How To Write a Novel — Pig Sty

Day 48 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Matthew Halmshaw 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 48 — Pig Sty

I’ve reached roughly the middle of the first draft. The scene I write today, where Charlie and Sandy break into Miasmus’ penthouse and discover that he is the thief that their dad has been looking for, will be at about the midpoint.

It is a scene of revelation, but not exactly what Charlie was expecting. It is less of a big deal in that Charlie thought Miasmus was hiding a dead body, whereas it is in fact only a stinking corpse flower, but it still makes Miasmus the thief that Charlie’s dad has been looking for.

I’m answering some questions, but asking new ones. Why is Miasmus stealing stinky things? And why does he have a photo of Charlie’s dad with his face covered by a sticker?

These are the story threads for today.

  • The password works, which surprises Charlie.
  • Charlie breaks into Miasmus’ penthouse.
  • Charlie finds a school photo. A sticker covers his dad.
  • Charlie finds the Stinking Corpse Lily in Miasmus’ room.
  • Book open on the bedside has Latin names of plants. Stinking corpse lily and durian fruit.

Against the clock

In order to get the words down without wasting time, I’m going to write in three fifteen minute bursts against the clock. I’m aiming for 750 words.

Charlie and Sandy rose before the sun the next morning. Yawning and with half-closed eyes, they dressed and crept along the corridor to the lift. The launch up to the top floor, even though it was only four floors up, was enough to jerk them awake.

The reception area to the penthouse was lit by a concealed blue-white light that cast fuzzy shadows on the floor.

“How do you know he’s definitely gone?” whispered Sandy.

“He said he had a big meeting today with a group of scientists and they needed to start early to get through everything. I heard him say he’d be up at four,” said Charlie, hoping that it was indeed true.

He still wasn’t convinced that Sandy knew the code to the door, in which case it wouldn’t matter whether Miasmus was here or not. Sandy took Charlie’s answer as enough proof that they wouldn’t be caught and strode up to the keypad. Her finger danced over the numbers, 1763. The keypad glowed green and the door to the penthouse slid open.

The first thing Charlie noticed was the smell. Yellow fingers of stench seeped through the doorway and clutched at him — dead bodies rotting away. Sandy tried to waft it away from her nose.

“You can stay here if it’s too much for you,” said Charlie.

But Sandy followed him inside.

The entire floor made up one large room. At the top of the tower it was smaller than the levels below but still impressive. One side had been partitioned off with a low fence and behind that the floor was covered in straw. Two pink shapes lay snoring on top — Boo and Kay. Charlie put a finger to his lips and Sandy nodded.

Opposite the pig sty stood a four poster bed. The white sheets were tucked neatly under the mattress, and the huge marshmallow of a pillow sat plump and perfectly positioned. If Miasmus had slept in it last night then he had made sure it was made before he left.

Charlie crossed to the bedside table. A book lay spine down on the top, Extreme Gardening. Next to this was a photograph of a group of children in school uniform. Charlie picked it up and peered at the faces. He spotted Miasmus, or Eric as he was then, on one side. Even as a child his hair was thick and unruly.

Next to him was another face that Charlie thought he recognised — Mr Needem. He beamed at the camera. Then came a third person but their face had been hidden by a sticker of an explosion. With care Charlie picked at the edge and lifted the sticker. Underneath his dad’s youthful face smiled back at him.

“Why’s his face covered?” asked Sandy, peering round Charlie.

“Dunno,” said Charlie, smoothing the sticker back down again, though he suspected it was because they had not been friends as kids, as Mr Needem had said. Still it seemed strange that Miasmus still kept this photo on his bedside.

“I don’t see no body,” said Sandy.

“I told you, Miasmus is in a meeting,” said Charlie.

“Not nobody. No dead body to make that terrible smell.”

Charlie had grown used to the yellow crawling fingers that circled his vision by now, but looked round the room to see if there was a place they were stronger. Miasmus had a two hundred and seventy degree view over the city through picture windows which left very little room to hide anything. In front of the window, however, on one side stood a pot with a large flowering plant. The centre was a tall white tower surrounded by a deep purple flower. Yellow fingers of stink clung to it, flowing outwards to the rest of the room.

“It’s coming from that,” said Charlie, pointing it out to his sister. He picked up Extreme Gardening and turned it over to the page Miasmus had been reading.

Amorphophallus titanum or the corpse flower is the largest flowering shrub in the world. It can take many years to bloom and then will only last for two to three days. The smell resembles a rotting corpse and so despite being large and quite beautiful it is not recommended for weddings, unless you don’t like the couple and want to let them know.

“Why would Miasmus want one of those?” said Sandy.

“I’m not sure, but I know where he got it from,” said Charlie, “That’s one of the plants that Professor Palmer said had been stolen from the botanical gardens. Miasmus is the smelly thief that Dad has been looking for.”


I’m happy with the bones of this scene. It covers the important points without labouring them. In fact, I think in revision there may be room to expand it a little more. Why is the code 1763? Do they wake Boo and Kay up accidentally? Does Charlie have to tell his sister how he knows where the smell is coming from, or at least she asks him questions about it?

Total words so far 20,405.

Tomorrow I’ll write a key scene where Charlie tells his dad what they’ve discovered.

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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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