How To Write a Novel — Gossip

Day 42 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Vitolda Klein 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 42 — Gossip

I’m writing early today and feeling a bit of pressure to get the words done as we are off to Sydney for a few days. Sometimes having that additional push of knowing that it will be difficult to get the words out if I don’t do them early is just what I need to get to them.

Yesterday I spent some time tidying up the next few scenes, combining some and reordering so that the tension builds. Today’s scene was the one I moved up to earlier. Charlie hears the cleaner talking about it smelling like somebody died in the penthouse and this builds on Charlie’s suspicion that Miasmus might have killed somebody.

Meanwhile, Charlie is struggling with the difficulty of not having time to produce all the cupcakes that Miasmus has demanded. He now has two problems to deal with — making the cupcakes and investigating the penthouse.

These are the story threads I need to include.

  • Cleaner was talking on the phone about cleaning the penthouse, said ‘Did you smell that too?’
  • Overhear the cleaner saying the penthouse smells like someone died in there.
  • Cleaner loves Charlie’s cupcakes
  • Cleaner says penthouse is a pigsty- Boo and Kay live there. Overhear the cleaner saying when the door opened the penthouse smells like someone died in there. No-one except Miasmus is allowed in.
  • What is Miasmus keeping secret in the penthouse?

Against the clock

Today I only have a limited time for writing, and this is where writing against the clock really helps. I set the timer for fifteen minutes and keep writing until it finishes. I allow three fifteen minute bursts to write the 750 words, though I often complete them in just two.

He was still sat on the floor feeling sorry for himself when a middle aged man wearing rubber gloves and pulling a cleaning cart trundled into the kitchen. Staghorn must have alerted him to the mess, as she had disappeared.

The man began cheerfully scraping up the egg, whilst he talked into his earphones. “Did you smell that too? It was pretty terrible wasn’t it?”

Charlie rescued his second batch of cupcakes from the oven and tipped them out to cool, checking that Kay was nowhere nearby.

“I know. It was so horrendous I had to hold my breath. Glory knows what he had been doing. It smelt like somebody had died in there.”

Charlie’s ears pricked up and he moved closer, to try and hear more. The cleaner squished a soapy sponge onto the surface and began to rub.

“Of course it is never going to smell sweet up there. Not with those two creating muck all over, but I’ve never smelt anything like that before. I think I’m going ask to be switched out. I used to think it would be good to get in with the boss, cleaning his private rooms and that, but not after that. I’d rather do the toilets.”

Charlie desperately wanted to ask exactly what the cleaner was talking about, but he didn’t want him to think he’d been listening in.

“Anyway, better go,” continued the man, “I’ve got a right mess here to clean up. Some Charlie was supposed to be making cupcakes but it looks like he decided to decorate the place with the ingredients.”

Charlie shrunk himself down behind the kitchen bench.

“At least it smells better than up there. See you.” He took out his earphones and popped them in a pocket, then began scrubbing at the floor with his mop.

Charlie decided this was his opportunity. He picked up one of the warm cupcakes. They had turned out well, just the right shade of done. A fuzzy cinnamon smell drifted around the cake.

“Excuse me, sorry about all the mess,” said Charlie.

The man jumped a foot in the air. “What? Oh, you scared the life out of me. What you doing skulking round?”

“I said I’m sorry about the mess. It wasn’t completely my fault. I had a bit of an argument with a pig.”

The cleaner peered at Charlie. Drying egg and a cloud of flour clung to his hair, face and clothes in a sticky coat.

“You look like you’ve had a day of it,” he said.

“Would you like this?” Charlie asked, offering him the cupcake. “It’s just out the oven, but cool enough to eat, I think. I haven’t iced it or anything, but it should be good.”

The man’s eyes smiled as he took the cake and tried it. “My, that’s one amazing cake. Even if it did create such a mess making it.”

“Yeah, sorry.”

“A pig was to blame you say? Not Kay by any chance?”

“You’ve met her too.”

“She can be a bit prickly. I make sure she’s nowhere near where I’m cleaning.”

Charlie decided this was his chance to ask about the conversation. “Did I hear you say something about smelling like something died? I didn’t mean to overhear.” He added the last bit quickly.

“Yes. I was cleaning the penthouse.”

“The top floor? What’s up there?”

“It’s his majesty’s bedroom, but it is a pigsty.”

“He’s not very clean?” Charlie couldn’t imagine Miasmus being messy. He was always so smartly dressed.

“No, he’s not bad. But it is literally a pigsty. It’s where Boo and Kay have their pen. There’s normally a bit of a smell. His majesty sprays them with that perfume for pigs, Stoink, but it can’t disguise their poo. Pig manure is the worst.”

“So that’s what you meant when you said it smelt like someone died?”

“No. That was another smell altogether. After I cleaned out the pigpen and put down fresh straw, there was still a terrible smell. Like something had died and was rotting up there.”

“But you didn’t see anything?” asked Charlie.

“I didn’t hang around to find out. His majesty better not blame me for the smell, that’s all I can say. I cleaned same as always. Did my job. And that’s what I’ve done here.”

Whilst they were talking, the man had finished cleaning up the kitchen and polished the benches to a shine. “But I think you better get yourself cleaned up.”

Charlie thanked the cleaner and offered him two more cupcakes to take home. What difference would two less make when he needed to produce over ten thousand?


I had little sense of the character of the cleaner beforehand, but I feel he has a personality in his dialogue that I can work with in the revisions. The elements of the scene make sense to me, and I like the back and forth.

Total words so far 14,944.

Tomorrow, I’ll write the scene where they play hide and seek whilst Charlie tries to find out more about the penthouse.

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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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