How To Write a Novel —Feedforward

Day 27 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Etienne Girardet 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 27 — Feedforward

Yesterday I wrote the opening pages of the first draft of my book. Reading back over them makes me cringe because it is rough. But I need to see beyond the state it is now to the potential of what it will become.

“The sculpture is already complete within the marble block, before I start my work. It is already there, I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.”

― Michelangelo

I’m resisting the urge to go back and tinker with yesterday’s words. There will be a time for revision later. I need to keep moving forward. I can learn from what I did, looking at what worked and what didn’t, but at this stage I need to avoid feedback into what I’ve already done and instead feedforward into what I’m going to write today.

So what am I working on today?

My second scene has the following story threads to weave together.

  • Charlie’s dad doesn’t want Charlie making a mess of the house and baking cupcakes for this birthday. Charlie’s mum always did the cooking and his dad can only make toast.
  • Security is guarding Scents of Adventure, won’t let them in due to Woofy.
  • Dad and the security guard square off.
  • Charlie’s dad uses his MyPI app.
  • Security guard is a member of PENSA.
  • Charlie’s dad went to NAPI — National Academy of Private Investigation.
  • Sandy notices two pigs inside the shop.
  • Charlie thinks Sandy is being silly saying there are pigs in the store.

Also, I have some funny bits from Day 13 to make sure I include.

  • The security guard is an old age pensioner and a member of PENSA, the society of pensioners with extremely high IQ. She is small and wiry and an expert wielder of knitting needles. She likes to make crochet models of the double helix structure of DNA.
  • Boo and Kay, the pet pigs, are opposites. Boo is sweet tempered and loving and nuzzles your hand. Kay is hot-headed and angry and will bite your fingers.

Against the clock

To avoid procrastinating and overthinking, I’m writing against the clock. I’m aiming for about 750 words today, which I’ll aim to do within three fifteen minute bursts.

The queue moved incredibly slowly and Charlie grew restless.

“Dad, let’s come back another day. I don’t even want aftershave — I’m not shaving yet. Can’t we just go buy some stuff to make a cake? That’s what I’d really like.”

His dad looked at him with his don’t-mess -with-me eyes.

“I’m not having you messing up the house with all your bowls and pans and stuff. What would your mum think if she came back to that?”

Charlie thought that she wouldn’t care at all. Not that he thought she was coming back any time soon.

“And you don’t need to worry about your birthday tea, I’ve got that sorted,” continued Dad.

Charlie doubted that. His mum had always been the cook in the family, and his dad had never bothered to learn how to use anything other than the toaster. He made a mean slice of toast, but that was about it.

Finally they reached the front of the line and found an older woman sat on high stool next to the door. She was knitting something like a giant twisted snake. Dad went to move past her but as he did so a knitting needle shot out blocking his path.

“Don’t move a muscle,” she said. She wore a dark blue uniform with the word Security embroidered across the pocket. She smelled blue and intricately patterned like lace.

Dad inched a centimetre forward but she poked the knitting needle into his ribs causing him to wince.

“I said, not one muscle. You lot are not going in there.”

Dad cleared his throat. “I’ve come to buy my son here his first bottle of scent.”

“That may be sir, that may be, but I’m afraid there’s no animals allowed. Policy.”

Sandy pushed her way forward, “He’s not just an animal, he’s Woofy, and he’s promised to be on his best behaviour.”

“Then he can be on his best behaviour out here.”

“Either he goes in, or I don’t,” said Sandy.

The woman behind them in the queue, a rather tall lady wearing a fur coat, tutted and whispered something to her husband.

“That’s not fair,” said Sandy, “You’ve let those pigs into the store.”

Charlie cringed. Sandy always came out with stuff like this. Mum always said she had a very vivid imagination. Charlie always said she was nuts.

“They’re very special pigs,” said the woman.

Charlie looked where Sandy was pointing. There were indeed two pigs inside the store. One had a purple bow around its neck whilst the other one wore a studded collar.

“And this is a very special dog,” said Sandy.

“Look. I’m just doing my job. I don’t make the rules. Those pigs are Boo and Kay, the pets of Mr Miasmus, and he owns Scents of Adventure, so he’s allowed to bring his pigs into his store if he wants. You are not.”

“What’s that you’re knitting?” Charlie asked, hoping to get the woman onside.

“Deoxyribonucleic acid,” she said.

“Right,” said Charlie.

“You don’t know what that is, do you. It’s DNA, it’s what we’re all made out of. I’m making a replica of the double helix structure of DNA in wool. Just to keep me mind busy. You might think I’m just a security guard, but I’m actually president of PENSA.”

“What’s PENSA?” Charlie said.

“Here, look.” She took a card out of her pocket and showed it to them.

PENSA — the organisation for pensioners with very large IQs

Penelope Staghorn — President.

“If you’re a pensioner you shouldn’t be working,” said Dad.

“Blatant ageism. Who are you to stay I shouldn’t?” She drew her knitting needle on him again.

Not to be outdone, Charlie’s dad took out his phone and showed her his MyPI app. Everything related to his job went into this app. He pulled up his credentials.

March Quick

Private Investigator

“Well, Mr Quick, I think it is time you marched yourself off home.”

Dad looked as though he was about to snap her knitting needle in two, so Charlie butted in, “Why don’t I go in on my own. You three can meet me at the bakery.”

The wind went out of his dad and the sad look he’d had since mum left settled again on his face.

“Alright, here’s a twenty for the aftershave, and make sure it’s Juzz for Men. Don’t let them sell you anything else.”

Charlie wasn’t sure that they would sell him anything in this store for twenty dollars but he just wanted them gone so he took the money and smiled at Mrs Staghorn as he walked past her into the store.


There are the bones of the scene there, at least. I like some of the characterisation. Sandy is already showing she is feisty and a little unusual. Staghorn and Charlie’s dad have set themselves up as enemies. Charlie is trying to keep everything steady. I completed the scene in my three fifteen minute bursts, minus the time to answer the door to the post worker.

Oh, and I came up with a name for the security guard: Penelope Staghorn. Not sure where that came from, but I quite like it.

Tomorrow I will write the next scene where Charlie meets Miasmus inside the store.

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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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