On research and read-throughs

Yes, I’m back on the mainland, still savouring the memories of sea air and mallee scrub that spell Kangaroo Island to my senses.

My research and fact-checking mission was largely successful and it’s amazing what a few days without email, Internet and mobile phones can do to reinvigorate the brain. Now that I’m back at my desk I have oodles of things to catch up on but here are a few quick musings on my last few days:

  • Research can be great fun. Skimming through old newspapers is an adventure in itself – even the classified advertisements are fascinating when they’re more than a century old. An old schoolhouse that reeks of possum piss can harbour untold treasures – as can a conversation with a local.
  • Research can be a double-edged sword. Discover too much good stuff and you risk adding unnecessary details/material and/or losing focus on your main storyline. I don’t want to drown readers in details that might only appeal to me.
  • Ask enough people the same question and you’ll accumulate many different answers, rather than a single, definitive one.
  • Your nearest and dearest can be your toughest critics. My wife has begun a read-through of my manuscript and already uncovered one major timeline problem – something that should have occurred to me but hadn’t. She also highlighted passages that “need work”. While I don’t always enjoy getting this feedback I value it immensely. Better to find out now than hear it from my agent or publisher!
  • Watching someone read the manuscript is akin to a director sitting in an audience screening of his own film. I hang on whether people will laugh or gasp or cry at the right moments … It’s probably quite annoying having me around!

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