If you read this column last month, you'll remember I was finding it hard to get going on Book 3, and while this month it's gone better, it's not been an entirely smooth run. For a start, the final corrections for The Dead Tracks ended up taking a lot longer than I'd planned, not because I was tearing it to pieces, but more because I wasn't. It seemed – dare I say it? – pretty much okay, save for my usual doubts about whether I'd signposted some of the twists too early. I'm sure that must be a perennial worry among all writers: after you've read your manuscript seven thousand million times, it's impossible to get the distance you need in order to see the plot, and the way it unravels, from the point of view of a new reader. Does it work as a story? I don't know. Is it actually any good as a thriller? I don't know. The one thing I'm certain about is that I didn't change much in the read-through, at least compared to the mega-edits I made in Chasing the Dead.
Once The Dead Tracks had gone back to Penguin for the final time, I had to go through proof-reader notes for the first two chapters of Book 3, as they'll be running as a teaser at the back of The Dead Tracks. It actually turned out to be quite a lot of work, despite the fact that they only run to 12 pages, mostly because they haven't been through any sort of editing process at all. Not even mine. (A case in point: my laser-eyed copy editor pointing out that I'd got the amount of time David and Derryn were married completely wrong. Whoops.) The other reason it took longer than it maybe should have done is because I felt it was important to get the balance right between what the story revealed and what it didn't. You're only talking two chapters, so it's impossible to give more than a very brief taster of what to expect, but that taster shouldn't try to cover too much, too soon.
And then, after that, it was finally back to Book 3... except 120 pages in, I decided to make one massive change, and that required me to return to the very beginning and start re-editing chapters to make sure I wasn't missing anything. I can't really blame anyone else but me for the delay that's put on things, but I think it'll make for a stronger novel in the end. Part of the reason I never originally had this particular storyline planned out was down to the fact that my synopsis for Book 3 isn't quite as detailed as the synopsis I had for The Dead Tracks, and – in my experience – that tends to affect the early stages of a novel more, as you're building and introducing plots and characters, rather than unravelling them. The lack of a definitive, all-encompassing synopsis has never concerned me, though: although The Dead Tracks had a longer, more detailed plan, I never stuck to it rigidly. In fact, the last quarter of the book bears no resemblance to the last quarter of the synopsis at all, and is, I believe, much stronger for it. I purposefully left Book 3's synopsis a little looser, because I wanted the opportunity to do that again... but, as I discovered, there are downsides.
Still, at least I'm finally on with Book 3. And next month, hopefully, I'll be able to tell you about how brilliantly things have gone. Er, hopefully.
Author of the David Raker novels