How To Write a Novel — Contraption

Day 44 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Mario Calvo 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 44 — Contraption

Today’s scene is one that I have been looking forward to writing. When I first had the idea of how Charlie could scale up his cupcake production, it seemed quirky and fun. Once I knew Staghorn, the security guard for Miasmus, had a high IQ, she naturally became the instigator of the solution.

Now that I come to write it, however, I realise I don’t have that much to go on. There is only the same beat mentioned in three different story threads.

  • Staghorn makes a device that enables Charlie to make cupcakes on a grand scale.

So I am left with wondering how to make this into a full scene.

In fact, I don’t think that at the moment it is a full scene. It is important, and I want to do it justice, but it has nothing layered behind the idea of Charlie scaling up his cupcake making.

So I am left writing a scene that I know will need a lot of work in the future. But then I have to remind myself that this is a first draft. Many of these words will need work before they make it into the final story. But there is no point in letting the fear of writing the wrong words stop me completely. If I do that and come to a stop, then starting again will be so much harder without the momentum.

I’m going to write the words, but maybe you shouldn’t read them. They will be terrible.

Against the clock

I’m ready to write against the clock. Three fifteen minute bursts to write the 750 words for today.

For the rest of the afternoon Charlie thought about the puzzle of the penthouse code. How come in films they could always easily guess the code? Maybe it was something like Miasmus’ birthday or perhaps the birthday of Boo or Kay but as he didn’t know any of those, it would be difficult for him to guess. And he didn’t know how he could find any of those things out without asking directly, and that would surely make someone suspicious.

He lay down in the hammock, watching the clouds float by the lounge on their floor. After a while his head started to hurt with the possibilities of the codes and he decided to go and bake. Even if there wasn’t any way he could make all the cupcakes that Miasmus wanted him to, he knew that baking would relax him.

But when he emerged from the lift on the right floor, the door to the kitchen was barred. Yellow tape criss-crossed the door with the message Caution, No Entry, Construction Zone. Charlie tried to peer in to see what was happening but the room was hidden in darkness. The sound of hammering thudded through the floor and up his legs.

Gently, Charlie parted the tape to make a gap and clambered through into the kitchen. The space had been transformed. Giant pieces of wood hung from the ceiling, pinioned together with large bolts. They disappeared up into the roof space. But the hammering was coming from next door. The large window that divided the floor into two kitchens had a curtain pulled across it.

Charlie crossed to the curtain and lifted one corner. Beyond he saw Staghorn whacking a giant mallet against a chisel. He watched as she continued her work, oblivious to her audience. Each stroke of the mallet chipped away at one end of an enormous trunk of wood. Slowly she carved a rounded curve into the wood till it resembled a giant spoon.

What was she doing? The spoon was so large that there was no way Charlie could lift it. Unless she had a true to life giant hiding somewhere in The Smell Tower, the spoon seemed pretty stupid. She raised a hand to her forehead and wiped away a sheen of sweat, and noticed Charlie.

He let the curtain drop back into place and retreated back towards the door but she appeared before he could escape.

“I suppose you haven’t learnt to read,” she said, pointing to the tape.

“What is that you’re building?” he said.

“Only the way for you to finish those cakes Mr Miasmus wants,” she said smugly.

“Not to suggest you haven’t thought of everything, but there’s no way I can lift that spoon,” said Charlie.

“Of course not, you ninny.” Staghorn shook her head.

“Then how?”

“I suppose we’re just about ready to try it.” She pulled the curtain back from the window and switched all the lights back on. Charlie could now see that as well as a giant spoon, there was a giant bowl to go with it. Staghorn pulled a standard bowl out of the cupboard and a standard sized spoon. All it needed now was a medium sized set and he’d be expecting Goldilocks to turn up.

Instead, Staghorn linked the standard spoon onto the jointed wooden structure she had constructed that disappeared up into the roof and appeared to be connected to a similar structure in the other room. Then she indicated for Charlie to follow and led him next door. Together they managed to heave the giant spoon vertical, lifted it into the bowl and Charlie held it whilst Staghorn screwed it into the wooden armature on this side.

Charlie stood back and looked at the whole thing. In one room was a standard mixing bowl and spoon, and in the other a giant version of the same thing. The wooden links connected the two.

“You stand in there, and scoop the ingredients into the bowl,” she said, pointing to the first room. “I’ll make sure it all works over there.”

Charlie pulled the ingredients out of the cupboard and lined them up on the counter. He started with the flour, scooping the right amount out of the packet and into the bowl. He glanced across into the other room where Staghorn guided the giant spoon down into a flour sack. As he scooped the flour into his bowl, the same happened in the other room on a much larger scale.

Next he took out a bowl of eggs that Staghorn must have already beaten and scooped some in. In the large bowl, Staghorn guided the spoon to do the same. He continued to add milk, sugar and flavouring. Each action he did was copied big scale. When the ingredients had been added, he started to stir the mixture, and the giant spoon spun in the bowl through the glass.

When he smelt that the mixture was just right, he signalled to Staghorn. She came back through.

“There you go, we have the mixture for forty-eight times the cakes you have made here, over there.”

“But it will take forever for me to spoon it into cases,” said Charlie.

“That bit is easy, I’ll get some people in to help get them ready for the oven. Now we have the perfect mixture, that’s the bit that only you could do.”

And so they did. Staghorn called in an army of Miasmus’ workers to dollop the mixture into regular-sized cupcake tins. On a signal from Charlie they slid them all into the ovens round the kitchen walls and when the room had filled with the perfect shade of cinnamon smell, he told them to take them all out again.

Once it was cool enough to eat, Staghorn tasted one of the cakes and gave him a huge grin. Charlie felt like a giant weight had been lifted. With Staghorn’s help he could finish the cupcakes Miasmus wanted.


That was painful. The words didn’t take that long to write, less than forty-five minutes, but I had to work myself up to doing the writing. And I don’t want to read them again at the moment. I am not satisfied with them. Hopefully tomorrow will be better.

Total words so far 17,002.

Tomorrow I write the scene where Miasmus phones his dad.

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 *