How To Write a Novel — Contest

Day 35 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Viktor Forgacs 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 35 — Contest

We’ve arrived at an important scene for Charlie — the cupcake competition. These are the story threads that I have — not much.

  • Charlie enters a cupcake competition.
  • Charlie wins a cupcake competition.

I had another couple of story threads, but these make little sense now.

  • Mr Needem wants to sell Charlie’s cupcakes, but Miasmus wants exclusivity.
  • At the bakery, Charlie and Sandy trick Staghorn into letting them inside.
  • Trying to get past security, Sandy says, ‘Do you smell that?’ Charlie picks up on her ruse and joins in and so they get past.

The point about Mr Needem wanting to sell Charlie’s cupcakes but Miasmus wanting exclusivity needs to come in the next scene after Charlie has won the competition and I have revealed that Miasmus is the secret sponsor. Also, having Staghorn at this scene would give away that Miasmus is around.

I’m also thinking now that Sandy will not be in this scene. This is Charlie’s scene where he is entering the competition without his dad’s permission. He is going to have to get out of the house by making up some excuse. Maybe the MyPI app distracts his dad as he tries to find another lead on the robberies.

Sandy might want to come with Charlie so he will need to get out of the house. Maybe the part about ‘Do you smell that?’ is actually Charlie finding a way past his sister Sandy.

I also wrote this scene way back when I was thinking about voice. I intended it to be the scene where Charlie met Miasmus, but the story has changed a lot since then and so much of it makes little sense. I’ve just read over it in case there is anything I can use here.

Against the clock

In order to keep the fingers moving on the keyboard and the story flowing, I am writing against the clock. I’m aiming for roughly 750 words on the page, so I’ll write for three fifteen minute timed intervals.

A week later Charlie’s dad was still trying to get another lead on his MyPI app. He spent most of the day staring down at the phone and not taking any notice of what Charlie and Sandy were up to. Charlie took to opportunity to practice his cupcakes. He baked every day, producing batch after batch, changing first one ingredient slightly, then another.

Sandy tested the cupcakes for him. For a small girl she could devour her body weight in cake and still ask for more. She would tell him if she thought they needed a little more vanilla, or a touch more marshmallow. Charlie didn’t tell her about the competition though. That was his secret.

The day of the competition came, and he packaged his best batch yet into a sealed container and stowed it away in his backpack. He told his dad that he was off to a friend’s for the day, but his dad barely paid attention as he headed out the door.

Sandy was a different matter. She stood with her arms crossed and a determined expression.

“Who are you going to see?” she said.

“Just a friend,” Charlie said, tying to keep his tone light.

“Which one?”

Charlie’s mind swirled for a moment. He hadn’t actually come up with a name, and it had to be someone that Sandy didn’t know, or she might want to come with him.

“Chris,” he blurted out.

Woofy came in, making the dog door flap shut behind him.

“Chris who?” said Sandy.

“Chris Cupcake.” Charlie winced on the inside. Why did he say that? That wasn’t a real name.

“Oh. So you’re taking some of your cupcakes for him. Because that’s his name?”

“Yeah, something like that,” said Charlie.

“Well, if there’s any left, can I have them?”

“Sure,” said Charlie. He opened the front door and headed out. Sometimes his sister was so gullible.

At the bakery, there was a crowd gathering. Outside hung a large banner advertising the competition and an expectant hum of chatter went round the crowd.

Charlie pushed his way through the people and inside. The tables had been all moved to one end of the warehouse space and Mr Needem stood next to them accepting the entries as they arrived. Charlie made his way over and took the container out of his backpack. On the way over, they must have jostled against one another because when he took them out they looked a little like they’d been having a fight.

He took one of the display plates and did his best to arrange them so that they looked appealing. He struggled to see their vanilla and marshmallow smell because the other entries on the table swamped it with various other smells. He stood in the rainbow of smells and felt a little dizzy.

“Charlie, your dad never said you were entering,” said Mr Needem.

“No, it’s a surprise. I didn’t manage to bake my birthday cake, but then I saw this and thought I’d try and win.”

“You’re after the golden whisk?” Mr Needem pointed to a display table on which sat a whisk made entirely of gold. It was inside a glass protective dome.

Charlie hadn’t really thought about exactly what the prize would be. He’d thought there might be some cash that he could give his dad to help with the groceries, and maybe buy something other than toast, but he hadn’t expected anything like this.

“It must be worth a fortune,” he said.

“We have a very generous secret sponsor,” said Mr Needem.

“Who is it?” said Charlie.

“They wish to remain anonymous, but you’ll get to meet them if you win.”

Mr Needem finished making a note of all the entrants and then he started to taste them one by one. Charlie wished he had made more of an effort with the appearance of his. The first one Mr Needem tried looked like a rose. The cake and icing formed pale pink petals round a delicate bud. Charlie tried to tell if Mr Needem liked it or not, but he kept his face expressionless as he wrote something down on his clipboard.

Next he moved on to a cupcake that looked like a unicorn head with a swirl of candy for a horn. Then there was a monkey climbing a tree, a fantasy castle with twisted spires and an entire Christmas grotto with santa, his elves and a mountain of presents. By the time he reached the sad, slightly damaged, standard cupcakes that Charlie had made, Charlie was feeling a little sick. He’d spent all his time on the taste, and none on the appearance.

Mr Needem picked one up and sniffed at it as though he wasn’t sure it was actually edible. But then he took a bite, and it was as if he had just entered the sun from the shadows. His face glowed as he finished the entire thing. He scribbled something on his clipboard and then raised a hand for silence.

The crowd hushed down, eager to know who’d be taking home the golden whisk.

“I would like to thank everyone who has entered, and congratulate them on such a high standard of cupcake,” he began. “I myself wish I had the talent to make something that looks so amazing, and tastes so great. Unfortunately, my talents are restricted to bread. Talking of which, please try out today’s special, my sourdough loaf.”

He pointed to a basket of loaves.

“They are the sourest I’ve ever devised. Made with pickled fish.”

Unsurprisingly, no-one rushed to buy.

“But on the cupcakes, I have to choose a winner. That person will win this fantastic golden whisk, and the chance to sell their cupcakes in my shop. There are many cupcakes here today that look fantastic, but there is one that tastes better than all the rest, and is a clear winner.”

Mr Needem paused, and the crowd held its breath.

“The winner is…. Charlie Quick.”

Charlie’s stomach somersaulted, and his hands went cold. He’d won. Mr Needem had chosen his pathetic looking cupcakes over all the other contestants. He could tell it was an unpopular decision. Already there were mutterings in the crowd and people saying that it was a crazy choice. But Mr Needem had obviously made his choice based on taste, and he was the only one who had tasted all the cupcakes. And he’d chosen Charlie’s.


Although I didn’t feel I had a lot to say in this scene, it stands at 1,071 words. Reading back over it, I realise I need the stakes for this competition to be higher. I have alluded to the fact that Charlie’s dad doesn’t have much money, but maybe I need a reason for Charlie to want to win the competition. One idea that springs to mind is to pay for his dad to visit his mum? Or Woofy needs an operation? I’ll have to think about it, but at the moment, the stakes seem a little low.

Total word count 8,510.

Tomorrow I’ll write the scene where I reveal the secret sponsor.

Please subscribe to get the full series as I write it.

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.

Leave a Comment

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