Introducing the New Sydney Harbour Bridge

Let me introduce Joe Beckley, a digital artist with Laika, the movie production company that bought the world The Boxtrolls, Coraline, Kubo and the Two Strings, Missing Link and more.

For the past month and a half or so he's taken this;

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to this;

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So let me also introduce The Macquarie Bennelong Bridge, which replaced the original Sydney Harbour Bridge after its destruction in late 2019.

I was referred to Beckley by Mike Terpstra, a guy I found my way to through industry contacts who also worked for Laika. As you can see from his website he's got some incredible work, and dealing with him to manipulate and Photoshop the bridge picture has been everything I dreamed it would be dealing with a designer and artist.

He did a version, I responded with changes, he addressed them exactly, I refined, he addressed them again (exactly), and this week after about seven or eight rounds like that I think it's completely finished.

He even did stuff that wasn't even in the original brief, so I can only assume he enjoyed the project as much as I enjoyed seeing it come together. I didn't realise until right at the end that the face at Luna Park and North Sydney Olympic pool were being obscured by the arch of the old bridge but would be completely visible behind the new one, for example, so they had to be literally drawn back in in their entirety.

I told him I'd do it if he provided the layered Photoshop file because I hadn't realised it needed doing, and he did it anyway. He's been a dream come true.

I now have to buy the cover image and ISBN, build the website (which I'm doing through Squarespace), put it online and then – after 29 years – the real work finally starts.

And even at this late stage, editorial tidbits keep coming up. I realised at some point that I'd still called the bridge Lachlan Macquarie somewhere, but knew very well I'd decided to change it to the Macquarie Bennelong Bridge. That made me realise I might not have named the highway on it properly either, so I had to search every document of the manuscript for 'macquarie', 'lachlan', 'bennelong' and 'port jackson' and make sure it was consistent.

I hope I'm down to errors nobody (including me, unless I'm lucky) would ever spot – maybe if someone does I'll tell everyone it was deliberate and they get a prize. If it becomes popular enough for people to be finding mistakes like that I'll be overjoyed anyway.

Not sci-fi anymore/Photos, finally!

First of all, an interesting content issue. When I started writing Falling in 1990, the idea that the technology would one day exist to reconnect the brain and the spine was complete science fiction. Now, medical science has already rendered my clunky abdominal brace redundant, not only are scientists able to get the nerves between the spine and the disconnected lower half of the body in disabled people talking again, they can do it with a small implant.

In other news, I've finally had the photography of the bridge and city done. Next step is to select an artist to draw in the new bridge, and I've narrowed it down to one of two, I'm just waiting for a price from the slightly less-interested sounding one.

I'm excited for how it'll turn out, I think I'm going to go with one of these;

Text is sure easier to wrangle than pictures

Well I still haven't pinned down a digital artist to do the new bridge picture. I got a few quotes from some VFX and digital studios in the US and even though the people who quoted were all very nice they were out of my current price range. I did have the idea of taking it to the education sector, figuring I'd get out of it cheaper and some student would have something cool for their portfolio, but that came to nothing.

An email to the head of design at Enmore TAFE went ignored, as did a request to Billy Blue, an advertising school in Sydney that actually had a page on their website inviting requests for industry collaboration. Maybe it's the universe telling me not to be the kind of client I've hated throughout my creative career – trying to get something for free that has real economic value to someone...

But I have at least settled on a photography provider for the Photoshopping of the bridge. I thought a drone would be cheaper, but the company I've settled on in Sydney is going to use a helicopter because of the high angle I need and it'll be the same price. I'm waiting for a call back from them so that should happen soon.

I also started the Amazon listing page, which is exciting. I also think I've settled on a logo and cover after doing a lot of work on it myself. What I have so far is still growing on me, but I've got plenty of time the way everything else is going. Another hurdle is that I knew full well I'd have to pay for the picture from the news organisation, but that turned out to be about $1,000. It's going to cost $2,100 for the photography and very high end digital art is likely to cost a few thousand, so I have to cut the cost somewhere.

(My other half even suggested I do the Photoshop work myself. I could certainly give it a crack, I'm just not convinced I'd do as well as the people whose work ends up on TV and movie screens.)

I've also done more writing just today, putting together the website copy and media kit copy. It's actually been quite fun - I've already done three blurbs of different lengths for different purposes (the Amazon listing, the inside flaps of the hardcover dust jacket when it exists, etc), so have adapted them for synopses, written a few different bios, etc. I've even done an author interview of the sort you sometimes see in the back of books.

It's also a bit tricky because in the interests of branding integrity a lot of the information is almost – if not completely – the same (I've replicated synopses for the media kit and the site). That means I have to stay on top of where each element of the marketing appears so if I change something I remember to change it everywhere else.

Anyway, doing all this new writing has made me realise how much there still is ahead of me. I need a decent author pic of myself, the covers and the other photography for use in the media, I need to set up graphics for the Twitter page, I need to set up a Facebook page even though I know little to nothing about Facebook. I need to decide whether to get Instagram even though I've never used it. The list keeps growing.

And I certainly need testimonials, a good one (if I get one) of which will be quite prominent on the website and marketing. That means I need to send it to tastemakers or influencers or whatever the hell PR types call them nowadays. That was always the aim and I have quite a list built up, but I need the completed copy totally finished before I start sending it to people like that.

Increasingly nervous about mistakes that might still be in there (everything I've read about self-editing says you'd be sick to think how many errors you leave in a manuscript yourself no matter how many times you read it), I've also asked a friend who's an experienced editor how much he'd charge to edit Falling for me. He was on holidays at the time and said he'd get back to me but still hasn't, I suspect he isn't the least bit interested or has no time and just doesn't want to have to knock me back.

Lastly, I've decided to use Squarespace for the website, and have already done mockups of the site using a couple of their themes I'm quite happy of.

Rockin' for myself

Well I'm in a new phase, something certain voices in the universe are telling me I should have done all along - I'm designing the cover myself.

The first step was to realise I was never going to get this done (even without doing the design myself) without dedicating time to it regularly, so every Thursday is now Falling day until it's either obviously been a giant waste of time or I'm buying an investment property in the Hollywood Hills off it.

I can't even remember when I came up with the concept, but there are three elements; an image, a black background and a red title. Part of the reason why was because if you look at covers as they appear in Amazon searches, they're pretty small, so I figured only a few simple parts that really stand out from each other will do the trick.

So it was just a matter of finding the right parts for each element, and that's been (I'm still not quite there) a days-long process of mixing and matching different pictures with logo/title treatments of different fonts and just like some of the content of the book, it's been very hard to whittle down. I chose between a classical, powerful serif font like Trajan or Garamond (but might leave that for the movie version), a scratchy, horror movie treatment like you might have seen on the front of Adam Nevill's The Ritual (very much an inspiration), and a straight, slender san serif font all in capitals and slighty blurred to give it a ghostly feeling.

The pictures I'm choosing from are mostly from news websites and some stock shots, so I shouldn't have too much problem getting them as news publishers are so strapped for profits they'll sell anything that's not bolted down, including shots from stories.

Also Mike, a lovely guy I had lined up to do the bridge image showing the new bridge inside who works at Laika Animation Studios, has had to drop out. It was a shame because I felt like we were really on the same page and he did some really good pencil sketches he was kind enough to show me. But he's also been very kind about suggesting some colleagues of his in the industry, a couple of whom have already got back to me, so all's not lost.

In between all that I'm also rereading the extra material, and I've realied I have to do a little bit of rewriting of a few things.

Not the least of which is that I'm moving the bridge collapse forward a year. Don't worry – I'm not changing the entire thing again, just have to make sure I catch every mention of the year of the accident. It was due to be October 2018, but as I'm writing this in March and it's kind of dragging, I thought giving myself another year wouldn't hurt. Even if it takes me the rest of this year to finish (which I hope it won't but then I didn't think I'd still be working on it in 2018 when I decided to publish it this way in about 2010), that gives it however much of this year is left and all next year to build whatever momentum it's going to get.

After that it's the problem of some screenwriter working for Netflix.

Going large

Well my strategy to get the picture of the new bridge right has evolved. After my experience and contacts in the film industry I've rustled up one or two pro CGI artists – I figured that they dothis sort of stuff for moving footage all the time (destroyed cities and buldings, etc) so it should be a snap for them to take a pic of bridge, Photoshop it out, paint/draw in a new one and make it photorealistic. I'm in contact with a couple of guys, and it's not likely to be cheap, but I think it'll be worth it.

I'm still not sure about the main cover pic but I was talking to a bestselling author I know just a few weeks ago describing the bridge pic and he suggested it should be the cover picture. I'm not entirely sure I described the whole strategy with the cover and the bridge pic well enough to do it justice but it gave me food for thought. After spending what will likely be several thousand dollars on it, is it worth putting on the cover?

Also my designer is now off work expecting a baby. I couldn't be happier for her but I feel a bit like I'm dangling in the wind. If I have to do all this myself I have enough confidence to do the cover and all the print work, but the online design is way beyond me at this stage after leaving that industry ten or more years ago.

Plus to be quite frank, she's much better than me, so I'd prefer she do it. I certianly can't complain because she was very excited and insisted on doing it all for free, but I really want to get this book finished and up for sale. In fact I wanted to do it by the end of this year, but there's not much chance of that.

I wish her nothing but the very best, and her having a baby is way more important than my stupid horror novel that'll probably go nowhere, but I have to sound her out. I might have to just use Squarespace or Wix and then pay her to do it all properly if there's any kind of financial success.

Finding the right picture; hard.

It's the design phase. The first challenge is the photo of the new bridge for the opening pages. I've hit brick walls trying to get an original picture of the Harbour Bridge from the right height and angle – the only real possibility I can envisage is to do a private helicopter tour of the harbour and ask the pilot to hover long enough for me to get some shots, but that will cost a couple of hundred dollars and will have to wait until I get home to Sydney in July.

Cheaper but a compromise is a decent couple of shots from iStockphoto and Flickr, so I'll just have to see what shakes out.

Meanwhile I have a huge number of bids on Freelancer.com.au and Guru.com to do it. I could do it myself and it would be fun, but my expertise in recent versions of Photoshop is just patchy enough so I wouldn't trust myself to do the best job of it. It's more important that it looks realistic than I have a good time doing it.

I've also had a look at all the epublishing platforms, and they all seem easier to use than I suspected. The first thing is that if you're on Amazon you're almost everywhere – it has 80 percent of the market (in America, at least), so if I get it on the iBooks store and a handful of the other little ones (Smashwords, Kobo, etc) I figure I'll have almost every potential reader covered.

Other than that there hasn't been any more writing per se, I've just been reading and rereading the bonus material to look for any minor errors or improvements.

I've got a few blogs and articles online to read to brush up on publishing and marketing ebooks but to be honest it's just for any outside tips I don't know – I've been reading stuff about that for so long I feel like there's little I don't already know about the basics.

One thing that has struck me though, and that's how there's a really visible gulf between the quality of ebooks and hard copies. It's not universally the case, but very few ebooks look like the electronic version of high quality printed books – they look like books where the author hasn't been terribly interested in the design (or had access to decent design services) and the covers are all kind of amateur.

I hope the way I'm doing it – using a proper designer and putting as much effort into getting it right as I can – will do the trick. At the very least, I hope people see the cover and have a subconscious reaction that it must be a high quality book because it doesn't look the reams of ebooks with dodgy Microsoft Word covers.

Final reading, drone photography and more

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?

Reading on paper? That's just crazy

Now it's all in the reading. I've sent Falling off to a Staples to get it printed out entirely – 600 pages, two sides, Times New Roman 12 point font. It's a looooong book.

So now I'm sitting, red pen in hand, poring over every word. In case the editor friend doesn't come through in time or I'm too cheap to afford a proper editor or proofreader, myself and my beau reading it on paper is going to be the final edit.

Before you say anything, I know how stupid that is. I remember reading a blog post by Amanda Hocking, that famous-for-fifteen-minutes paranormal romance author who made a million dollars self publishing before she signed with a major.

She said one of the reasons she was doing it was because it gave her access to the proper editorial function inside a publisher. She said she'd paid an editor to do her original series and read it carefully herself and still realised later she'd missed stuff.

I'm 50 pages in and so far I've been pleasantly surprised at how few grammatical or spelling mistakes I've found. There's been some cosmetic tweaks and stuff to increase the drama of some sentences, but it's pretty clean.

Other friends have it and have read it/are reading it, one of them is a teacher and she's said she can't help but correct things, so hopefully that promises to yield more corrections.

But based on the pace I'm moving and depending on how far Mrs Falling reads it, I could be ready to apply the corrections in a month or so.

And... el fin

Finished. After over five years of deciding to complete a major rewrite of Falling and finally publish it, it's out being read with some friends, none of whom I expect to be honest but one of which is a professional editor, so I'll at least have a pro eye across it.

The final notes were to find somewhere for a phrase that came into my head one day and which I loved – 'a roiling cauldron of instinct and intent'. Coincidentally, I also saw a video online from Canada of the sound of giant horns emanating from the sky. It was very cool and haunting and it led me to research it more – it's very much a thing, attributed to everything from the coming of the four horsemen of the apocalypse to HAARP (look up 'the hum' online).

It was such a great visual and sonic meme I really wanted to find a place for it too, but after looking into a few spots I knew I'd just be shoehorning it in because I liked it rather than because it belonged. That's never a good reason to add something to a story and if I'm honest with myself it's probably also because I couldn't be arsed, I just wanted to finish and get started on the next phase.

And the next phase is to clean up and start writing intros and notes for all the DVD extras like cut scenes. I'm sure I'm not the first one to do it in a book like we nowadays do it for a movie, but I'm hoping for the same appeal – if a reader likes the story enough they're going to be interested in peeking behind the curtain and seeing more about the moving parts that put it together.

This is likely to take a couple more months realistically (I'm waiting for several people), but I'm still itching to get started and see it out in the world.

Still the final check

Well, 'nearly' was always a relative term in this endeavour. I did finish all the major rewrite notes, as I speak I'm going through each document checking all the 'ofs' and 'ors', which I find I can frequently get mixed up when I'm in the heat of the moment. I've checked for all 'its' and 'it's', have redone the chronology completely, checked that the first letters of each book still spell 'FALLDEAD' and redone the entity document so it adheres to the appearances of the supernatural in the story.

I'll read it once more myself and then send it out to some other people to read. One of them is my friend Paul, who's even offered to give it an edit, which I'm very grateful for.

I'm also thinking all the time about more people to send copies to to try and get testimonials, and also came to a conclusion I feel is important. I'm going to give as many copies as I can to people I know (or anyone who asks, really) for free rather than be rigid about getting money for every copy. I don't think a first novel is ever going to make my fortune, it should be an ad for itself and the rest of what I can do in order to build up a fanbase, and the best chance I have of that happening is to make the first priority about having people read it rather than pay for it.

I'm also going to price it really low – 99c of $1.09 or something, which I think will send a message saying 'I want you to have this, pirate it if necessary. If it ends up in the least successful or (God forbid) phenomenal, the money will come.

Anyway, lots of reading and farming out of reading to come, then I start design.

Spotting an invented word decades late

A funny thing that had survived all the way through from the first draft that I only just cut when I thought to look it up – the word 'dektagonal', used to describe the shape of the 50 cent piece that gouges into another coin the young Dale's pocket when he hits the ground.

There's actually no such word. It's actually 'dodecagon', which I found so unwieldy to say in my head in the context of the sentence I couldn't bring myself to use it. It made it sound just like I was really proud of myself for knowing what the word 'dodecagon' means.

Other than that, I got to the end of the of the major rewrite notes, from there it was only a matter of going through a page at a time and looking for the notes I'd been making in red all this time.

But one I came across in part 7, right after the expedition, tripped me up and prompted a major rewrite. In the original draft, Vicki read the story of the Haitian woman who bought the zombie up out of the grave and the teenage girl in country NSW who'd apparently prompted a poltergeist attack.

At the same time, Tim, was doing work on the data when looking at his own fridge prompted him to think about the Waylan Pakesh case, and when he looked into the guy's history again he realised he had an electronic prosthesis in his shoulder from a drunken accident.

It was good because Vicki and Tim both corroborated the new idea that the brace was the cause (one of pivotal motifs of the whole book), but I suddenly realised how all-too convenient it was that they both happened to be sitting around separately and come up with what they did at the same time.

By the same token I didn't want to put all the discovery on one character because both their perspectives contribute to the discovery.

I had to rewrite the section to have Tim come up with the idea and call Vicki, who then confirmed it thanks to research she'd already done (and did then and there on the phone with him).

The trickiest part of it was actually moving the whole Gilgandra girl section somewhere else. When you move such major sections just because you need them, the reader can spot it a mile off, as if you've installed a neon sign that says 'future exposition'.

So I moved it way back to before the expedition, right after Barry first arrives at the hospital to find Dale's been bought back from the dead.

Vicki's at work thinking about Dale's case and reads the passage about the poltergeist. She's sitting there thinking about it when she realises her phone's died – the EM burst of Dale coming back.

Doing all that also gives Tim more of a reason to come up with the frequency change thing that will play out in part 8, because he realises it's when the system around the brace gets to 58.45v that shit always goes bad.

Vicki being The Girl, solved!

This is a red letter day in the history of this novel. I cracked the last major creative challenge – everything from here is more or less mechanical.

As per the last entry, I almost completely reworked part 8, then found I had to rework it again. I had Vicki being the girl and her appearing to Dale in the dream and after it all worked out. Her appearance made sense in the larger plot, the only thing I had left to do was make it really frightening – it's the last major supernatural scare in the book because after that they go back in time to the bridge collapsing.

And I cracked it, going back to the motif of the clouds of dust thrown into the air by the collapse (I kept looking at pictures of Mt Pinatubo and the World Trade Centre for reference). Instead of her just being a gory zombie kind of monster (which there was no reason for), she appears at the edge of the dust cloud, appearing to Dale like she did in the dream, him believing she's trapped in the faraway and that the entity tortures and kills her there constantly.

He's just about to reach her when the huge jabiru headed dinosaur monster from the expedition bursts through it and bites her in half. Dale's failed and it seems she'll die repeatedly in the faraway and he won't be able to save her and himself.

Like the entity apparently told him through the chat client, he has to take her place. Tim's tried the frequency changing thing and it not only sent everything crazy, Dale got a glimpse of Vicki in the faraway waiting for him. So Dale already has plan B ready – shut down the brace with the killswitch code and throw himself off the bridge.

It's while he's running towards the edge path to do that that the wave comes and he and Tim are sent back in time. It all feels like it fits brilliantly, and for the first time in years, the causal structure and chain of events in Falling feels complete.

Vicki being The Girl, part V

Well I'm still working on the problem of Vicki being The Girl, and I've mostly cracked it. It ended up taking a major rejiggering of part 8, giving Dale more of a reason to want to go back to the bridge and using Tim's idea of changing the frequency of the brace as a pretense to do it.

It's all got to do with the dream he has while sleeping in Tim's front room in front of the TV, having Vicki appear to him and making him think he can go and save her.

The answer has been to make Dale recognise that the place in the dream is the faraway, and believing that Vicki's trapped there and that he can go there and bring her back from it.

A critical part of making that seem real was making that belief follow him out of the dream. You can dismiss a dream as just being something your mind makes up, but if something else happens out in the real world it would make it seem a) like you were right in the dream and b) make it nice and ghostly.

I settled on an IM conversation from Vicki's account – someone that could only be Vicki, and the entity breaking in to taunt Dale about having her captive. It felt pretty strong when I first wrote it but I'll have to see if it works. I like the idea of the supernatural co-opting technology and machines to do its bidding, makes it feel a bit more like it's really happening because it's not all airy fairy and spiritual.

The only element missing is a view or a scene or a reveal that shows Vicki there, something *really* scary that I can replicate when they get onto the bridge and find her.

The challenge there is that when she appears on the bridge to Dale it can't really be scary because he has to be overcome with love and run to her.

It's all reminded me – as every session does, that rewriting is a process of making the reason things happen stronger. When I look back to the first few drafts there were so many things that happened there was no rhyme or reason for, they were just there because they were cool. It's what the phrase 'kill your darlings' was invented for.

Stitching up details

Finally back into Falling and I'm getting very close to letting other people read it (just hope they remember they promised they would from about four years ago).

I've done all the chapter and sequence break-ups, so no chapter should be longer than four pages. It's a theory I've remembered since reading a mostly-forgotten thriller a couple of years back. Some chapters were no more than a page or so, and I think it's going to give the whole thing a lot of forward momentum. It looks big, but you'll think 'just one more chapter' (as long as you're enjoying it) and get through the whole thing quicker.

Next was to go through and fix the whole reveal about the girl problem, and I think I have.

The sticking point was having Dale not remember who her name was from before. I couldn't have him remember because it would make it more certain it was her (more certain to him, anyway) and take away the doubt that partly drives their relationship.

But it occurred to me that as he'd had a blow to the head when he landed, there'd be all sorts of things he'd forget. There's already some stuff about how he had such a long and difficult recuperation period he just stopped thinking about a lot of stuff from before. He did think about her, because it talks about how he thought every now and then to try and track down her parents, but having him forget her name and face thanks to his injuries (scientifically plausible – look up the story of Phineas Gage) took it the next step.

I also put more of the responsibility on Vicki's shoulders. When he starts talking about how it might be her and her fear of the bridge bubbles up, she gets as confused as he does and – something I still have to flesh out – she feels much more strongly than before how sexual arousal is linked to it.

With both of them in a state of near-delirium/terror/arousal, having them sleep together feels much more plausible.

Anyway, after I go through and rewrite those sequences according to the new set-up, I have a few little details here and there like stitching the Waylan Pakesh siege more to what's going on with the Harbour Bridge – tie it in a bit more. Although maybe the 58.45v thing that comes later does that? Is that enough? Without a bit more tangible a link all it's really doing is introducing Tim and showing him and his methods in action, which is kind of the mission statement of the book – applying scientific enquiry to ghosts and hauntings.

After that there's a lot more mechanical stuff, checking for dashes and semi-colons, numbering the chapters now they're all broken up, redoing a scene plan and chronology. But the end is in sight.

Cutting and too much pasting

The joys of structural adjustments. After all the work I did in the last lot shifting scenes in part 8 after realising too much happened at once, I ended up with one particular sequence in two places. The scene where Vicki reads about the poltergeist episode in country NSW ended up in two places, and I didn't realise until I'd almost finished the rewrite of the section.

It worked out kind of for the best though, as there were two sequences that were a problem. The first was the Gilgandra sequence, and the other was the Haiti sequence, where she describes the anthropologist who witnesses the zombie exhumation.

Originally they were right after each other, and Tim realised the brace was the cause at the same time, so in older drafts I'd moved Haiti and Gilgandra away from each other so they weren't so obvious.

Then I moved Haiti somewhere else entirely, so when I figured out I had Gilgandra in two places I was able to move Haiti back to where one of them was – it had been a bit shoehorned in where I had it so it slotted in perfectly.

The end result – two sequences that support the brace theory, but nowhere near Vicki or Tim figuring out about the brace.

At this point I think I'm almost completely finished this more-than-three-year rewrite. The Gilgandra and Haiti thing came out of the notes I had scattered throughout the manuscript in bold red text, and they're in part 8, so I'm nearly at the end of the bold red notes.

Major progress

Well, after a new year's resolution (which I almost never make – I like to think I don't have to wait for a special occasion to change my life for the better, I decided to start a new novel this year.

That means finishing Falling, so I resolved to spend a day a week working on it, and so far so good.

First I finished shortening the chapters. I read a Crichton-esque science thriller a few years back called Entangled, and the thing that really stuck with me was the short chapters – only a page or so in some cases.

After awhile it occurred to me it'd be a great approach for Falling. Some of the science if a bit heavy anyway, so I figure more breaks can't be a bad thing.

But mostly it's about pacing. If the story's working, psychologically we're more liable to put it down if there's a big chapter. If we can see it's only a short chapter we'll be more tempted to keep going just to read a bit more, and before you know it you've sat up all night and finished it.

So I wanted to chapters to be no more than around 1400 words, and most of them were, but I had a bit of work to do.

Some scenes - like the Thai dinner at Dale's place where Tim explains the physics behind ghosts and hauntings – were really long.

That made chopping and changing one of the challenges, because I realised I'd written the rest of the book very much for a chapter to end so the action can shift somewhere else.

If you have a chapter break and then just go back to the same scene it just feels like there's a break for the sake of it. The only other way to manage it if you don't have anywhere else to cut to (and with Donald and Barry dead and Dale, Tim and Vicki really the only characters left, I'd run out of places to cut to) is the finish the chapter on a big bombshell or reveal.

Cutting Tim's long exposition up to include two or more bombshells was the only way around it.

Keeping other advice in mind that I'd heard about what's called Deep Point of View, I reintroduced Albert for two chapters. Previously when the train carriage disappeared I'd left the characters to just describe the speculation, media shitstorm and theories about where it came from and how everyone missed it.

By depicting Albert trying to deal with it all in the halls of the city government put it back on Earth, gave it some dialogue and cut it all down a whole lot.

That was actually part of a much bigger reworking of the first half of Part 8.

Originally Dale had come to Tim's house to sleep and there were two major discussions about changing the frequency, the pylon monsters (and Tim figuring out what it was) and the reveal about how it can manipulate – and, with the revelation about the train carriage – create matter out of nothing.

It cut from there to the fishing boat that finds the carriage, the media and government fighting and the theories that arose in the public discourse, and I realised I was taking way too long to say stuff that could be much more direct.

For one thing, Dale and Tim have the first discussion in the kitchen while they're eating, and for the second discussion they're back in the kitchen eating.

There was a whole lot more in there to convey as well, including Dale dreaming about the faraway and nearly understanding what it is and also convincingly giving him a reason to think he has to go back and save Vicki.

I tightened it all up and managed to keep everything in, wrapped it all up into about three chapters less and replaced all the omniprescent exposition with character action as well.

Something else I've been very careful about is anchors. I think of a huge load of something with a tarp wrapped around it, and ropes tied tightly around it to keep it together, hooks either end biting into the canvas to stretch the ripes taut.

Those as the anchors setting something up and paying it off in the story, crisscrossing every which way and calling back to older stuff.

If you just shoehorn something in to call back to something else the audience can see from miles away it's just a cheap plot device you just dropped in to set up something else.

To extend the metaphor above, it's a hook in the canvas with the rope just dangling free, and stands out like dogs balls.

The trick is to go back to where the set-up makes the most sense to the story, so it's seamless. If a character says 'hey, what's this red poker chip in my pocket? Oh well, I'm sure it's nothing, anyway, what were we talking about?' the poker chip might as well have a flashing neon light that says 'convenient plot device'.

Give your Macguffin significance to what's going on right there and instead of a jarring speedbump it'll just be a smooth stretch of road full of details the reader is taking in naturally along with the rest of the narrative.

After all the above, I now find myself at the stage where all the major rewriting is over. The rest of the work is just mechanical.

Vicki being The Girl, part IV

I've hit on one idea that's becoming more prominent in my mind. As I said before, the blue dress doesn't work and the loveheart doesn't work, which is a shame because being physical objects, they can be very emblematic and cinematic (just as important in a novel as on a screen, trust me).

But what about the sexy phone call, the one Dale's thinking about as a 19 year old crossing the bridge when it starts to fall? It plays a bigger part in Vicki's story anyway, forever anchoring her sexuality to her fears of the bridge.

During the Vicki being The Girl rewrite I've just expanded and explained that aspect ion the sequence when she's driving onto the bridge to reach Dale while he's in the hospital and finds herself back on the bridge with everything coming back to her.

It also explains how she wants him so much and gives into it, which to be honest might still be viewed as just the love interest falling into bed with the hero.

But it's one thing they'd both remember. Dale remembers it well because it's what he was thinking about when it all started. If I can think of a way she can mention it during the therapy session when they first sleep together, it can be the big reveal Dale realises and becomes convinced it's her.

Vicki being The Girl, part III

The new edits about whether Vicki is the girl form Dale's past or not are working out really well. I'm writing some really good, emotional stuff.

There's one snag left. In her surgery for the second session, when they end up sleeping together, there has to be some event or reveal that she mentions which makes Dale realise – suddenly and unmistakably – that she's the girl.

The only two things I can thing up which makes any sense to the plot are the plastic loveheart from the flowers and the blue dress. Anything else would just feel like a convenient plot contrivance.

Problem is the dress doesn't work because Vicki wouldn't remember it, and the loveheart doesn't work because even if she has it doesn't prove anything – the flowers could have come for her friend at work rather than her.

But I'm about halfway through the edits to each section concerned, so I feel pretty confident something will pop out at me. I'm so confident the construction around it is all there and very solid – I just don't know what it is. So far it's called THE REVEAL! in red bold and italic text.

Vicki being The Girl, part II

Well I've gone right through the manuscript and sketched out what has to happen and where for The Girl Problem to be fixed (sounds like a great title for a novel in itself).

Happily it shouldn't mean any extra chapters or too much rejigging – I can do it all in the structure that's already there.

Dale still has to be sure it's Vicki because of something sudden, and that also explains why they sleep together the first time in her surgery. Vicki being the girl also explains why she sleeps with him as well – partly to keep the fear and nightmares of her own about the bridge away.

Then the evolution of what they both believe about her being the girl feels more batural. She gradually talks Dale out of it because of how little sense it makes right up until she has the vision at Circular Quay during the experiment with Tim.

I'm also giving Dale a much better reason to go back to the bridge with Tim at the end – something tangible that makes him believe Vicki's there and needs him. At the moment it's just a nightmare he wakes from and then something he sees in the real world that makes him think so.

I'm not sure what I have is good enough at anchoring something else in the plot – at the moment it's just a lipstick message in a mirror that says 'help me' or something – but I'm sure something better will occur to me in the rewriting of those scenes. Something to do with The Faraway or the plastic lovehart or something.

But this is a major turning point in the actual writing. It's the last major plot problem to be worked out before the far more mechanical stage or proofreading, marking up etc.

Vicki being The Girl, part 1

Well that was a gap. I got altogether too busy to continue and this problem with Vicki being The Girl has tripped me up badly. But I couldn't ignore it any more, I had to go in arms swinging.

A friend actually suggested a fix that might work – the fact that her and Dale just went on a few dates in the early days, they weren't in love or anything. Apparently if you date someone a few times in your early 20s you can easily have forgotten what they looked like in your mid 30s.

It feels like a good overarching strategy, but some of the details are still sticking points. One of them is that he'd remember her name, and when he met her he might think 'I dated a girl called Vicki a few times,' and I'm worried if he did that it's what would prompt the memory that makes him think it's her, and I want that memory to be a bit more profound than just being reminded of her name.

Well, as is the usual way to attack it I've gone right through the manuscript to isolate all the sections that talk about it, and the next step is to figure out where the narrative of the subplot has to go, come up with a baseline that makes sense and feels honest (Vicki changing her name or getting plastic surgery just feel like plot contrivances), and weave it back in to the story where it appears now.