Advice thread on Writing LN and Webnovels

UltraRob

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Hi All!

My name is Rob Paterson, and I'm the author of the book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. In my day job, I'm a college instructor who teaches Communications, Media Studies and Script-writing, and since I love Asian fiction I decided to spend a couple years writing a book about it. (At least, that's why I told the wife I was spending all my time reading through more Chinese, Korean, and Japanese novels than I can count... :s_wink: ) Since the book is out, I thought I'd make a thread here in case anyone has any questions about writing these kinds of stories that I can help with or wants advice. :geek:

Ask away!

Rob

P.S. It might take me a bit to get back to everyone, but I will!
 
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What is the average length of a single book and/or volume in a web novel unless that doesnt apply to web novels? The average length of a chapter?
 

UltraRob

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Ah, now I know where and in which kind of scientific research all the college funds go ... Interesting. :blob_cookie:
Ha! :s_smile: I can only wish my school would pay for this as a research project! No, this was totally done on my own time and dime. I teach at a college in Canada, so we focus on education, not research.
 

UltraRob

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What is the average length of a single book and/or volume in a web novel unless that doesnt apply to web novels? The average length of a chapter?
It varies, of course, but most webnovel chapters seem to run around 2000-3000 words per chapter. There really isn't a target number for "books/volumes" exactly, but if you wanted to write your own in English you'd probably want to try to make each major story arc between 80,000 and 120,000 words which is your average novel length in English. That way you can sell it on Amazon (or other booksellers) later at a length most customers are going to expect for their money.
 

Kotohood

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What do you think are the average reader growth rate and the average reader retention going from chapter to chapter?


Also any tips on eye catching description? :blob_reach:
 

UltraRob

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What do you think are the average reader growth rate and the average reader retention going from chapter to chapter?
I don't really think you can say there is an "average growth rate" and "average retention rate" for webnovels because each book is different. If there is any pattern, it will probably follow The Pareto Principle like most ebook publishing does- 20% of the stories will get 80% of the attention from readers while 80% of the stories will get the remaining 20%. It's a sad truth that roughly 80% of books and stories published on any platform get almost no reads, sales, or attention, as per this chart from Smashwords.com.

Now, if we were to just look at that top 20%, I imagine the data exists, but they're in the hands of site owners who don't seem eager to share their numbers. But if I can get them, I'll be happy to let people know. :-)

Also any tips on eye catching description? :blob_reach:
Eye catching description for what? Your story blurb? Your title? Your scene descriptions?

Rob
 

Kotohood

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I don't really think you can say there is an "average growth rate" and "average retention rate" for webnovels because each book is different. If there is any pattern, it will probably follow The Pareto Principle like most ebook publishing does- 20% of the stories will get 80% of the attention from readers while 80% of the stories will get the remaining 20%. It's a sad truth that roughly 80% of books and stories published on any platform get almost no reads, sales, or attention, as per this chart from Smashwords.com.

Now, if we were to just look at that top 20%, I imagine the data exists, but they're in the hands of site owners who don't seem eager to share their numbers. But if I can get them, I'll be happy to let people know. :-)



Eye catching description for what? Your story blurb? Your title? Your scene descriptions?

Rob
Thanks for your insight.

Story Sypnosis/description I mean. The second a reader will see after the cover.
 

UltraRob

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Story Sypnosis/description I mean. The second a reader will see after the cover.
A "synopsis" is a summarized version of your whole story, including the end. What you're talking about is called a "blurb" or "book blurb"- it's the advertising description that sells your book to the readers. You find it on the back of printed books, or as the description on Amazon.

As for how to write a catchy one, most blurbs basically look like this:
  • Introduction (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Hook (1 paragraph)
  • Cliffhanger (1 paragraph)
Each paragraph is short, just 2 to 5 sentences long, any longer and the audience might lose interest.

Introduction
-who is your main character? (the best blurbs are built around a character, not a story.)
-why should the audience care? (what makes them sympathetic - this is KEY, you need to make your audience like your main character)
-the most interesting details about the character or their world.
-things the audience needs to understand the hook or the cliffhanger.

Hook
-this is the main problem of your story that your character faces
-also, anything special that makes your story unique like special or unusual things about your main character, system, cheat, etc

Cliffhanger
-this is opposition - who or what is standing in the way of your main character accomplishing their goals?
-and stakes- what will happen if your character fails to deal with their problem? What price will they pay and who will pay the price?
-always leave them hanging and wanting to know more!

A few other tips:
  • Don't refer to any more characters or places than you absolutely have to.
  • Names don't mean anything to your reader, use descriptions (Not "Bob Smith" but "the last assassin of a lost ninja clan", or not "Panagea" but "a lost continent filled with warring tribes of powerful martial gods".)
  • Try to keep the whole blurb under 200 words or less.
  • Don't use "is" or "have" verbs, use action verbs - "ran", "conquered", "convinced" etc.
That should get you off to a good start!
Rob
 

lastaldrianmain

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Whoa, this is actually really interesting!

I think I might just have to pick up your book. But, seeing as I'm busy at the moment, I can't :(
 

UltraRob

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Whoa, this is actually really interesting!

I think I might just have to pick up your book. But, seeing as I'm busy at the moment, I can't :(
Don't worry, the book isn't going anywhere. :-) Although I might remove it from Kindle Unlimited next month so I can offer it for sale on other ebook sellers. So if you have Amazon Prime and want to read it for "free", then add it to your list of books now.

Rob
 

TypeAxiom

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What have you written, web novel wise? I don't think being a college instructor qualifies you to write a guide without having written at least one yourself.
 

UltraRob

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What have you written, web novel wise? I don't think being a college instructor qualifies you to write a guide without having written at least one yourself.
You're right. Just being a college instructor wouldn't qualify me to write a guide about anything.

However, being an instructor who is blessed by my school with guiding 40-50 young scriptwriters each January (going on seven years now), does mean I know a little about storytelling. I have had to take apart hundreds of scripts, figure out what's wrong with them, and help people fix them in ways they understand so they become better writers.

This has made me an expert at story structure, because script-writing is all about structure, and I've applied that skill set to break down and analyze the uncountable webnovels and light novels I've read in the past couple years to find out what made the popular ones popular and the lesser ones fail. In addition, I've dug through sources from Chinese, Korean, and Japanese to see what their own writers say about things, and to research the history of webfiction in each of those languages. And, done interviews, some of which you can hear on my podcast.

Then I took all that, and put it into a 316 page book that's easy to read and digest for writers who want to write in the most popular genres. One which frankly, no publisher would touch because there's not a financial market for it, but I wrote anyways because I thought it was worth doing and because I love encouraging young storytellers.

So, as to your specific question. No, I haven't written any webnovels myself. I was too busy writing the guide for other people. :s_smile:

Anything I can help you with?
 

Mcoorlim

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While I've dabbled in serial fiction most of my experience (and my day job) is writing novels. How can I adapt my skills from novelist to web serialist in terms of both creative production and marketing?
 

LWFlouisa

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How are series handled, and what if a particular work is taking a super long time to edit?

I have one, where I wrote it over the last ten years, and still need to perfect it. Wrote a few others in the mean time.

I'm thinking of Light Novels as a side thing for doing graphic novels eventually. This was more of a ... odd detour as I had originally wanted to do script writing.
 

UltraRob

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While I've dabbled in serial fiction most of my experience (and my day job) is writing novels. How can I adapt my skills from novelist to web serialist in terms of both creative production and marketing?
In terms of creative production, the recommended formula seems to run like this:
  1. Plan out the first two arcs and final arc of your story. Leave the middle vague and flexible.
  2. Typical arcs are 40,000 - 60,000 words.
  3. Break your first arc down into chapters of 2000-3000 words, with a goal of 20-30 chapters. Each chapter needs to have a strong hook at the end to get readers coming back. For more details, check out my book. If you click on the "look inside" on Amazon, it should let you read the whole first chapter which covers the 10 things popular webnovels have in common.
  4. Write the whole first arc.

Marketing and release phase:
  1. Pick the sites that work best for your target demographic. (my very rough list is here, I plan to update it later)
  2. Release your first 10-14 chapters simultaneously on those sites, releasing them daily to get your story high up in the rankings and keep it there on the new release list so people will find it. Edit then release each day, so you can respond to reader feedback.
  3. After you're blown through half your chapters, drop down to 2-3 chapters/week so you have time to write the second arc with reader feedback in mind and can avoid having to go on a long hiatus.
  4. If your story is successful and finds an audience, keep writing it and growing your audience.


Notes:
  • Webfiction is all about momentum and consistency- keeping your readers engaged and wanting more, and giving them a regular dose of your stories on a set schedule.
  • Some sites have donation options, make sure you set those up so you can get money from your happy readers.
  • Make sure you read the terms and conditions of the sites you post on, most don't put any creative or legal limitations on your work, but it's good to know.
  • Obviously, you can later compile your story arcs into novels to sell on Amazon. Don't be afraid to encourage your loyal readers to go and leave good reviews. Sadly, that's likely all they'll do, since they've already read the story for free and most won't buy it based on what I've seen. (Unless maybe you offer some extras in each published book they might want.) However, a lot of good reviews will definitely help to boost sales from your new audience.
  • If your story still isn't working after the first arc, finish it ASAP and move on to another story that might find a larger audience. From a publishing perspective, writing the second arc and then segueing into the planned final arc gives you a trilogy. Keep in mind that what might fail as webfiction could still find a solid audience as an ebook, or vice versa.
Good luck!
Rob
 
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UltraRob

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How are series handled, and what if a particular work is taking a super long time to edit?
I have one, where I wrote it over the last ten years, and still need to perfect it. Wrote a few others in the mean time.
Break your series into arcs of 40-60,000 words (if possible) and release them one arc at a time.

I recommend you edit and release the first arc as soon as possible, get feedback, and then use that to edit the following arcs when you see what works and what doesn't. Webfiction readers don't expect perfection, they want fun engaging content, and are willing to overlook typos and other issues if the story and characters are good.

I'm thinking of Light Novels as a side thing for doing graphic novels eventually. This was more of a ... odd detour as I had originally wanted to do script writing.
The plan is pretty much the same for light novels, which are mostly serial stories just broken into arcs anyways. Scripts are even more tightly written and focused than light novels, so it's good practice to teach yourself to work within length constraints anyways.

Have fun editing!
Rob
 

LWFlouisa

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Something that it didn't occur to me to ask earlier, is devoting the entire first arc to building up the bad guy a bad strategy? The main character of the first arc is suppose to be the old hero, and how they were driven insane by brain experiments comparable to say ... Nova from manga like Battle Angel Alita.

By that I mean the first part is written in such a way, as to build "sympathy for the devil" so to speak.
 

UltraRob

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Something that it didn't occur to me to ask earlier, is devoting the entire first arc to building up the bad guy a bad strategy? The main character of the first arc is suppose to be the old hero, and how they were driven insane by brain experiments comparable to say ... Nova from manga like Battle Angel Alita.

By that I mean the first part is written in such a way, as to build "sympathy for the devil" so to speak.
So, essentially what you're saying is that your entire first arc is a prologue to the real story? The hero doesn't actually appear until the second arc?
 
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