How To Write a Novel — Shadowing

Day 47 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Ali Tareq 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 47 — Shadowing

The last two days haven’t gone exactly to plan. But that’s okay. Yesterday I realised that I needed to introduce Miasmus into the baking process so that he can add his secret ingredient, so that became the scene I wrote. Today I have the story threads that didn’t make it into yesterday’s scene to use in today’s scene.

There are two parts to the scene today. First Charlie will attempt to shadow Miasmus and discover the password for his penthouse. When that fails, Sandy will offer to tell Charlie the password, if he promises to take her with him.

These are the story threads.

  • Charlie follows Miasmus.
  • Charlie tries to see Miasmus getting into the penthouse
  • Miasmus catches Charlie trying to see his password. Miasmus says curiosity killed the cat.
  • Sandy knows the password to the penthouse. Says she has been having a chat with Boo and Kay, and they squealed.
  • Charlie agrees to take Sandy with him to the penthouse.

Against the clock

In order to write without the editor kicking in, I’m writing against the clock. I want about 750 words so I’ll write in three fifteen minute bursts.

The following day Charlie worked extra hard. With Staghorn no longer responsible for the baking, they were able to move much faster and the mixture flew out the giant bowl and into refrigerated tanks that the workers then took up to Miasmus. By the time lunchtime arrived they had already completed their quota for the day. Charlie and Staghorn went down to the restaurant for some lunch.

Whilst Staghorn tucked into some liver and onions that she claimed would make her brain strong, Charlie had a jelly and peanut butter sandwich.

“As we’ve finished today’s cupcakes, I thought I might have the afternoon off,” said Charlie.

“We could always get ahead, start on tomorrow’s batch,” said Staghorn.

“My wrist is feeling a little tender.” Charlie rubbed his wrist. It was feeling a little tired, but it wasn’t as sore as he made out.

“Right. I see. We can’t have our genius burning out too soon. I suppose we are on schedule after all.”

“Exactly.” Charlie grinned. “It would give you chance to finish the periodic table.”

“What are you going to do?” said Staghorn.

“I thought I might ask Miasmus if I could shadow him. I’d love the chance to learn more about perfumes.”

Staghorn didn’t look like she totally believed him, but she said, “According to his schedule he’ll be finishing setting up the baking process and leaving floor ninety-one, you might catch him.”

Miasmus was indeed leaving his baking lab on ninety-one as Charlie arrived in the lift. He tried to see round Miasmus into the room, but the doors closed and Miasmus strapped himself in.

“Charlie, how delightful to see you. Where are you off to?” he said.

“I kinda wanted to ask you something,” said Charlie.

“Then don’t hesitate in your question.”

“I really want to know more about perfume.”

The lift countdown finished at that moment and they plummeted downwards to the seventeenth floor. When the doors opened Miasmus released his restraint.

“And you thought I might be able to show you?” he said.

“We’ve finished our batches of cupcakes for the day. Staghorn said we’re on schedule,” Charlie said.

“I see.” Miasmus stood in the lift doorway, preventing the doors from shutting. Charlie held his breath. “Well I suppose a little reward is in order after all the hard work you have been putting in. Why not?”

Charlie popped his restraint and hurried past Miasmus onto the floor.

Five hours later, Charlie was regretting his plan. Miasmus had an encyclopaedic knowledge of the chemical formula of every one of his scents and recited them as he toured Charlie around one of the labs where they were manufactured. The lab itself was a clean zone and Charlie had to don a white protective suit and hood that were much too big for him and made him sweat uncomfortably. Miasmus had a fitted version that didn’t seem to bother him at all.

The labs had all the latest equipment and were mainly operated automatically by computers, but there was the occasional person around in case anything got in the way. Charlie wondered at how precise and orderly everything was. No wonder Miasmus wasn’t impressed with Charlie’s taste it and see method of baking.

When they finally finished the tour, Charlie stripped off his white protective gear and rubbed a cool cloth over his face and hands. Miasmus took his off too, but he looked as neat as ever in his normal white suit. Charlie hoped that maybe Miasmus would be ready to go back to his penthouse, and his heart skipped a beat when Miasmus pressed the button for floor 101.

“I really enjoyed our little tour today. We don’t have many visitors. I hope it has given you some insight into my world,” said Miasmus as the lift shot upwards.

Charlie nodded and tried to look enthusiastic. The lift jerked to a halt and the doors opened. Charlie released his restraint as Miasmus did but as he went to exit the lift, Miasmus put a restraining hand on his shoulder.

“It is Boo and Kay’s nap time, so I won’t invite you into the penthouse, you understand?”

“I’ll be very quiet,” said Charlie.

Miasmus smiled. “I’m sure you would. But not today.”

He stepped to the penthouse doors and Charlie peered, hoping to get a glance at the code. But Miasmus slipped his card out of his pocket and pressed it against the keypad. The doors slid open and yellow fingers of creeping smell slid through the gap and into the reception area.

As the doors to the lift shut, Charlie slapped his forehead. How could he have been so stupid. Of course Miasmus wouldn’t use the code, because he had a card. He’d wasted a whole afternoon bored and hot for nothing.

The lift doors opened again onto the ninety-seventh floor and Charlie tramped along to the seating area. Sandy and Woofy were watching a cartoon on the television.

“What’s up with you?” she said.

“Nothing,” said Charlie, slumping down on a chair.

“I found out what you wanted to know,” she said, not taking her eyes of the programme.


“The code to the penthouse. I know it.”

Charlie sighed. “Sure.”

“If you take me with you, I’ll open the door.”

Charlie didn’t want to think that his sister might have succeeded where he had failed but he also desperately wanted the code.

“Just tell me,” he said.

“Not unless you promise to take me with you,” she said.

What was the harm in promising? If the code didn’t work, then he’d lost nothing. But if it did work, he’d be able to see what Miasmus was up to in there. If there was a dead body rotting away, then that would make her realise why he’d been telling her to stay away from Miasmus.

“Alright, we’ll try at dawn. Miasmus told me he had an early meeting with some scientists tomorrow. How did you find out the code?”

“I asked Boo,” said Sandy, “He didn’t want to tell me but he’s ticklish and I knew he’d squeal in the end.”

Charlie didn’t say anything. It didn’t matter how she found the code, it only mattered that she had, and if she didn’t want to tell him how she really found it, and wanted to make up stories, what did it matter. Tomorrow he’d know whether she had the right digits, and he’d have the proof he needed that Miasmus was trouble.


I cheated today. Instead of three fifteen minute bursts, I wrote for four fifteen minute bursts. I needed to get in the part about Sandy knowing the code. Looking back over this scene it didn’t go as I expected. The whole part with Miasmus giving Charlie a tour was condensed into telling. But that’s okay, because I didn’t have much interesting to say about the tour.

One of the key ideas I’m working on at the moment is being an agile author. Being willing to adapt as the story changes, and not clinging to any ideas too strongly.

Total words so far 19,637.

Tomorrow I’ll write a key scene where Charlie and Sandy investigate the penthouse.

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