Following the feedback from Bernadette Foley, I read through Just Another Week in Suburbia and identified three key scenes that were issues, and which would need alternatives to help domesticate the story.
There were other smaller things things throughout, obviously, and also general revisions that would round out the story.
Being at this stage is different to any other feeling you have when you write. When you begin something, it’s a blank document. You fill it. When you revise, you shape what’s there, like your first draft is a big lump of clay, and every revision brings you closer to what you’re trying to create.
But revising while writing in new material is tricky. It’s like adding a new room to your house. You have to hope the additions match seamlessly, and that you haven’t left anything unattended – an unresolved subplot that’s dangling like an open gas line; or a story thread that was leading somewhere previously but now ends abruptly, like a door that now opens onto a wall.
And while you’re doing all that, you have to ensure everything is staying faithful to the blueprint, even when you’re unsure what that blueprint is beyond a rudimentary sketch.
Be warned, if you haven’t read it and want to (you really should), there’ll be spoilers here …
Casper’s student is sexually assaulted.
Originally, this was a darker subplot, and involved two detectives visiting Casper during his night of drunkenness after he discovers Jane’s cheating.
I have no idea how police operate procedurally outside of what I see on television.
J.M. Peace (from the Hachette Manuscript Development Program) is a cop, so I bugged her with questions (I bug her with all my questions, and she’s patient and kind enough to answer). She explained the process. That led to my detectives and their interview being excised, as well as a scene where Casper and Beth visit Bianca in the hospital.
The investigation played out in the background, Casper ignorant to it all, which added to his insecurity about him being blamed.
When it’s resolved, he’s frustrated that nobody’s reached out to him.
Vic’s Broken Ankle
Wallace’s leg is broken. The initial thought is he’s been hit by a car. Casper rushes him to the vet and leaves him to be treated. Once Casper’s processed the shock, he begins to reason that a car’s unlikely (as a car would’ve squashed something Wallace’s size) and realizes his belligerent neighbour, Vic, is responsible.
Casper confronts Vic. Vic blows Casper off. Casper grabs his sledgehammer, goes back to Vic, and breaks his ankle, then calls him an ambulance.
This was a weird scene – Casper snaps, which is fine, but he’s then indifferent to the harm he’s caused. It’s premeditated violence, and he inflicts serious damage. He has a serial killer vibe about it all.
I think I was working through my own injury issues, given my leg had been broken, and my ankle dislocated, and I then had a wealth of knowledge on paramedic protocols given I’d gone through it all.
I still like this scene – just not in this book.
Now, Vic stonewalls Casper, and Casper goes home, humiliated. When Vic pushes him again the next day, Casper finally snaps and stands up to Vic, which plays much better tonally.
Roger Drives His Porsche into the Sofia’s Café
Casper and Jane meet at Sofia’s (a café repeatedly frequented throughout) to discuss Jane’s adultery. Jane is apologetic. Casper is infuriated. He gets up to leave.
Roger, jealous of Casper’s friendship with Beth (and suspecting they’re having an affair) drives his Porsche through the café, attempting to kill Casper (or at least injure him).
In this moment when Casper’s life is under threat, he realises what’s important to him – Jane and their unborn baby.
When I was hit by the car, there was an instant when everything stood still.
I saw the car in front of me.
I felt it impact my hip (I got no sense of it running over my right leg and breaking bones, although I would imagine that repeatedly later).
And I had the thought: Shit, I’m getting hit by a car. I could get killed here.
Then, the next thing I knew, I was on the road about ten metres away, sitting up.
You hear people talking about everything standing still when their life is under threat and think it’s a cliché.
Nope. It happens – well, it happened to me.
I thought it would be an interesting device in exploring what was important to Casper.
But it was a different story. People do respond extremely to relationship woes, but this was very extreme, whereas I wanted Just Another Week in Suburbia to be the everyman’s story.
So out the scene went.
Friends asked me to house-sit over Christmas as they were going overseas, although the genuine focus was their Staffy, Jet, who needed dog-sitting.
I used the opportunity to revise, cutting extensively and writing in new material.
It was a daunting prospect given it wasn’t just a case of cutting three scenes, but also attending how they genuflected throughout the story.
That involved going over and over and over the manuscript to ensure the structure kept its shape, the story retained its integrity, and the prose didn’t feel like a slave to previous drafts.
But, for the most part, I was happy the with new story that took form.
Next Week: The Publishing Journey ~ Part I with Just Another Week in Suburbia.