How To Write a Novel — Half Truths

Day 37 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Hà Nguyễn 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 37 — Half Truths

It is amazing how the words add up day by day. Consistency is the key. I’m only adding around 750 words each day, roughly one scene, and I spend about an hour a day on the writing, but I’m feeling the momentum of consistent practice.

Today’s scene contains a mixture of two pieces. One is Charlie asking his dad about whether he remembers Eric from their schooldays. His dad denies it, but Charlie sees he is not being completely truthful.

The second is another robbery has taken place, this time at the botanical gardens. I need another minor character. This one will get a name, but may only appear in this scene. Or maybe I’ll bring all these minor characters back for the launch event towards the end of the book. Maybe that could be part of Miasmus’ plan? I’ll think about it.

There are a few story threads I need to include today.

  • Sandy tells Dad that Charlie had won the cupcake competition.
  • Charlie’s dad tells him off because he entered the baking competition without permission.
  • Charlie’s dad says he doesn’t really remember Miasmus, but he knew someone called Eric. He doesn’t tell Charlie much.
  • Robbery at the botanical gardens. Theft of rafflesia arnoldii that is about to flower and the fruit of the durio zibethinus. They are both known for being smelly.
  • Sandy says the bees told her Miasmus was here. Charlie ignores her.

Against the clock

Here we go, three fifteen minute bursts of writing against the clock to get the words down as effectively as possible.

When Charlie returned home, his dad was waiting for him.

“Glad you’re back, we need to leave,” he said, bundling Sandy and Charlie into the back of the car.

“What’s the hurry?” asked Charlie as they pulled out of their driveway.

“He’s had an alert on the MyPI app,” said Sandy, “It flagged a burglary at the botanical gardens as maybe related to the other crimes. He’s been waiting for you to get back to set off. Did the cupcakes go down well?”

“Yeah, I won,” said Charlie, opening his backpack and giving her a glimpse of the golden whisk.

“What do you mean you won? Won what? That looks like gold.”

Charlie slapped his forehead. He’d forgotten he hadn’t told his sister where he was going. She thought he was at his friend’s house. What had he called him? Calvin Caketins? Connor Cookbuns? It didn’t much matter now he’d given the game away.

“I sort of lied to you before,” he admitted.

“Sort of lied?” said Sandy, her eyes wide.

Why did she always make things so much harder?

“Yeah, I entered a cake competition at Mr Needem’s. And I won. That golden whisk was the prize.”

Dad spoke over his shoulder, “What are you two muttering about?”

“Charlie won a cupcake competition,” said Sandy loudly.

Charlie gave her a jab in the side.

“Cupcakes?” His Dad did not sound pleased. “I thought we’d discussed this.”

“I paid for them,” said Charlie.

“The issue is I told you to forget about them. And what’s this about a competition?”

“It was sponsored by someone you know, actually,” said Charlie, keen to change the subject.

“Who’s that?”

“Mr Needem said you were at school together. Back then he was called Eric.”

As he said this, Charlie watched his father’s expression in the rear view mirror. There was a brief moment when his dad looked puzzled, then he seemed to remember something and looked guilty.

“Don’t remember him,” he said.

“He remembered you,” said Charlie.

“Really? What did he say?”

“Not much. Just that he knew who you were.”

Charlie’s dad mumbled something to himself and turned the radio on. He hadn’t even asked Charlie what the prize was, but that suited Charlie. The golden whisk must be worth some money, but at that moment it was worth even more to Charlie. It said someone appreciated his baking.

They parked on the street outside the botanical gardens and walked up to a large greenhouse. Inside, many green smells of fresh plants from dark and wavy to bright and wispy hung in the air. A woman wearing muddy boots and overalls stood measuring leaves with a pair of callipers. She recorded the measurements on a tablet.

“Excuse me,” said Dad, “Are you in charge here?”

The woman stopped what she was doing and turned to them.

“Yes, I suppose you could say that. I’m Professor Palmer.” She held out a hand, then realised it was covered in a thick gardening glove and pulled it back. She shrugged off the glove and tried again.

Dad shook her hand. “March Quick.”

“You’ve come about the robbery I expect? Quick by name and quick by nature eh? I like efficiency. I’ve only just reported it. And not just uniform either.”

“Yes,” said Dad.

Charlie was pretty sure the Professor thought his dad was from the police, but Dad didn’t say anything to change her mind about that.

“They took two items. A rafflesia arnoldii that was about to flower and some fruit of the durio zibethinus.”

Dad’s fingers hovered over his MyPI app. “Could you spell that please?”

“Give it here,” she demanded, opening her hand to take Dad’s phone. He passed it over and she typed the names into the app.

“Are they stinky by any chance?” said Charlie.

“You know your latin names eh? I’m impressed,” said the Professor.

“Just a hunch,” said Charlie.

“Good intuition, then. Yes, they are actually. Both of them have a rather pungent aroma. Not that I mind, particularly. I’m used to it. But visitors complain sometimes.” She handed the phone back to Dad. “Training him up to join the force?”

“Something like that,” said Dad, “Any witnesses to the crime?”

“No. It must have occurred sometime between 1.17pm and 2.24pm as that’s when I retired for a little light refreshment. And there’s no security footage either, I’m sorry to say.”

“So you’ve no idea who might want to do this?”

“None at all I’m afraid.”

“Well, thanks for your time,” said Dad, putting his phone away.

“No, thank you for yours. I hope that you’re able to make some progress on the slight details I’ve given you.”

“We’ll do our best.”

Sandy must have wandered off whilst they were talking but she joined them back at the car. On the way back she said to Charlie, “That man with the pigs was here earlier.”

“How do you know?” said Charlie.

“The bees told me.”

Charlie wondered for a moment if maybe Miasmus had been here. He was certainly turning up a lot lately. But how could Sandy know if he had been? It was probably just Sandy being Sandy.


I’m liking how that scene came together today. Not to say that I won’t look at it tomorrow and hate it, but I’m happy with it at the moment.

Total words 10,395.

Tomorrow I’ll write the last scene for Act 1, where Miasmus persuades Charlie’s dad to let Charlie, Sandy and Woofy stay at The Smell Tower.

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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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