her heels as she did so.

Charlie hadn’t mentioned seeing the smells again.

His thoughts were interrupted by Sandy returning from the dog gym. She was full of the fun of it, and Woofy looked beat.

“There was a treadmill for Woofy with a screen, and he played a game where he was chasing possums. He got the top score,” she said.

Woofy lapped at his water trough, then collapsed onto his bed.

The next morning, after a breakfast of eggs and bacon, Staghorn showed Charlie to the kitchens. Everything shone with the reflective glare of stainless steel, and the pointy blue spikes of antiseptic clung to them.

Charlie hunted in the cupboards and found a giant bun tray with indents for forty-eight cupcakes, a large mixing bowl, and an oversized wooden spoon.

Staghorn helped him carry the ingredients in from the pantry, and he started to make his cakes. Whilst he worked, Staghorn sat on a stool and knitted. She had finished her replica of the structure of DNA and was now working on a wall hanging of the periodic table.

Charlie worked his magic, seeing the ingredients come together in just the right amounts. The larger quantities made his arm ache with the stirring, but he worked the mixture into the right consistency and dolloped out forty-eight cakes. He slid the tray into the giant oven and then began the next batch.

By the time the first tray was ready to come out and cool, the next tray was ready to go in. Charlie wiped his sweaty forehead on his sleeve, brushing leftover mixture onto his face. He pulled the baked cupcakes from their cases and onto a tray to cool.

His right shoulder ached and he thought he might take a short break. He sat down and stretched.

“No time for rest,” said Staghorn, “Not if you want to make over ten thousand.”

“I just need a few minutes,” said Charlie.

“Do the maths,” she said. “So far, you have baked ninety six cupcakes. That has taken forty-eight minutes. At this rate, it will take you one hundred and twelve hours to make the required amount. If you work constantly for eight hours a day, you will finish in fourteen days.”

“What?” said Charlie, his head swimming with the numbers.

“Basically, you need to double your speed if you’re going to finish by next week,” said Staghorn.

“I’ll never do it.”

“Well then, you’d better tell Miasmus, sooner the better. He doesn’t take disappointment well. Not well at all.”

Charlie thought about the dead body smell. Was that how his last baker ended up? He pulled himself to his feet and took the second tray out of the oven. As he did so, he noticed the first batch were missing.

“Did you move the first lot of cakes?” he asked.

“Didn’t touch them. I’ve been working on Einsteinium the whole time.”

A grunt made Charlie turn. Kay sat nearby with crumbs around her snout. She seemed to have fully recovered from the cactus and taken a liking to his cupcakes.

Charlie dived for the pig, who squealed and ran, knocking the flour sack over. White dust whooshed into the air, cloaking them in mist. Blinded by it, Charlie slipped on one of Staghorn’s balls of wool and crashed into the steel bench. A pallet of eggs launched themselves into the air like missiles, then came raining down on top of Staghorn, Charlie and Kay.

Charlie wiped the sticky goo out of his eyes and fell down in a heap. He would never be able to bake these cakes. Even if he everything went smoothly from now on, he’d be exhausted before he’d finished half of them.

Reflections

Sometimes it is interesting what comes up when you don’t have an exact structure for the scene. The part where Charlie remembers telling his mum about being able to see smells and her thinking he had sunstroke was new, but helps to show why Charlie is reluctant to tell anyone about his special ability.

Total words so far 14,170.

Tomorrow I’ll write the scene where Charlie learns about the penthouse from the cleaner.

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If you want to try the process with me and write your own novel, I’d love to have you join me on this journey. Put in the comments on how you went with this step.

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