Writing a first novel is a long, lonely road. Oh, and it’s always night and there aren’t any street lamps. Each step is fumbled forward, small successes punctuated by an overall doubt that you’ve no idea if you’re going in the right direction. From concept to completion, a first novel is, well, a mess.
Here’s an analogy: say you’d only ever eaten gruel all your life, and one day, someone introduces you to McDonalds. Wow, how that burger tastes. It’s the best food in the world, you’re in no doubt of that. You finish that first burger, and then this mysterious food stranger takes you to a Michelin-starred restaurant. That burger doesn’t taste quite so good anymore. In short, that’s how my feelings for my first novel, Noah’s Ark, can be summarised. At the time I thought it was great; turns out I was wrong.
But for all you budding authors out there taking your first step, don’t take that as a negative, take it as a positive, a weight off your back that lets you relax in the knowledge that good books don’t happen on the first go. Think of something else you’re good at: were you world class the first time you did it? Some authors’ first novels are spectacular, others take a few goes to get into their stride, but its only by trying and failing that we find that out. Maybe my books will never be worth a damn, but I enjoy writing them, and I’m going to keep on trying, which is why I suppose that I’m not feeling too bad about Noah’s Ark — despite cultivating it over many years.
When I first self-published Noah’s Ark, I promised myself that if the rating slipped below 3.5 I would take it down. I’d feel bad about clogging up an already bloated market with yet another atrocity, and so when that final damning one-star review came in, I took it down. Soon it will be replaced with Vessel, through whatever journey it takes to get there, and hopefully this time I’ll do better. Maybe it’ll average out at 3.8 instead. If it does, I’ll take that as progress, work hard to bump my next novel up to a 4.0. Maybe one day I’ll breach the 4s and have something that an agent wants to represent.
In the meantime, Noah’s Ark isn’t gone and dead: I’ve popped a link to it on my dropbox account so you can download it for free if you want to. It’s here: https://andrewjamesmorgan.com/noahs-ark/
Perhaps if you’re a new author like me, it would be worthwhile to read parts, to try and understand what makes it sub-par and learn from it — a case study if you like. I’ll leave it to you to decide what doesn’t work; if you want to see if we’re thinking on the same page, drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the meantime, happy reading, and thanks for stopping by.
Update on the search for an agent: I’ve had some positive feedback, some standardised rejections, but no full requests yet. Not what I’d hoped, but certainly what I’d expected. More on where I’m taking Vessel in its route to publication next time.
I remember reading Noah’s Ark (which in of itself is a good thing). It needed an edit, particularly the opening couple of chapters, but the story was solid, the science was spot on and the characters developed alongside the plot. I think you may be being too hard on yourself.
That said, I can totally appreciate where you are coming from. As with everything I think you have to take the lessons and work them into something better. Definitely sounds like you have that mindset, so good on you.
For what it’s worth, it may be worth considering other options as well. For example making Noah’s Ark permafree, or perhaps even putting it somewhere like Wattpad. The nature of the story may do well there, and with some time you may start to get feedback that helps you. It’s definitely a platform that encourages reworking things until they hit the spot.
I read the first few chapters of Vessel and enjoyed what I read, but I had to admit I struggle with reading long stories off the web Have become too used to apps. Might be worth considering Wattpad for that as well. Release a chapter every two or three days to build a following.
Anyway, whatever you choose to do, I salute your positiveness and self-awareness. Traits that will get you far no matter what.
Well I’m glad you appreciated it! Based on the consistent reviews saying the book didn’t make any sense, I think it was just too complicated for a first novel. I have a sequel in mind for it, so maybe I’ll dig it out again and give it the edit it needs a few books down the line. Hopefully then it’ll receive a more favourable welcome!
What I don’t want to do is have it on amazon rated at 3.4 (and dropping) and have people use those reviews as a basis to avoid Vessel.
I’ll check out Wattpad, thanks. Not heard of it before.
I can email you the full MS for Vessel so you can read it on your Kindle if you like?
Andrew, I thought Noah’s Ark was considerably better than many first time self published authors out there. I agree with mobewan, it was a damn good read, good characters and the descriptive bits…oh man, the opening scene with the car, the smells and the feel of the interior…damn that was so good. In fact there were tons of good scenes, tense bits, action bits, highs and lows.
I too think you were too hard on yourself, though I do understand that desire for a second novel not to be tainted by lower scores of the first. You certainly show awareness of your abilities and are keen to keep improving and enhancing your craft.
But, and this is a big BUT, if you left Noah’s Ark up there, and yes there will always be bad reviews, nature of the beast I’m afraid, you will one day be able to look back at your catalogue and actually see how those reviews changed as your library of novels increases. Not only that, but avid readers, even fans, will see your new stuff and go in search of your early novels.
Imagine a new Stephen King fan who’s just read his latest work, gets hooked and back tracks to his first novel, Cujo or Carrie I think. The style will be different for sure, but the reader will still be able to appreciate an early SK novel.
I read Vessel in the Word doc you sent me and it was much easier to read than on a web page. There were some good bits there, some great scenes, and some okay scenes (can’t write gold all the time I guess!) but I found it lacked attention to detail that Noah’s Ark had. Sure, there’s always editing and polishing but I firmly believe that both deserve a place on Amazon, or wherever you wish to place them, a bookshelf in a shop perhaps in time!
My honest feeling when I read this post was dismay. I thought Noah’s Ark needed work here and there but compared to a lot of amateur or first time self published authors, it stood above the crowd easily. And I sincerely mean that.
Get Noah’s Ark edited by a professional, cover by an artist then relaunched it, that’s my advice. I saw a gem lurking there and it really deserves to be read by people. Especially if you have a sequel in mind! I want to read that one!
Have a look at marcykennedy.com. I plan to use her services in the near future. Her Busy Writers Guides on Amazon are brilliant and she does a full editing service too. Don’t know what she charges but based on the knowledge she shares on her blog and books and classes, I’d trust her to do a decent job with my novel.
I appreciate that, thank you. Interestingly enough, one of the biggest criticisms of Noah’s Ark was the level of detail; it doesn’t really work with the modern reader’s expectations, so part of an edit would be to streamline that out (and replace it with more character thoughts and perspective, which I feel is lacking). Noah’s Ark will be back (and is still available in its current form for those who want to read it) but I think it’s too hard going for a first novel.
Vessel has been significantly edited now (just awaiting a final proofread) so hopefully all the scenes are great now!
Thanks for sticking with me through all this, I appreciate it.