Bloody hell, now it's five minutes until Christmas. Thankfully I've done a lot in the interim though. One friend read it and had positive comments (not much help, really, except to my ego). Another did and found several glaring errors. I've given it to a few more who haven't responded yet and to be honest I think they were only being polite when they offered.
But most importantly, I've done my own read through, and I found a lot (although not as many as I suspected at this stage). It wasn't just a breeze through on screen either, I paid $50 to get it all printed out (500 double sided A4 pages) and sat in bed or on the lounge for what was probably a full 48-72 hours over the course of a month or so and went through the whole thing, red pen ruthlessly in hand.
Along with the grammatical errors and typos I found a few more things I decided to change, which proves the old axiom that works of art are never finished, only abandoned.
Then came a few more nights of inputting the changes and doing a few rewrites. Among the biggest was the sequence when Dale and Vicki are at home in bed late and he wakes up with the brace going haywire. It's a good narrative crux to get to the next piece of the story, but when I read it back I realised it just wasn't very scary – in the horror story, supernatural sense. So I rewrote it as a moody, dark haunted house scene, one I hope works and gets both you and Dale and Vicki to the same place.
Next step now is to finish the list of changes that came out of the reading process in the DO document – most of them are pretty easy checks and fixes – and print it one more time for my beloved to proofread. Then it's back home to Australia to engage a very talented designer I hope is still interested to help build the visual flair.
One part I'm kind of excited about is the shot of the new bridge I intend to have in the opening pages, which arose out of an idea I had ages ago. Way back in the first few drafts I described the way the new bridge looked in pretty excruciating detail – the shape of the pylons, the verticals being shorter at each end and taller in the middle and how it shadowed the arch shape of the old bridge, etc.
At some point since then something struck me because of books I've read, and it's that when describing a visual in text, the human brain doesn't have a good enough memory to retain each piece and build the visual in their mind. The writer doesn't have the same problem because it's already in their mind and they're just describing it piece by piece, but (in the case of Falling) you'll have forgotten that the pylons are rocket-shaped or outback red and ochre in colour by the time you're imagining the height of the verticals.
It gave me what I still feel is a very important pointer that I actually had written in the DO document for a long time until I think I internalised it; when setting a scene, use mood and not description. I suppose it's a related spin on 'show, don't tell'.
If I describe the pylons as being shaped like square-shaped orange and red rockets I have to realise you'll do the rest as the reader – it won't be exactly as I imagined them myself, but it'll be enough by putting you in the right frame of mind rather than wasting paragraphs of description you're not going to retain.
I did subsequent versions of the rewrite with that sentiment pretty front and centre in my head wherever I could, and at some point it occurred to me that when it comes to the new bridge, I should go one step further. Not only is it an important place in the story I'd like you to feel like you know on a deeper level than text can convey, I'd like you to get the visual right in their head – even referring back to it if you want (like the ubiquitous maps in the inside covers of Tolkein's Rings trilogy).
So step one is to acquire a good, clear, high-level image of the bridge and harbour, and step two is to take hours painstakingly Photoshopping the existing bridge out and illustrating the new one in so it looks photo-real. Though I never imagined it when I came up with the idea, step two is looking like the easy part.
It's a tricky proposition. I can go for existing pics that just happen to match what I want, but original photography is likely to be either extremely expensive (if I set exact conditions) or a bit bodgy (if someone does it as a favour or on the cheap).
I've asked a few people I know who might be able to get such a photo on a one off basis just in case it's possible so we'll see. One of the friends I asked actually has a connection with a government department that flies helicopters which I hope works out, because I know hiring one and a photographer is prohibitively expensive. The same friend suggested a drone shot and had a guy who took one for me and wanted to charge me only $100. It was a great offer, but it was too late in the day, too dark and too low.
I asked another contact from technology writing circles about getting a drone shot professionally, but apparently it's almost as expensive as all the other pro avenues. If all else fails I'll just have to buy the most appropriate stock shot I can and work with that. Wouldn't it be funny if one day it makes enough money to warrant the full works with a chopper and photographer?