How To Write a Novel — Secrets

Day 36 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 36 — Secrets

Yesterday I wrote the scene where Charlie won the cupcake competition. Despite his cupcakes not looking great, they won on taste. In today’s scene, he learns that the secret sponsor behind the competition is Miasmus.

This won’t be much of a surprise, and the reader will expect it. The bigger question is why. What is Miasmus’ motivation for sponsoring the competition and why is he so keen to have Charlie’s recipe? This question I won’t answer until the climax of the book.

The big conflict in this scene is that Miasmus wants Charlie to give him the recipe for his cupcakes, but he can’t because he doesn’t work using one. Charlie has to convince Miasmus that there is no recipe, but doesn’t want to reveal his ability to see smells.

I also see some minor conflict between Miasmus and Mr Needem. They both want Charlie’s cupcakes for themselves, but Miasmus wins because he has sponsored the competition.

These are the story threads I need to include.

  • Miasmus was the secret sponsor behind the cupcake competition. Miasmus wants Charlie’s recipe.
  • Mr Needem wants to sell Charlie’s cupcakes, but Miasmus wants exclusivity.
  • Charlie can’t help Miasmus make his cupcakes because he doesn’t bake using a recipe.
  • Even the pigs Boo and Kay won’t eat Needem’s experimental bread.
  • Mr Needem was at school with Dad and Miasmus — his real name is Eric Kerr. They didn’t get on.

Against the clock

In order to keep the momentum of the writing and not overthink it, I’m doing my writing in short bursts, setting a timer for fifteen minutes and writing until it goes off. I’m looking to write about 750 words today, which I’ll do in three bursts.

Charlie made his way through the grumbling crowd to Mr Needem, then stepped up onto the makeshift stage.

“Congratulations Charlie,” said Mr Needem, “Those were the best cupcakes I’ve ever tasted. What’s your secret?”

Charlie didn’t want to tell anyone about being able to see smells. He wasn’t sure he could it explain it properly and they might even think he’d cheated somehow. He grinned at Mr Needem, not sure what to say, then he was saved by the arrival of the sponsor.

Miasmus made a grand entrance from the back of the shop, with Boo and Kay squealing and leading the way on short leashes. Mr Needem introduced him.

“Please welcome the sponsor of the competition to present the prize, Miasmus, owner of Scents of Adventure.”

A ripple of applause went round the crowd. Miasmus stepped up onto the platform and smiled at Charlie, then looked out at the waiting faces.

“Thank you all for coming today, I’m so happy to see so many smiling faces. And what’s that I smell? Many of you are wearing Scents of Adventure, which makes me very happy. My business has grown enormously and I hope to make a very special announcement in the next week or so, but for today we are here to focus on cake.”

He gestured to Mr Needem who handed Miasmus one of Charlie’s cakes. Kay pulled and strained at her leash, trying to get hold of it as Miasmus took a bite. He shut his eyes and savoured the taste.

“Exquisite,” he declared, “A worthy winner.”

The applause was louder this time, and in Charlie’s chest a balloon of pride swelled.

“And now for the very special prize, the golden whisk.”

Mr Needem lifted the glass dome that had been protecting it, and Miasmus gave the golden whisk to Charlie. It was surprisingly heavy. His slippy fingers smeared the perfectly reflective surface as he raised it over his head.

The crowd cheered and clapped and Charlie took a bow. It was like he drifted ten feet above the platorm on a happy cloud.

When the noise finally died down, Mr Needem guided Charlie towards the back of the shop and into his office. Miamus, Boo and Kay followed them in, then shut the door.

“Now, to business,” said Miasmus. He pulled a sheet of paper from inside his white suit. “I have a contract prepared for you to sign over the rights to your recipe to me.”

“Hang on,” said Mr Needem, “My bakery is going to be producing his cupcakes.”

Miasmus shook his head as though a fly had landed on him. “Now Needem, we’re not going to fight in front of the lad, are we?”

Mr Needem flexed his arm, the muscles bulging as he did so. “We had an agreement.”

“We talked about what might happen. There was nothing written, nothing signed. I have here a contract for the boy.”

“You said that whoever won, I’d be able to sell their cupcakes in my bakery. That was the point of the competition.”

“Let’s not squabble about it. We’re not in the playground now. Charlie here doesn’t want to see us fight.”

Charlie thought it might be quite interesting to see a fight between Miasmus and Mr Needem. He wasn’t sure who would come out better off. Mr Needem had great upper body strength from pounding dough, but Miasmus had Kay, and she looked hungry.

“I’m good friends with his dad, he’s one of my best customers. Why don’t we let Charlie decide who he wants to work with?” said Mr Needem.

They both turned to look at Charlie. His mouth went dry. In a small voice he said, “I can’t give either of you the recipe, sorry.”

“If it is a case of money,” began Miasmus.

“It’s not the money,” cut in Charlie, “I can’t give you the recipe because I don’t have one.”

“You’ve made them so many times that you don’t need one, I see,” said Mr Needem, “But you could write one down for me.”

Charlie struggled to think how he could explain why he couldn’t do that without giving away his secret. He stood dumb for a while, then said, “I just mix some things together and see how it turns out.”

“So this was just a fluke?” said Miasmus, his voice rising.

“No, no. I can do it again. All the cupcakes I make are great. I just don’t have a method I can write down for you. I do it more by instinct, if you know what I mean.”

He looked hopefully at the two men in front of him. Miasmus looked like he didn’t entirely believe him. Mr Needem looked deflated.

“I can make you some more if you like,” said Charlie.

“That would be great,” said Mr Needem, “About a dozen dozen each day would do.”

“I’m not sure I can make that many,” said Charlie.

“They’re mine,” said Miasmus, “Unless you want me to tell everyone your nickname?”

Mr Needem went pale and shook his head.

“Good, that’s settled then. I’ll have to think about this.” He took the contract and stuffed it away again into his suit pocket. “In the meantime, why don’t you take that trophy back to your dad. Come on you two.”

Boo and Kay walked out with him back into the shop. They passed close to Mr Needem’s basket of sourdough bread, and Kay sniffed hopefully but then backed off with a retch. Even she wasn’t eating that.

“What was that all about?” said Charlie.

Mr Needem sat down in a chair with a sigh. “Miasmus, and your dad and me go way back. We were at school together.”

“Dad never mentioned him,” said Charlie.

“We weren’t best mates or anything. We were just all in the same class. In fact, your dad and Miasmus, or Eric as he was back then, didn’t get on at all.”

“Why not?”

“It’s a long story, and it’s not really mine to tell. Maybe you should ask your dad about it.”

Charlie carefully placed the golden whisk in his backpack and headed home to do exactly that.


I am happy with the overall structure of the scene and I included all the story threads I wanted to. I feel like an area of weakness at the minute are the transitions between the various scenes and parts of a scene, but these I can tidy up later.

Total words so far 9,534.

Tomorrow, I’ll write the scene where they visit the botanical gardens.

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