Where I’m at currently…

Many many moons ago, I wrote a blog post regarding ‘Imposter Syndrome‘ and how I – like many other authors – have it. There’s always a sense that what you’ve written isn’t good enough somehow.

Admittedly, things have improved a little on that front for me. There are a few reasons for this if I’m honest.

Firstly, there’s the fact that my books have sold (not like gangbusters, but they do sell a few copies here and there!) and the reviews have been steadily good. What’s more, they aren’t all people I know so I can remove the ‘friends and family’ bias out of the equation.

Take a look at what’s happening with my ‘ratings’ on Amazon!

Thus far I’m averaging nothing worse than a 4.5, which is awesome!

(No, that’s not an invitation for you to go bomb me with bad reviews. Please don’t do that to my delicate psyche!)

Now, the last book on that list is ‘Malarky’s ImaginOmnibus‘, which is actually an anthology book with a whole bunch of other authors. This boosted my ego in a slightly different way. 

Ross Young, who is the awesome author of the ‘Gloomwood series( <- click link to go take a look at his books. Absolutely recommended!) invite me to join him and a whole merry band of other amazing writers in taking part. Of course, I felt humbled and honored and absolutely JUMPED at the chance to be included in such incredible company. The book rode high on the charts on release, and I’m so proud to be a part of it. 

(The second volume of Malarky’s is coming to a bookstore by you VERY soon!  And we’re already working on a third! WAHOOO!)

There was also the very welcome news that HUNTERS won an award!!!

Yup, my little (massive) book won the 2023 Queer Indie Award for Speculative Fiction


So what does this have to do with the title of this blog?

Well, I’m not a person that likes to rest on my laurels. 

I want to push myself to be better. Try new things. Go a little beyond my comfort zone with each thing I do. I think, as an author, it’s really important to try new things. Like an F1 driver trying to find the limit of the car, I want to find the limit of what I can do.

So, with that in mind, let me walk you through what I’ve done so far and where I’m going next.

Style Choices – Formatting

When I wrote and put HUNTERS out into the world, I had a pretty steep learning curve. Just getting the headers and footers right, along with learning how margins work in conjunction with gutters. Then there was the whole ‘next section/next page’ conundrum and how it affects page numbering. 

So as an example, the formatting looked like this…

I was pretty happy with it out of the box, but it did look a tad plain. The next book I did was BLOOD TO EARTH, and I followed the same template, but when I wrote THE SCORCHED SKY (from the Femme Fatales series) I decided to try something new. Putting images into the manuscript, most notably on the chapter headers.

THE SCORCHED SKY gave me a chance to dabble with both different fonts and with placing images above the chapter headers. Just to give it a little something more. At the same time, I also started to play with graphical chapter breaks which were really just a change of font. We first did it in Nikki’s (NT Anderson – My book-wife and Tepris Press partner!) ACTS series, but I carried on the theme in the KNIGHTINGALE novella, along with also incorporating images, fonts, and emojis, into the text flow of the story.

Here’s a 4-page example to see what I mean…

And talking of Nikki’s (award-winning) ACTS series, I also cut my teeth trying to get Drop Caps in. I really effin hate doing these!  LOL  Anyway, here’s what they looked like…

Point of View

It’s not just the look of the manuscript that I’ve been trying to push the boundaries with. I’m also trying new writing styles and formats. 

When I wrote HUNTERS, I did it in a 3rd Person (omniscient) style. This was mostly due to the fact I was writing for multiple characters, switching vantage points per chapter. I thought it might be to confusing to keep jumping heads all the time, so keeping a consistent 3rd Person (omniscient) style seemed to fit. Each chapter does come at the narrative from the point-of-view of the character featured, including tapping into their inner thoughts. 

I stuck with this style of writing through BLOOD TO EARTH, and into the Femme Fatale novels/novellas too. But working with Nikki on her ACTS books gave me an appreciation and a curiosity for working in 1st Person. It seemed to me that it worked well for a single-character piece of work, and I was keen to give it a try. 

Enter Malarky’s ImaginOmnibus

The anthology nature of the books gives me a chance to try new things in relative safety. So for the second volume (Not out just yet. Coming soon!) I decided to do my story in 1st Person. I’m really pleased with how it turned out. Personally, I think it’s one of the best things I’ve written and I’m kind of keen to see how it’s received when the anthology comes out.

It’s not just the PoV I’m dabbling with though, I’m also trying out different story formats.

Length of Story

HUNTERS and BLOOD TO EARTH (and indeed the rest of the Songbird saga) are BIG books. They’re Epic Novels.

The former weighs in at 538 pages and 150,491 words. The latter comes in at a slightly bigger 578 pages and 157,867 words. This was fine as I was creating a big sprawling (urban) Fantasy universe and had dozens of characters to let breathe. 

But…it’s a tough sell to get people to buy into an epic saga like this. Most advice around the Fantasy genre say they shouldn’t really be more than 120k. I tried to get down to that, I really did. But…it wasn’t going to happen.

So I tried to write something a little smaller in the Femme Fatales books. Mostly to prove that I could do it if I put my mind to it.  

THE SCORCHED SKY is 374 pages and comes in at 89,367 words. This puts it in novel territory, knocking the ‘epic’ title off it. The character count isn’t as high, and the story is simpler in many ways, but I did it. Proved I could. 

So with that point proved…could Jon write a novella?  Could I tell a proper story in 50k words or less?

No.  I couldn’t. But damn, I was close. 

The final word count for the book ended up at 51,838 over 226 pages. And to be totally fair, the pre-amble and post-script bits were likely more than 2k anyway, so the story itself would have been below 50k.

Malarky’s ImaginOmnibus gives me a new challenge.

Can I write a complete story, with a beginning, a middle, and an end, in 6k words or less. Thus far I think I’ve nailed it. (You’ll need to go read them to be sure!)

In Volume 1, I wrote a story called ‘The Night Before‘ and I finished that up in 4477 words.

For Volume 2, Ross gave us a slightly larger word count (the aforementioned 6k) and I’ve written a short called ‘Skies of Blue‘ and that comes in at 5260 words.

I’m pretty proud of them, especially the second one. I had this aim in mind. I wanted a three-act structure (beginning/middle/end) with a twist in the third act. I think I nailed it. 

But Malarky’s gives me an opportunity to try something else too…

Flipping Genres

I want to push myself to write in different genres. 

Songbird is an Urban Fantasy with hints of Science FictionFemme Fatales is Science Fiction/Superhero. You can tell this is my comfort zone. 

The Knightingale novella pushed me a little as I wanted to do a sort of mystery story. I wanted Gale to uncover a plot, all with a secret villain to unmask. I very much enjoyed writing it.

For my second Malarky’s short, I decided to not only go 1st Person but also go full-on noir detective. Albeit with a sci-fi twist. 

Now the third short beckons and I have some choices. Genres I know will challenge me. 

  • Romance
  • Horror
  • Comedy

I’ve written scenes in the books with these elements, but never written a whole story in that genre.

Horror I think I could do, but whether I could do it well…not sure. There’s an art to it. 

Romance is a genre I don’t really understand. I’ve had long debates about this with Nikki. I don’t think that way. What is romantic to my brain isn’t what the Romance crowd necessarily devours.

Comedy though…phew!  That’s the toughest nut to crack. I’ve written what I think are funny scenes in my books, but writing a funny novel is something very different. This is the one genre I’m really not sure I could crack. So I’m not going to try.

Not yet anyway.

So for my third Malarky’s story, I’m going to try a short Romance story! Fingers crossed, folks!

Till next time.

Love and Books

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