I've been working a bit lately on the pieces of the machine that aren't directly exposed to the reader. My upcoming book (The Stars from the Dead, as you know by now) is deliberately built around a series of complexities, from politics to exploration, climate change to terrorism, and religion to magic. There's a lot that bubbles on in the background, a lot that the reader might only glimpse (unless I spend some time on appendices, hmm...), a lot of perhaps mediocre things that must occur behind the scenes to lend credibility to the main storyline.
For me it feels crucial to really work hard on the details here. I'm placing a lot of value in the character building this time round, following feedback on earlier books, and people are affected and shaped by the complex world around them. We are all partly constructed by nature, but nurture has its influence too, and so to understand the person, I must understand what nurtures them. So it follows, the more love I put into the world, the more the world will produce people for the readers to love. And love to hate.
Having a rich tapestry underpinning the presentation of the story should help me to monitor continuity in the story. In my experience, readers are eagle-eyed and will pick apart inconsistencies without even having to put too much thought into it. They instinctively recognise when pieces of a puzzle don't fit, or have been lazily jammed together. Why would I risk their enjoyment of the book? If they stop to scrutinise the story's failings, then they'll like the book less. They might even put the book down for a bit. They might not pick it up again. I don't want that, I want a relationship with my readers where I hold up my end of the bargain, and we all follow my adventures together. I owe them the detail, visible and hidden alike.