How To Write a Novel — Stuck

Day 52 of writing my novel in public

Photo by Owen Bruce 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 52 — Stuck

Some days you just don’t feel like writing, and this is one of those days. I am not inspired by the story threads as I read them, and I know it is probably not going to be my best writing, but I also know that I need to do it.

Momentum in writing is very important. If you lose it, then trying to get going again is so much harder. It is better that I write some garbage words today and keep going tomorrow than that I stop with this scene still to write.

I know some writers can jump around in the narrative. They work on one scene that interests them, then skip to another one. Eventually, they stitch all the pieces together. So far, I haven’t been able to get this to work for me. Writing the scenes in order for the first draft lets me see the progress that I am making, and that there is an end in sight.

Here are today’s story threads.

  • Charlie counts the cakes as he is doing them. Boo visits him.
  • Charlie has to mix the icing for the cakes and decorate them. He has no help.
  • Charlie is flat out decorating the cupcakes
  • Charlie misses Sandy
  • Charlie eats some toast to make him feel better.
  • Charlie feels homesick and wishes his mum were here.

Against the clock

In order to make sure I write and don’t waste time, I’m using a clock and setting it for fifteen minute bursts. After three of these, I hope to have written 750 words.

Charlie looked out across the tables in front of him and his heart sank. Ten thousand cupcakes needed icing and he hadn’t been given anyone to help. He had no idea where Sandy and Woofy were. They hadn’t been seen since Miasmus took them off to the zoo. Staghorn had been kept busy managing the security arrangements for the launch. As Charlie was making ten thousand cupcakes, he imagined the number of people invited must be around that number. It was going to be big.

He took out his small mixing bowl and fixed it up to the contraption that Staghorn had made for him, then began creating his famous icing. He added some vanilla and some marshmallow flavouring in just the right amounts. The creamy mixture hummed with feathers of cream and gold.

Unfortunately the actual adding of the icing could not be scaled up. All of the helpers that he had been given to prepare the cupcakes were now mysteriously busy on the launch as well, so it was entirely left up to him to ice the cupcakes.

He worked his way along the line, piping a swirl on the top of each one. It was a meditative movement that settled his mind. He hated to say it, but he was missing his sister and Woofy. Despite always feeling that they were in the way and causing problems, it was very quiet without them. He wondered what fun they were up to at the zoo.

The other person he missed terribly was him mum. He tried not to think about her usually, only having a moment of sadness when her postcards came. But today, on his own with this huge task he missed her like when he’d lost a tooth and he couldn’t help but keep finding the gap and remembering.

His mum was a great baker and had taught Charlie everything he knew. Of course he had the added advantage of being able to see the smell of everything and use it to blend the ingredients perfectly. But his mum loved to bake and didn’t mind the mess. Their baking days had always been messy. Bowls sticky with mixture. Fingers dosed in it too. Clouds of icing sugar lifting into the air and settling on their clothes and hair.

Charlie wondered how his dad was managing without them. Surely he was feeling the gap where they were usually? Without a case to focus on he would probably fall apart completely, so it was a good thing he had the thefts. Although it didn’t sound like he was making much progress. If only he would accept that Miasmus was behind it all then maybe he’d be able to stop whatever he was planning.

Whatever it was, Charlie had to stop it. He was convinced that Miasmus had a grudge against his dad. The sticker over his photo was proof of that. And all these thefts of smelly things were part of it, even if Charlie didn’t know exactly what. Somehow it was all connected and he only had a couple of days to figure it out.

He paused for a moment and looked back along the line of cupcakes with an expert eye. Each one was perfectly topped in a crown of icing. Only another nine thousand nine hundred to go.

Later in the afternoon he was still swirling the icing bag when he thought he heard the door. Wiping his hands on his apron, he called out, but nobody answered.

He moved along the side of the bench but he couldn’t see anyone either. Maybe he’d imagined it. He was certainly feeling a little lightheaded. Maybe he needed to eat something.

Deciding to head to his floor for some lunch, he almost tripped over Boo. He was snuffling around on the floor, maybe hoping to find some stray icing. Charlie picked him up. The digital clock around his neck read thirty five hours and forty seven minutes.

“Do you know where my sister is?” Charlie said.

Boo snorted and licked some icing off Charlie’s hand.

“Hey they tickled,” said Charlie giggling.

Charlie carried Boo whilst the lift launched them back to his floor. He asked the restaurant to send up a double portion of toast lathered in real butter and a cup of tea. When it arrived, he put the toast on the table and put Boo down on one side, then sat opposite him. Together they tucked into the toast. Neither of them rushed it. They ate slowly, chewing carefully and enjoying each bite.

He was going to struggle to complete the cupcakes in time, but did that matter? Surely it was more important that he discover what Miasmus was planning? Instead of going back to the icing this afternoon, he was going to do some exploring. But in order to do that, he would need access to the other lifts. And there was one person that could give him access.


The words came easier than I thought they would once I eventually started. It is, however, late in the afternoon already. I lit a candle — lemongrass — which helped calm me into the writing.

Total words so far 23,713.

Tomorrow I write the scene where Charlie challenges Staghorn in order to get access to the other floors.

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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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