How To Write a Novel — Recipe

Day 54 of writing my novel in public

Photo by CHUTTERSNAP 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 54 — Recipe

Today’s scene is going to be mainly description and action and I don’t really know how I’m going to get Charlie from knowing there is a secret floor to finding it. So it will be a journey of discovery for me as much as Charlie.

What that probably means is that I will write more than I would usually, and many of the words will not make it into the book, but it will all be useful as part of finding the story.

These are the story threads for today.

  • Charlie searches the secret floor.
  • Charlie discovers Miasmus has a secret stink lab full of all the stolen goods.
  • There is a top secret recipe that includes all the stinkiest ingredients. Charlie takes some as evidence.

Against the clock

In order to make sure the words get written, I am writing against the clock. I set the timer for fifteen minutes and write until it goes off. Three fifteen minute bursts should be enough for the target 750 words.

When he was back on his floor, Charlie sat down and looked at the three floors with no lifts again: sixty-eight, seventy-five and ninety-two. His key card only allowed him access to prime floors. If he wanted to see what was hidden on the most secure floors then he needed to get close enough and then see if he could find a way into one of them.

Charlie wrote down a list of all the prime numbers from two to one-hundred and one. Those were the floors that he could access. The only one of the three secret floors that was next to one of the prime floors was sixty eight. He could use his keycard to access sixty-seven and from there see if he could find a way into sixty-eight.

He knew that he should be icing the cupcakes. If he wasted much more time then it would become almost impossible for him to finish them in time for the launch. But his priority was working out what Miasmus was up to. If he didn’t know that then he couldn’t warn his dad.

The lift dropped down from ninety-seven to sixty-eight in less than a second. Charlie was growing used to the feeling now though, and as he strapped himself in he was thinking about what he would tell anyone he might meet as to why he was on sixty-eight. Unfortunately he had no idea what the purpose of the floor was. He had been in The Smell Tower long enough that he didn’t think he could use the excuse that he was lost.

But what about using the launch as an excuse? With the deadline so soon, and everyone put on special duties he could maybe get away with pretending that he was on a mission for Miasmus. On second thoughts, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. If they checked in with him, then he’d be onto Charlie straight away. A better idea was to say Staghorn had sent him. He felt she might be more likely to back him up and ask questions later.

The lift doors opened onto a floor filled with people. Charlie had to step out as four or five of them were waiting to enter the lift.

“It is such a genius scent. I think this is going to redefine the dating scene for years to come,” said one man as he entered.

The lift doors closed before Charlie could hear the reply.

“Testers through the door on the right please.” An officious looking woman with a clipboard steered Charlie through a door and into the next room.

A line of people snaked their way across the floor and up to a curtained off area at the far side. The group was diverse. All ages, heights, widths and ethnicities of people waited patiently for their turn to enter the mysterious area at the far side.

Charlie shuffled forward with the queue, scanning the room as he did so. When each person entered the gap between the curtains, another one exited. For a brief moment Charlie glimpsed a seat raised up like a throne and a woman sat looking extremely bored. Another woman to one side sprayed her from an unmarked and unremarkable bottle. Then the curtain swished back into place.

Some sort of testing of the new scent, Charlie thought. He would be swept in and out again if he didn’t move away and explore more of the floor.

He stepped out of line and a man in a security uniform rushed over to intercept him.

“Excuse me sir, step back please.”

Charlie was about to say he was on a mission from Staghorn when he realised the next question would be why was he in line at all then. Quickly he changed tack, “I need the toilet.”

The man gave him a blank stare.

“Please?” said Charlie.

The man pointed to the door he had been stood in front of. “This way,” he said.

Charlie walked out through the door. The man followed him. It was not going to be that easy to search. They continued along a short corridor to the toilets and the man waited outside whilst Charlie entered.

The room was polished gleaming white and green antiseptic spikes rose up from every surface. Across the far wall stood three urinals with windows above that looked out over the city. To his right stood three sinks and opposite three cubicles. In the corner between the sinks and urinals was a door with a no entry sign. That’s where Charlie headed but the door was firmly locked. It was probably only a storage cupboard anyway.

The security man might be in to see where he was at any moment. Charlie went into a cubicle to give himself a little time to think and sat down. How was he going to get some space to search? He let his head rest back against the wall.

That’s when he noticed the false ceiling. Above him a grid of metal strips held square panels. Charlie stepped carefully up onto the closed toilet lid and reached with his fingertips to them. The tile lifted slightly. He stood on tiptoe and pushed it up and to one side revealing a dark opening.

If he could somehow get up there, maybe he could find a way to floor sixty-seven.

Three thuds on the door and the guard said, “You done in there?”

“Sorry. Must have eaten something dodgy,” said Charlie, adding in a groan at the end for effect.

“Two minutes,” said the guard. Charlie heard him swing back out the toilet.

Charlie had never been great at gymnastics, but now was his chance to do better. He sprang upwards and grabbed at the metal support above him. His legs dangled awkwardly for a moment before he caught the edge of the cistern and pushed himself up into the ceiling space.

A grey cloud of stale air fogged his vision. Charlie fought the urge to gag and levered himself up so he could replace the ceiling tile behind him. It was dark and his skin crawled with imagined spiders. He wasn’t sure whether the guard would raise an alarm when he was missing, but he wasn’t going to wait to find out.

He wriggled himself forward and started to crawl.


So I’ve written around 1000 words for today and still he hasn’t found the secret floor and the recipe. But that’s okay. I have some ideas here about how Charlie locates the secret floor. I can always change it later if I have some better ideas. Some days, you just have to get the words down and know that the process is more important than the outcome.

Tomorrow I will carry today’s scene on to the secret floor.

Total words so far 26,042.

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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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