How To Write a Novel — Skunk

Day 59 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Vincent van Zalinge 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 59 — Skunk

Some days, the numbers help me keep writing. I’m on day 59 of writing this novel. That’s just under two months I’ve invested time every day to work on my words. So far, I have written just under 30,000 words of the first draft. That leaves about 10,000 words to go. I’m three quarters of the way through.

At my current pace of about 750 words a day, that means that I will finish the first draft in about two weeks. The finish line is within sight now and although I may feel tired of this story, I know I can reach the end.

This is the point where I need to stick with what I’m working on. Shiny new ideas are lurking in the shadows, calling me off the path I’m on. They promise fantastic fresh stories where the words flow swift with the rushing waters and I can go with the flow instead of feeling that I’m fighting upstream.

But they are sirens.

Do not listen to them.

Yes, there are stories that promise great dividends if I heed their call, but not at the moment. I have a story underway and it needs to be finished.

These are the story threads for today.

  • Sandy opens all the other cages
  • Sandy talks the skunk out of attacking Charlie. He thanks her.
  • Miasmus catches up with them, but Staghorn covers for them.

Against the clock

I’m doing my writing against the clock. Three fifteen minute timed sessions should allow me to write about 750 words.

Sandy held on to Charlie for a couple of minutes before she let go.

“Woofy,” she said, holding out her hand for Staghorn’s keypass.

Charlie handed it to her and waited whilst she ran up the pyramid steps again and freed Woofy. He came bounding down and nearly bowled Charlie over in his enthusiasm. Long dog licks wetted Charlie’s face as he patted Woofy.

“Good boy. Sorry they locked you up,” he said, tickling Woofy behind the ears.

Sandy seemed to have disappeared again, and Charlie called out her name.

“I’ll be there in a minute,” she shouted back.

Charlie led Woofy back to Staghorn, who had taken the time to start knitting some new project.

“We’d better get going,” she said. “If anybody asks, Sandy and Woofy escaped on their own. Where is she?”

“Not sure. She said she’d be back in a minute,” said Charlie.

They sat waiting for what seemed like forever before Sandy came back and handed Staghorn her pass.

“Where have you been?” said Staghorn.

“I just had something I had to do,” said Sandy with a smile.

Charlie had an uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. Something screeched from the undergrowth. “What is that noise?”

“Come on, let’s move,” said Staghorn, forging a path back out with her knitting needle.

Sandy went next, and Charlie followed behind. The zoo suddenly seemed a lot livelier than when they went in. He thought he saw a flash of something in the trees, but it was gone before he could identify it.

“Did you open any of the other cages?” he called to Sandy.

“No,” said Sandy.

“I just saw something moving through the trees,” he said.

“I didn’t open any of the cages. I opened all of the cages,” said Sandy.

“What?” said Staghorn stopping dead and turning on them.

“It was cramped in those cages. There wasn’t room to move. I promised the others that I would free them as soon as I got out.”

“There were other people locked up?” said Staghorn.

“Animals. Lots of different kinds. I think Miasmus must have been trying to restock his zoo or something. But he locked them all in small cages, and it’s not right.”

Charlie felt something tickle his ankle and looked down. A row of bright orange bugs the shape of a shield, each about the length of his little finger marched across his shoe, some venturing up his trouser leg. He danced a jig to shake them off, and one sprayed at him. A jet of foul smell, deep blue and jagged like torn paper, rose from the spray.

“Stink bugs,” said Staghorn, “Did you let them out?”

“The tank was not big enough for them, and there wasn’t enough food,” said Sandy.

“Come on, let’s get out of here quick,” said Staghorn.

She started marching away, cutting through the undergrowth with long swipes of her needles.

Charlie spent a few moments shaking the last of the stink bugs from him, careful not to disturb them too much. Staghorn and Sandy had already gained quite a lead on him when he set off again.

He ran forward to catch up, but something else crossed his path. A streak of black and white fur followed by four smaller streaks. Fur stuck out at all angles, like the time his dad tried to cut Charlie’s hair. He skidded to a stop but his foot must have caught the tail of the larger creature. It growled a warning at him and stopped dead.

Charlie had never seen a skunk before in real life but he knew what one looked like from pictures and old cartoons. It could almost have been a badger, but its tail was long and fluffy like a black and white feather duster. The tail was now lifted into the air, high above the creatures back. It stamped its front feet on the ground.

“Sorry,” said Charlie, holding out a hand, “I didn’t mean to startle you.”

The four baby skunks had taken shelter behind the mother. She didn’t seem to have understood Charlie, and started to turn around. He started to back away, knowing that she was probably getting ready to spray him. The smell from the tiny little stink bug had been bad. He didn’t want to find out how much worse this would be.

The tail started to lift.

“Hey, he’s my brother, he’s okay.” Sandy had come back and was talking to the front end of the skunk. The skunk made a few more growly noises.

Charlie didn’t dare move. He tensed all his muscles ready to spring away as far as he could.

“That’s right, he didn’t put you in the cage with your babies, I promise,” said Sandy.

The tail of the skunk lowered.

“You can find something to eat that way,” said Sandy, pointing off into the grasses.

Somehow the skunk must have understood her because it ambled away, followed by the four little ones.


I don’t feel I have done this whole zoo sequence justice. With a little more research and thought, I’m sure it can be much better. But I have some material to work with, and that’s all I should ask for the first draft.

Total words so far 30,208.

Tomorrow I write the scene where Charlie and Sandy leave 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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