My first draft of Juggernaut was over 400 pages long—which is a lot for YA. I gave it to a number of ‘sample readers’ and, even though it was out of ‘retreat’ time, asked for help from the ROR group again. The feedback was invaluable—about what was working, what was overly long, what needed clarifying or motivating.
Early Notes – when the book was still called Leviathan
I owe a special thankyou to Rowena for her idea of a book that Riff wants to borrow and Col drops down to her. When I worked that in, a number of strings knitted more tightly together. At the same time, I reduced the length of the book by about a quarter.
So the MS went off to my agent, Selwa Anthony, and from her to Selena, who looks after the YA side of things. I was shocked when Selena got back to me suggesting further major revisions. After the Ferren and the Invasion of Heaven experience, I didn’t think I could cope.
There was a difference, though. When we talked over Selena’s suggestions, they really made sense. I believed in them, I saw great possibilities springing up from them, I wanted to carry them out. In fact, I couldn’t have let the novel go forward in its old state.
So, another total rewrite. That’s the only way I can do it, beginning at the first page and following the flow all the way through to the last page. (And the changes always seem to accumulate, so that small early revisions lead to big revisions by the end.) But no blood or sweat or frustration. I could feel the story getting better and better as I wrote.
By now, it was 2007. Selwa sent the MS to Allen & Unwin, and they were very enthusiastic about it—more enthusiastic than I’ve ever known from a publisher before. A bigger advance too!
My heart plummeted, though, when I heard talk of even more revisions. But these turned out to be revisions to the background world of the novel, which I’d hardly thought about since my first draft. It did need more thinking about, more detail, more consistency, more solidity … especially if the same world was going to support sequels.
Nearly home now! World-creation is always fun. I enjoyed developing the new background, and it was easy to thread it into the novel. Then came the local bits of revision, the line-edit, etc. I like it when editors take trouble over the little things, because then I know they care about the novel as much as I do.
How much do I care about Worldshaker? It’s nearer to my heart than any other book I’ve written. It’s the most thoroughly developed, most evolved, most complete fantasy of all. Fifteen years of my life went into it! If I have to stake my reputation on a single book, it’s Worldshaker, Worldshaker, Worldshaker all the way!
(Oh, I forgot to say … the title changed from Juggernaut to Worldshaker when Selwa pointed out that ‘juggernaut’ had appeared in other titles. Col’s juggernaut was originally called Overlord, but Sir Mormus Porpentine speaks of it as ‘this iron colossus, this mechanical mountain, this worldshaker’. I picked up on his phrase, turned it into the name of the juggernaut and therefore the new title for the book. So when Sir Mormus in his final madness says ‘Worldshaker I am! This juggernaut is me!’—well, yes, he did sort of create it!)