As everyone knows, anyone can write a light novel and get famous. But since satire is a cheap form of humour, that is not actually the route I’m going to take with this post. Say you (hypothetically) wanted to write a light novel in English and get it published, how would you go about doing it?
Step One: Figure out what you’re actually writing
The number one requirement of good writing: knowing what you want to achieve.
So let’s define what the light novel actually is. It’s short fiction and it’s meant to be easy to read. It’s also targeted at a Young Adult demographic. But then that would pretty much be your regular teen lit novel, so you want your light novel to have some kind of appeal to an otaku audience. In short, you either want it to be self-aware and meta about anime tropes or you want it to resemble an anime in tone and style of storytelling. Otherwise, there would be no point in calling it a light novel.
Easy pitfalls to fall into at this stage. Essentially, by writing a light novel in English and not in Japanese, you’re writing for a dual audience: one who cares about anime (your most intended audience, obviously) and one who doesn’t. If you just wrote for the former, your book will suck. There is a reason why we do not have a mass-produced market for otaku literature in English. Writing anime tropes into a story and deconstructing them, parodying them, discussing them and so on requires the audience to actually care about anime tropes in the first place. Most people who read books don’t care about anime. They will not get your in-jokes.
So how to engage a non-otaku audience while still keeping the style noticeably anime-influenced for the geeky readers? Very good question.
- Don’t try to write your prose to resemble what you read on Baka-Tsuki or other websites that translate light novels literally into English. Read books in native English. Write with proper English.
- Localise the story. Unless you’re setting your story in Japan and trying to specifically capture a foreign flavour, don’t use honorifics or arbitrary Japanese phrases. Keep things understandable for the non-Japanese reader.
Step Two: Identify the tropes you want to play with
Personally, I hate using TV Tropes. I think it’s a crappy way of devising stories. But since writing a light novel is arguably an exercise in playing with tropes, whether you’re playing them straight, deconstructing them or just having characters talk about them, TV Tropes is your friend here.
When picking the tropes you want to base your story around, again keep in mind the dual nature of your audience. Try to use tropes that are readily understood by watchers of film, television and books. Once you’ve picked a trope you want to explore (e.g. a Magical Girlfriend) think about what you want to do with the trope. How do you want to portray it?
best most popular light novels link the exploration of their main trope to a broader theme. Examples:
OreImo: “Little sister plays eroge.” -> We sometimes don’t understand the people who are closest to us.
Sword Art Online: “Gamers trapped in a life-or-death MMORPG.” -> A game can be just as “real” as reality.
OreGairu: “Cynical boy joins a club and helps people.” -> Engaging with people isn’t simple when you are who are you, but you can’t expect to change yourself in order to get friends.
Haganai: “Boy with no friends joins a club with girls who also have no friends.” -> Friendship can be as simple as mutual loneliness.
Sakurasou: “Boy takes care of girl with deficiencies as a ‘pet’.” -> A device used to highlight the mental imbalances between the characters; we all have our own unique talents.
Chuunibyou: “Wacky girl with chuunibyou meets seemingly normal guy.” -> An exploration of chuunibyou as a syndrome and a critique of escapism.
Toaru Majutsu no Index: “Normal boy takes down enemies with superpowers.” -> Actively challenges our standards for what constitutes as ‘extraordinary’ in society.
Think of it this way: by using tropes, what you’re trying to do is distill broad, intellectual themes into readily identifiable fiction devices. You’re making your ideas accessible to a wider audience, not trying to alienate them. As long as you don’t think of using your tropes for the sake of using tropes, you don’t have to worry about being ‘cliched’.
There will always be people who will dislike this approach to storytelling and they will diss your story regardless of how well you tell it, but you’re not writing it for them, so forget them.
Step Three: Write It
Needs to be done sometime. A good way to actually motivate yourself to get the story out is to join up with NaNoWriMo and write the whole thing in one month. In any case, just get it down on paper.
How to write easily readable prose:
This is your main priority in writing a light novel. You want your style to be easy to read while still being intellectually stimulating. Obviously, you need practice before you can write in this style well, but here are some tips to guide you along.
- Use active verbs, not passive verbs. e.g. “He kicked the dog” instead of “The dog was kicked”.
- Vary your sentence structure, but keep them mainly short.
- Use precise wording. If you can express the same idea in less words, then do so.
- Limit your vocabulary. As long as you don’t have to waste more words to describe something with more precision, then use simple words rather than specialised vocabulary. You don’t want your reader having to flip through a dictionary just to understand what you’re saying.
- Don’t ignore descriptions. Work them in alongside the dialogue and action. Light novel descriptions should be strongly visual and impressionistic rather than artsy and emotive.
- The average light novel consists of about 70% dialogue. Use it to carry along your story. Read the dialogue aloud and remove superfluous or unnatural-sounding lines.
- Each chapter should move the story along. Each scene should move the story along. So should each sentence and, by extension, each word.
- Avoid repetition and tautologies.
Finally, and most importantly, BE INTERESTING. If you’re getting bored with your own writing, then chances are your reader will too. Who cares if it’s good as long as it’s interesting. Seriously. This is how shit writers get popular.
How to be Meta:
One of the more interesting literary aspects of the light novel is having the narrator mentally make comments on the plot or on other characters as it develops. This is how light novels become meta-aware and also why butthurt fans hate it when their favourite light novel gets an anime adaptation that never seems to explore what the main character is thinking.
To write a good meta narrative, you first of all need to get well into the head of your protagonist. It goes without saying that this is easiest when you write in first person. It also makes things easier if you base the main character on yourself. Really. Take no shame in it.
Once you think you understand your protagonist’s writing voice well, you need to put yourself in the characters shoes as you’re writing the story and think about how they’d mentally respond to the events unfolding. If they’re snarky or a cynic, the character should probably be unimpressed by a lot of what he sees. If your character is a pervert, he should be associating OPPAI and PANTSU with nearly everything a female character says or does. Simply put: consistency is the key.
Even then, you will not have achieved meta status until you take a step back and think about what you’re trying to do with this. Basically, you want there to be two narratives going on at the same time: the physical narrative and the meta narrative. The latter is an alternative, “second” reading of the events.
Here is a short excerpt from OreGairu that is hopefully illustrative of the dual narrative (my own translation):
Encompassing the boundaries of the school building as far as the eye can see, this quadrilateral-shaped courtyard is the holy land of the preppy kids. Boys and girls mingle here with each other during their lunch breaks. After they eat, they have a spot of badminton as they wait for the contents of their stomachs to settle. After school, lovers exchange sweet nothings in the dimming sunset behind the school building, awash with the scent of the ocean breeze and draped under the starlit skies.
When you look at it from up close, it’s so much like they’re trying out for some soap drama that I can’t help but get a chill down my spine. I suppose if I went along with it, my role would be that of the tree under which they make out under.
With barely a word spoken between us, Miss Hiratsuka led me down the linoleum floor, apparently headed towards the special building.
I had a bad feeling about this.
As you can see from the example, the main character’s cynicism is steeped into all of his observations, as if he’s keeping a running commentary track while the physical action of the story is being simultaneously conveyed. Pretty clever, huh?
How to convey “fanservice” with words
A hefty component of writing light novels is the fanservice, often of the sexual kind. Unfortunately, it’s an otaku thing, it seems. I wouldn’t say it works in written form and particularly not in English.
It can, however, be done. Take Bakemonogatari for an example. The narrative constantly discusses issues of sexuality, often as a way of portraying tension between the characters. In other words, the low-brow discussions are quite indicative of the characters and their personalities. As long as sexuality is a theme in the story and not something added for “fanservice”, it will make sense in a novel. There’s nothing holy about literature.
When it comes to the usual kind of fanservice you see in anime, though, my instinct is to say scrap it altogether. At least, those awkward moments like when the hero accidentally flips up skirts and gropes the heroine’s body. But there are deeper levels of fanservice beyond these shallow elements, which is what I’ll be dealing with here.
Light novels are, at heart, escapist. There is no way around it. It appeals to the fantasy instinct, often more so than serious literature. The most ideal way of conveying a fantasy that is easy for the audience to buy into is to make it grounded in reality in some way.
Basically: the reader needs to identify with the protagonist to the extent that the story can “break” with reality and still be worth investing in.
One of the most common ways that this is done is by making the MC a “blank slate”. This does not tend to work for novels, however, especially in light novels, which are heavily based around character interaction. Your MC needs to have common traits with your target audience (i.e. be a teenager and have teenage concerns and worries) but this should not overshadow the character’s personality.
The fanservice – that is, the implausible aspects – need to make sense from a character perspective. Say the hero gets a harem. Is this justifiable from the story? Is the MC’s personality the type that would actually attract so many girls under a specific context? It doesn’t need to be totally believable as long as there is an explanation of some kind. Helps to sustain the fantasy. Also, it adds a lot more spice to the harem if the hero acted somewhat differently with every girl. This is how relationships work in real life, after all.
Step Four: Edit, Edit, Edit
That other step that sounds easy to do but is actually insanely hard.
A couple of vague suggestions here:
- Get someone who doesn’t know about anime to read the light novel. Ask them if it flows or if it makes sense as a narrative. This is the most important thing in a novel.
- Don’t just proofread for grammar errors. Be ruthless on yourself. Can you imagine yourself picking this up from the bookshelf and reading it? If not, then you still have work to do.
- Keep remembering your dual audience!
Step Five: Get Published
I have actually never seen a light novel written by an English-speaking author get published, so I would really like to see this happen. In any case, standard procedure for publishing applies: send off the manuscript to as many publishing houses as possible until one of them caves in and accepts. It’s really no more and no less than that. You have to put yourself out there.
Alternatively, post up your light novel on the Internet somewhere so I get to read it for free and you make no money. Pretty please?
Also, it would help if you found yourself an illustrator who can draw cute girls. It’s not a necessity, though.
Anyway, it was fun writing this guide, but I suspect not too many of you even care about light novels. In fact, it seems to be the cool thing these days to hate on them. I simply thought it would be nice to at least take it somewhat seriously, and besides, I really do like books a lot.
So… thoughts on light novels, guys? Anyone interested in writing one some day? Was this guide useful at all in any way, even just as a rudimentary lesson in creative writing?
I think most people would stop short of step 3, lol.
I haven’t been interested in writing a light novel, but have looked into writing a regular fantasy novel like about 8 years ago. I actually entered a few competitions in the young adult area for short stories; using one of those big books that list publishers and competitions that are held. Unfortunately, after entering about seven, I only heard back from one which got me 3rd place which was ribbon prize. Not sure if I would ever try it again, but it is a possibility. However, I am not sure if any publishers would accept the LN submissions. Worth a try, though.
Your comment is inspiring me to take up the mantle myself. Someone’s gotta do it, right??
It’s a shame that you’re not interested in writing a light novel yourself, though. And yeah, writing is one of those things that’s really a lot harder than it looks. It’s easy to fall over when trying to even complete something.
Was searching for word counts per volume of light novels, then, delved deeper, and got this great article. I’m a future writer, I’ve been planning for it since I was eleven, and I’m now seventeen, having passed through all the inane stages of adolescence and I’ve written about 80 pages of worth in only one month. I’m updating this online until I reach the critical point when I should leave the posts be before publishing the complete novel.
The best novels novels easily cover 10-20 volumes and I’m feeling gloomy, after constantly editing my story on my own for all this time. The same author, I’ve just learnt, has written Accel World and Sword Arts Online along with another 1-volume novel and I’m seriously feeling that I should catch up, if I want to establish myself since I have to prove myself before anything else.
Like, Danmachi actually plans to/may have already published its seventh volume with roughly 500 pages; there’s no longer even a difference between a light novel and the big novel.
My 80-ish pages may equate to 120-something, but I’m far from done, I’m betting all of my holiday duration on this. If anyone wants to read, here it is:
I’ve been thinking about it, silly enough. Just to see what would happen. But writing in English wouldn’t allow me to really let out my creativity. Swedish is easier in that regard, especially since it’s a more smooth language when it comes to structuring sentences and the likes. You can really write charming lines, to say the least. Although English can be good for comedy, for some reason.
Exaclt what I’d write? Good question.
Good luck writing a light novel! There’s an endless possibility for stories within the genre so all it takes is a cool idea about anything at all and you’re set to go. Although if you wrote it in Swedish I probably wouldn’t be able to understand it… haha :’)
I remembered my fantastic Twitter story:
“GUYS! I came up with a generic anime romcom triangle story arc!
There are three characters involved. Bland-kun, Tsundere-chan and Kuudere-chan. Bland-kun likes Kuudere-chan, Tsundere-chan likes Bland-kun
Bland-kun recieves two tickets two an amusement park/zoo (or something similar). One for him and his “partner”. Later on, it turns out it was a joke from his pal (who likes Tsundere-chan). Only readers will know this though.
So, Bland-kun takes the tickets and invites Kuudere-chan. But! When he reachers the park, he is not only greeted by the personal but also Tsundere-chan! Turned out she got a ticket from Bland-kun’s pal (Pal-kun was gonna go, but got sick and couldn’t stop the mail)
This means it’s Bland-kun and two girls (Tsundere-chan and Kuudere-chan) at the park. When the staff asks who’s the girlfriend, Bland-kun is about to say that it is Kuudere-chan, but Tsundere-chan is totally AGRESSIVE and says it’s her while grabbing his arm. Dun dun dun.
So in other words, Bland-kun and Tsundere-chan is paired during this story. But Bland-kun doesn’t like this and tries to sneak off with Kuudere-chan. Stuff happens and one day the staff has done something really awkward to surprise the pair (Bland-kun and Tsundere-chan). They have to kiss or something. Naturally, Bland-kun panics because he is bland, but he does not want to be found out.
Luckily, at the last second, Pal-kun, that began stalking them (he has now recovered from his cold), shouts and the staff is like “WOAH”. Bland-kun takes this chance to run off and tears are shed by Tsundere-chan.
Later that day, in the evening, Bland-kun and Kuudere-chan go somewhere (Ferris wheel or whatever) alone and undisturbed. Bland-kun was gonna use this as a way to confess. And typically, the ferris wheel stops on top because cliché. So he doesn’t do it in the end, but stuff happens and Kuudere-chan actually smiles and says “Thank you”. Love is born.
Then the Ferris wheel starts again and they go off. Tsundere-chan and Pal-kun are worried, but calms down and wonder what happened. Talk talk talk. We jump to the middle of the night, where we see Kuudere-chan looking at Bland-kun while looking happy.
The day after they leave the park. The end of generic romcom triangle arc.
God, I should become a writer. I am clearly a genius.”
I was tearing up by the end yo.
This is actually disgustingly good.
I used to be writing as a potential second career, but after a long breakdown, I decided that I’ll write as an emotional outlet and an escapism for life that I personally desire. Perhaps with that, I can write no matter what happens to me. But that advice is really useful for people who wants to write as a career, major or otherwise.
I like to think this guide would be useful for anyone, whether they take writing seriously or not. The publishing/career aspect of it only got a small mention here, after all. Even if writing is just a hobby, it’s still useful to think about ways we can improve or refine it.
Great post; it’s certainly of interest to me at least, considering I’ve been into books, writing, anime/manga, and light novels for some time. I’ve attempted breaking into the publishing world off and on over the years, but at the moment I’m focusing on releasing a book online just for kicks. This one is intended to mimic the Japanese light novel format–but (drastically) more important than that is just making it a good story. That, of course, is much more difficult, and for most of us takes many years of dedicated practice.
A Venn Diagram for light novels and YA fiction in Japan would be mostly overlap, I believe. There is definitely a… “certain type” of story that we’re all familiar with representing what it means to be a light novel, but LNs actually encompass all genres of storytelling. Interestingly, many YA stories from overseas that get translated into Japanese will be given manga-style illustrations, which I believe emphasizes the point that light novels aren’t just an “otaku thing.” Of course, in Japan manga itself fills up a third of the bookstore, and people of all ages enjoy it without anyone raising an eyebrow. So rather than saying the manga-style illustrations are put in light novels to appeal specifically to the anime crowd, it’s often just a case of that being the sort of drawing style that’s commonly used in Japan, and having some illustrations is an extra selling point for the product.
I once attended a panel by Scott Westerfeld, the author of the Uglies series and the Leviathan trilogy, in which he spoke on the subject of illustrations for YA books. In the 19th century, serials were generally accompanied by drawings, and novels (aimed at adults) likewise included pictures. The livelihood of illustrators largely died out once the camera came into play though, and not long thereafter film became more engaging for general audiences in terms of visual storytelling. The concept of drawings in books as childish came into play more once it was common for only children’s books to have them (which of course was a continued practice since young readers can use them to assist in comprehension). But there are exceptions, and Westerfeld decided that in order to mimic the style of a novel from the early 20th century, he made sure to get lots of drawings put in for Leviathan. This book is a really enjoyable alternate history World War I story with genetically-altered beasts used by the Allies and mechanical walkers used by the Central Powers; there’s a prince boy and a cross-dressing girl, and… Wow, this does sound a lot like an anime, doesn’t it? At any rate, I’m pretty sure there are about zero readers total that found these drawings un-cool: http://images1.wikia.nocookie.net/__cb20100103062845/leviathanscottwesterfeld/images/3/31/Alekandstormwalker.jpg
At any rate, the publishing world has changed in many ways over the past ten years, thanks to ebooks, e-readers, and the feasibility of indies releasing publications online. There are more options available to authors nowadays, but an extensive amount of effort is still required if you intend to make a living off your writings. There’s a whole ocean of stories you can find on the internet, and for most of us the trick may just be to reach your target audience effectively. Is there an audience for light novels not in Japanese? It’s a tricky thing to market, since there are preconceived notions that come into play for most folks if you release a book that has a manga-style illustration on the cover (“oh, so this is like Pokemon”); and if the majority of manga readers overseas are just interested in Naruto-style stories, then how many copies of Ballad of a Shinigami or Gosick are you seriously going to sell? The advent of stories being sold more online may change things though. In theory it should be easier now for niche readers to find their niche novels (and vice versa).
+ 9000 to this comment :)
I agree that light novels have a different connotation in Japan than it does for English speakers. The reason is because the anime/manga culture is completely different over there than it is here. Over here, anything with an overt anime-esque influence is labelled ‘for geeks and children only’. This is why I caution any English-speaking writers to think about the dual audience, because it’s much more divisive than with Japanese readers. The term ‘light novel’ has a much narrower meaning for us, and while it’s still niche for English readers, I can see that there are people who still want to attempt this style. In that case, more power to them.
It’s funny you should mention the Leviathan trilogy… I’m a huge fan of it myself. In fact, the very reason I picked it up from a bookshelf and bought it on a whim was because the synopsis sounded very anime-esque. If that influence was deliberate, then it would be awesome to see more writers carry on after him. That’s the kind of YA literature that I love.
I’m actually thinking that the current reading environment is beginning to change and that there will come a day when light novels will receive recognition as “proper” literature. But it really comes down to how it’s marketed and how online publishing changes the landscape. I’m optimistic though.
Anyway, good luck to your writing and your endeavours! As soon as you publish your book online, make sure to tell me.
Finally found time to read and respond here!
The only light novel series I’ve read is Haruhi, and I can definitely see how it matches up with many things you suggested, especially in terms of Kyon’s snarky narration and how it explores the main trope (high school comedy) with broader themes (all the science fiction/fantasy elements). I have ideas for a novel I’d like to write someday though I doubt it’ll be a light novel ;) But if it is, I’ll probably look back on this post for tips XD
I do actually have a light novel for you to read for free. The current one’s being rewritten though, because it isn’t exactly interesting or outstanding. I think the prototype’s much more fun to read, but it is admittedly horribly written, not planned out at all, and just plain awful. Fun and entertaining, yes, well-written and novel of the year material, no. I tried to improve it, but the subsequent versions aren’t as fun or interesting because I downgraded the protagonist from a heartless, insane jerk to a more normal person. So it went from funny to cliched and plain.
The current draft is on my blog, but I’m planning to remove it and replace it with the new draft, which is frankly more interesting since I went back to the prototype and took back my protagonist’s cynicism and insanity (thanks to your meta narrative advice, I’m grateful for that).
Basically, if you’re looking for a free light novel to read on the web, head over to my blog. The illustrations suck, the current draft is being scrapped, but I will be posting the prototype before long. Just click on the details for Project Tomoyuki (should be up there somewhere).
I checked out your blog, although I haven’t done a close reading yet. I’ll be sure to tell you when I have finished reading your novel so far (probably sometime this weekend). One thing I’m curious about is why you have the English and Japanese texts interspersed. It’s a little distracting, I think. Any way to separate them out, or is that totally deliberate?
Oh, and I’m glad this article could have been of help to you!
Thanks! I should hurry and post the prototype up before you start reading. That is completely in English, and has no Japanese with it.
You’re right, I didn’t think of it. I was translating the text paragraph by paragraph, so it became interspersed because it was easier for me to write that way. Additionally, I was hoping some kind Japanese (or anyone who has an awesome grasp of the language) could help me edit the Japanese, and it would be easier for them to edit the sentences when they know exactly which English paragraph corresponds to which Japanese paragraph. I guess that was the reason I did that. Though I think you’re right and it’s distracting. I should separate them altogether for the final draft. Thanks for that!
What do you think of light novels in third person perspective? While lesser, there are a number of light novels telling the story in third person: Heavy Object for example, and also Fate/Zero. I’m not doing anything as major as writing light novel at the moment, but I’m doing some extremely casual creative writing, and I wrote them in third person. Maybe it will be better in first person as it creates a better sense of identification from the readers?
Rule #1 of creative writing: There are no rules! There’s no better way of doing things. If writing in third person fits the nature of the story you want to write, I say go for it. You can still have a clever or unique-sounding writing voice in third person, if that’s what you’re asking. But I would say it’s probably a little easier to write something quick and simple to identify with in first person. Again, it all really depends on what you’re comfortable with as a writer.
Reblogged this on Little Miss Marikit.
Reblogged this on bananasai.
Great article ….
the part of “Meta” is new to me and was useful (I remembered how the third person told ” ToAru Index” uses that in telling the novel.
I got interested in LN writing after reading a lot of Index Vols ..some Accel World …I’m writing Novels ( not sure if it can be called Light Novels & are in Arabic).
your article motivated me a bit..
for some reason I’m not sure I can/will translate my novels from Arabic to English (it takes time more than writing them originally) but if I do I hope I remember you & give you a link (yes they are Free)
are you interested in Indie Manga? I’m part of Arabian mangaka community my Art isn’t Pro but my stories near that.
I translated my best praised Oneshot To ENGlish before you can find it in my website
Ah, I’m sorry for not replying to this sooner! Your comment was stuck in the spam queue. Your novel sounds interesting, even though I don’t know a thing about Indie manga. If you ever do remember to finish your novel and translate it, I would certainly be interested if you posted a link!
sorry … I made the link (in my name above) the wrong one.. (really sorry about that).
Indie Manga : what I call self-published manga. (indie = independent /used for self-published music and games)
my manga is called “Final Enter” view it here : http://mangafox.me/manga/final_enter/
about my novel I’m still not sure if I can/will translate it yet.
I read your manga. I thought it was really interesting! I had no idea whether to think of the protagonist as a good guy or a bad guy, and the way you showed that felt really clever. Are you planning to draw more manga anytime soon?
Glad you liked it… I intentionally wanted the reader to think “is the protagonist as a good guy or a bad guy?”
and I made this manga “What if someone thought being the Strongest alive isn’t as Great as shonen shows it” …
also “Can I make a story without giving the Protagonist a name?”…
I’ve actually been working towards a light novel for a bit of time now. At first it was more of just an idea of sorts, as I’ve always kept whatever “good story ideas” I had locked away in my brain. I eventually started writing them down, and comprised somewhat of a list. I picked the one I felt like I could write the easiest (the MC was basically an emotional copy of myself but with all of the life details changed), and began work on. By the time I finished chapter two I realized something important. Even though the format of it as far as word count goes is accurate (3000 words per chapter, entire book not planned to exceed 50,000 words) I found that my writing style is much more aimed towards that of a novel than a light novel. It’s in third person. It’s only about 30% dialogue, and is heavy on expository segments and description. While I find this does a lot to enhance the story and make it easier for the reader to get into, it’s really looking like this will end up being a regular short novel but with a lot of artwork added in. I’m not really sure how to proceed. My writing style is very focused on character development, and I find that first person is an incredibly weak and limiting viewpoint, as third person is capable of doing all of the same things as first without the limits. It wouldn’t be possible for me to go back and rewrite is with 70% dialogue in mind, as that would not only destroy the particular writing style I use, but I feel it would also destroy the original intention of the story, which is to become emotionally attached to all of the characters, and not just the MC. While it’s true the entire book’s plot is style after that of an anime (romance drizzled with a bit of comedy here and there with some feels and the eventual harem-esque feeling later on), the particular writing style I’m using is very…I don’t know how to explain it well other than saying book. It’s very book.
It’s troublesome. The story itself could easily be read by both audiences. All of the anime/otaku subculture references will be funny for the readers than understand them, without being distracting to a reader who doesn’t get the joke. If I ever wanted to really push it for publishing (which I do), I might just say it’s a regular novel but with illustrations. To call it an actual light novel would be incorrect. Sigh. Maybe I’ll just call it young adult fiction.
I’m not Froggykun, but I hope you don’t mind me replying to your comment!
Just write what you want, however you want, using the style you favor the most. Do not change the style of your writing just to fit it into the preconceptions of what a light novel should be (for example 70% dialogue – NO!!!). Even among light novels there exist a lot of variances in writing style, characterization, plot and points of view. A lot of light novels are written in the third person. I repeat, do not change your writing style just to conform it into what you think is a light novel. Which you are doing, but just call it a light novel because you want it to be a light novel, and don’t worry about it not being a light novel just because it seems different. There are light novels that concentrate on exposition and description rather than dialogue, so don’t feel disheartened and give up on the label just because it seems different from some.
I do feel a bit aggrieved at your comment about first person being weak and limiting – I would argue that it all depends on what you want your reader to see. If yours is a description-heavy story that focuses more on the setting, plot and various conflicts among a wide range of characters, then yes, third person would be the best for you. However, if you’re trying to bring across a satrical or cynical tone, for example having the narrator mock the events or whatever’s going on, or any other tone, then first person would be the best. I myself write in first person because it’s fun.
Which brings me to my last point. Write because you enjoy it and find it fun. Don’t worry about which category your story falls into, or the lack of dialogue, or anything. If you’re having fun writing the story, chances are the readers will have fun reading the story. At which point it doesn’t matter if your story is a light novel or not. So don’t worry about it.
I’m looking forward to reading your story someday!
Looks like Tanaka beat me in saying all that I wanted to say!
You shouldn’t worry about how your work is identified – the best stories are the ones that just write themselves without regard for genre staples. With light novels, while I did say in the guide that using the first person voice and lots of dialogue is easiest, easiest doesn’t mean necessary. There are no fast rules for writing.
As for your story, it certainly does sound like a literary work from the way you spin it. No harm in that kind of style, especially if it’s readable. In fact, it seems like a really creative attempt at telling anime-type storytelling in a literary framework. This sounds incredibly fascinating to me and I find myself extremely curious about the execution will turn out. As for whether it comes off as more “light novel” or more “young adult fiction”, that is something only a publisher decides, not the author. I hope you don’t worry about that kind of stuff and let that alter your vision.
When you finish the story, I hope I get to see it. Good luck in completing it!
Thank you both for replying. After giving it some though, I ended up realizing a lot of what you both said is very true. I picked up an old Haruhi LN I had sitting around and realized that it’s was different than I had remembered. It wasn’t very dialogue-heavy. It actually seemed pretty balanced. And sorry if I offended you at all Tanaka for saying first person was a weak writing style. I should have said that it was weak for what I was going for. The story is written in third-person alternating viewpoint. The purpose of this is to give the reader a good idea of what ALL the characters are thinking, feeling, perceiving etc. and not just the main character. I don’t dislike first person, I just feel it has a time and a place, and while it does work very well in romance novels, this story in particular needs a very wide scope beyond what first person usually offers. I actually intend to write a book in first person in November for NiNoWriMo. It’s a crime mystery novel (but also it has a very anime-ish plot). No, it isn’t a Detective Conan rip-off xD I promise.
And Froggy, you totally nailed what I was going for on the head. This story is my attempt at writing an anime-style novel, which includes a few illustrations at chapter dividends here and there. I pitched the basic summary to a few people and their reactions were all along the lines of “that sounds like an anime plot.” I guess that means I’m succeeding in concept. It “should” be done by November 1st since that’s when NiNoWriMo starts, and I’d be okay with letting you guys read it via Google Docs. Actually getting a publisher to touch something like this might be a bit difficult (maybe I’ll pitch it to Del Rey or Tokyopop lol) but just having the book done would be all I need to feel like I accomplished something worthwhile in my spare time.
Ha ha! I’m not offended, I was joking when I said that, so don’t worry about it. I look forward to reading your story!
[…] I wrote a guide on how to write a light novel, and I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since then. I think English-speaking fans are in a […]
ty this halp me alot im start to write my own but i live not even close to amrica or japan so it will be hard to publish it but im still gonna try
well… ive been writing for a while now, but nvr actually tried getting it out there. the last one i wrote got taken from me and it got big, so i kno im capable of it. the hard part for me is always the marketing aspect an building a fanbase.
What do you mean taken from you? Did someone steal your story or something?
If i had known what you posted about four years ago I would of produced a much higher quality light novel but oh well. About the publishing section. If an English speaking novelist wants to get his light novel published he would have to look at a Japanese publishing company. This requires the book to be in Japanese. One of the biggest chances is with Dengeki Bunko who have released some of the biggest names in the light novel world. On their website they actively say they accept novels from all over the world. Only that it must be in Japanese. So the choice is simiple, try and find a company in America to accept you (Nearly impossible) Or translate your entire book into Japanese. (This could cost you thousands of dollars as translators charge per word.) In the end, your best course of action is to gain public recognition on the internet by providing very very high quality samples of various novels you have completed. I can’t stress this enough, you must complete them. For people to read and comment on. When you gain enough popularity the publishing houses will be coming for you and then you can circumnavigate most of the headaches you would have to on your own.
However if you are writing the book without the pretense of selling it you should note the illustrator you plan to use. As you write your novel periodically check various artist to see if their styles match your character’s design in your head. Nothing is more magical than to see your character on screen finally beyond the veil of your mind.
Now if you don’t mind, my characters are calling, they’re screaming at me to continue their story.
Great advice from you! Ideally, you would be wanting to pitch your work to Dengeki Bunko, but that’s not an option open to everyone. While I think it’s difficult to get an obviously anime-inspired book published in English, I don’t think it’s impossible.
Anyway, leaving samples of good writing on your website seems like a good idea – have you got an LN of your own you want to advertise? Good luck with your own writing!
I never said it was impossible; As a writer I spend many hours finding plausible reasons to explain the impossible. But trying to pitch a light novel to an American publish house is very near close. The first issue is the anonymity of light novels of a whole in the North American and even European continents. Few even in the Anime/manga community know what a light novel is. If few people know what a light novel is, why would the publishing houses who need to sell hundreds of thousands of books take a risk on trying to sell them?
The second issue is the definition of a light novel. Few people can define them, with most simply stating a novel with manga style graphic illustrations inserted at random in the chapters. But even this is inconclusive since novels imported into Japan are sometimes modified to included anime/manga illustrations. Are these considered Light novels as well?
My definition of a light novel after observing so many of them, is that a light novel is a novel of roughly small to medium size and word count. Some may be larger but they are largely out liners in relation to the majority of Light novels resting on the shelves of book stores. Each book should consisting of at least 10 manga/anime style illustrations sketched in black and white inserted into the novel’s body. The novel can be as diverse as the author allows, spanning multiple genres and age demographics but must focus in on readers who have or had prior exposure to anime, manga, or like minded media.
But even with this definition, their comes a problem, the novel relies on the reader to have prior exposure to manga/anime. In the west that’s a very small niche and big publication houses don’t like niche markets. I am unsure whether smaller publication houses might risk the gamble.
I have many light novels, whether I would like to advertise them is another matter entirely.I don’t hold back punches for my work and look at them with a very critical eye. Most of my work may seem good but I’m always finding ways to tweak it here or there. My nanowrimo novel will be posted on a blog I’ll make sooner or later but first I need to polish it up, and find and pay the artist to work on the illustrations for the inside of the book.
Hello froggykun. I found your article very very interesting. I am an aspiring writer, I’m still young and have no responsibility yet so I find myself with a lot of spare time on my hands. As my personal ambition, I intend to become a writer professionally; I want to do it as my career. My broader picture of my life 10 years from now is kind of ambitious, but a boy can dream, right? My perfect life would be living in Japan, waking up every day and living in an apartment somewhere where I work from home, typing my light novels on my computer each day and sending them into a… something (like an editorial company, see OniAi for my inspiration on this particular idea)… when I’m done at the end of the week. After that I do what I want and live a humble, normal life. A.K.A., I don’t care about how much money I make, I just want to write because I love it. My two major goals in life are to live in Japan and to write a light novel that eventually becomes an anime. I am currently already engaged in writing a light novel of sorts. Currently I’m simply writing the basic script for it. So far it has turned out to be 53 pages and 16,000 words for the first part of four. It’s a story about mages, necromancers, and the toppling of a corrupt arch-mage towards the end of the story. I absolutely love it and have so much fun writing it, but I don’t know what to do. I have no idea where to begin when I’m trying to accomplish my goals, how to get to Japan doing this job, or anything. I’m completely lost! I’m still young and stupid, as everyone is before they’re old and wise. If you can give me any advice as to where I can start or what I can do to begin accomplishing my goals that would be the most awesome thing anyone has done for me so far. I hope my goals aren’t as much of a fantasy as my stories, I really love everything about Japan and have been there before for a rather long stay, so I can say that I know what I’m getting in to. I eagerly await a response!
By the way, as an extension to the previous comment, I have the time, ability, and will power to learn Japanese. I picked up a few sentences very quickly from my trip to Japan and know a few basic rules and words. I can yell at my friends in Japanese (kind of)! So if learning Japanese and translating my own Light Novels into Japanese are what I need to do, I will do it. I don’t care how big the obstacle is that I need to overcome to accomplish my goals, I’ll overcome them! So yeah, let me know.
On a side not, is Fairy Tail simply the best manga/anime ever or am I crazy?
I’m not froggykun but I’ll toss in some advice anyway…
” I don’t care about how much money I make, I just want to write because I love it.” – Good because unless your novel becomes as big as Bleach, Naruto, and One Piece you are not going to become a millionaire writing it. In fact, most novelist are not rich, they live rather humble lives.
“I absolutely love it and have so much fun writing it, but I don’t know what to do.”- First, finish the book, very very few publishing houses will take an incomplete manuscript. Even less will take an unedited incomplete manuscript. And of those few, even fewer still will take an unedited incomplete manuscript from a person who is not living in their country and who they few does not completely understand the social/cultural aspects of their country. For the record I am not saying you do not, just stating how they will view you upon first impression.
After finishing your novel, sit down and edit the novel. Revise, Revise, Revise. After that, send it to someone else to pick out plotholes, inconsistencies, and issues you yourself would never find in your blind devotion to your story and characters. Try to break that story apart, then rebuild it more concrete than ever. Finally at the end of the day, ask yourself if this story yours? What I mean by that is, does this story have a distinct style someone can recognize you on? Remember that, as that will hold a far deeper meaning than the size of your novel, or the depth of your plot, or even the quality of you illustrator.
“I have no idea where to begin when I’m trying to accomplish my goals, how to get to Japan doing this job, or anything.”
In my last post to froggykun I stated the many observations made into getting published in the light novel industry. Thanks to the almost unregulated freedom of genres in Light novels one can go completely crazy with the scheme or plot. But you will always face two major issues being a foreigner.
1. You can not write in proficient Japanese. “I have the time, ability, and will power to learn Japanese.”- Not bashing you here, just saying it like it is. This means you can’t translate your style over, that means the Japanese public, your real audience will largely never get to hear your voice, your story. And basically no company is going to waste time trying to translate your story when hundreds of other properly written Japanese stories sit idle on their desks ready to be read.
– I answered this dilemma in my earlier posts. You can do one of two things.
-1. Learn Japanese, it’s as simple as that. This will take you 1-4 years (Studying nearly everyday, to be fair 5 days a week.) before you are proficient enough to write a novel.
-2. Pay a reputable translation company to do the translations for you. They typically charge by the word, so 50K words will run you about $5000, plus tax. Now, you may be thinking the simple translation software can save you thousands, but it will ultimately land your manuscript in the trash bin with many others who tried this formula only to submit mashed up piles of unreadable Japanese to people whose job is, to accurately pick 1-10 people out of thousands of Japanese writers whose style, proficiency, and fluidness in said language is so vivid people feel compelled to put their hard earned cash on the table and buy up book after book. If you are even THINKING of using translation software. Delete your story, and forget about light novels end of sentence here off.
2. Now, once you have jumped over that wall your choices are near endless, and you can bet a few publishing houses will be intrigued by the knowledge you have of different lifestyles beyond Japan. Your best bet is to submit to Dengeki Bunko who is a powerhouse for Light novels writers throughout Japan. It’s free to submit, and they actively encourage foreign writers on the simple request that the foreign writer submit a Japanese Manuscript. So far, I do not know 1 person on the net who has come close to providing that requirement.
So your road map should consist of something as follows:
Step 1: Finish Novel
Step 1.5: Start studying written Japanese
Step 2: Edit Novel
Step 2.5: Start writing short stories in Japanese
Step 3: Rewrite the novel in your best Japanese
Step 3.5: Have an actual Japanese person go over the novel for corrections.
Step 4: Scowler the Light novels for publishing houses like Dengeki Bunko and prepare for the long waits for either rejection or acceptance. Agent may or may not be necessary.
Step 5 if Rejected: Reread novel and revise
Step 5.5 if rejected: Send novel again to an actual Japanese person to find any conflicts that might have issues with either the Japanese audience and or publishing houses.
Step 6 if rejected: Resubmit after making adjustments while being careful not to upset the established plot of your story.
Step 7: See step 4.
Step 5 if accepted: Sit down and pat yourself on the back, look down at the little bundle of joy you’ve brought to the world. Have a drink with some friends and generally forget all about the book. If you want, plan your life in Japan housing etc. The next day, wake up, look at the end of your book and ask yourself ONE question. Where can my plot and characters go from here that will grow them both internally and externally? And your journey begins anew, only this time you have a far better chance of acceptance from the publishing house.
Good luck, and work hard.
Thank you so much for this advice. I worked out in my head pretty much everything you’ve said and I will keep your reply saved on my computer :). Now, to address the few things in your reply.
“First, finish the book,” – On it captain!
“You can not write in proficient Japanese. “I have the time, ability, and will power to learn Japanese.”- Not bashing you here, just saying it like it is. This means you can’t translate your style over, that means the Japanese public, your real audience will largely never get to hear your voice, your story.” – You make a valid point, but I’m still going to do my best to learn Japanese anyways. I’ll probably follow your advice and hire a professional translator.
“Now, you may be thinking the simple translation software can save you thousands, but it will ultimately land your manuscript in the trash bin with many others who tried this formula only to submit mashed up piles of unreadable Japanese to people whose job is, to accurately pick 1-10 people out of thousands of Japanese writers whose style, proficiency, and fluidness in said language is so vivid people feel compelled to put their hard earned cash on the table and buy up book after book. If you are even THINKING of using translation software. Delete your story, and forget about light novels end of sentence here off.” – I never once considered using translation software to be a viable option. I knew from the start I’d have to either do it myself or find a translation company to do it for me. Translation software is wrong the grand majority of the time even for a single sentence.
“Your best bet is to submit to Dengeki Bunko who is a powerhouse for Light novels writers throughout Japan. It’s free to submit, and they actively encourage foreign writers on the simple request that the foreign writer submit a Japanese Manuscript. So far, I do not know 1 person on the net who has come close to providing that requirement.” – I saw this comment after posting mine, and I looked them up, and have their website saved as well. I’ll do my best, and I’ll become the first person you know on the next to get it done! (Optimism is key, in proper dosage)
Thank you for everything. I love your Step list and I sincerely appreciate this comment more than you probably realize. I’ll try my damnedest to make it, and I know I will.
Looks like dragoon119 said everything I wanted to say, but I have one caveat:
I recommend you get your work translated by a native Japanese speaker rather than learning Japanese and writing the novel in your second language. The reason for this is because, first of all, it’s easier on you. Second of all, you’re generally not able to replicate your writing voice in your second language, even if you are fluent in that language. I can write in Japanese and I translate Japanese texts into English, but I’ve never dreamed of writing my own novel in Japanese. Without that intuitive grasp on the language, your writing suffers. Regardless, getting the actual story finished and in a version you are satisfied with is your first and utmost priority. I wish you luck in writing!
Hey Froggykun, it’s me Danny again. I was wondering… what would you think of the idea of a Light Novel/Manga hybrid idea? I know this may seem strange, but writing my story, I’m realizing that there are long sections of narration and characters talking with one another that I can narrate easily, but my story does have a good deal of fighting in it. Instead of narrating the fighting moves, what if I had my book written so that it was typical light novel format until it got to the fight scenes, then when they turned the page it turned into a Manga consisting of drawings of the fights? I think this idea is really cool and I’d like to implement it in my book (I think it’d be perfect for it, and like the idea a lot) but I’m wondering if that’s even a plausible thing to do. Let me know.
Heh, you don’t need my permission to implement your ideas. The Naruto light novel adaptations also had the same idea you had, where manga pages were inserted between text pages to highlight key scenes. It’s a great way to get readers interacting with the story – but make sure you don’t forget how to use words to evoke the same powerful imagery. Hope your novel is going well for you so far.
Just so you know, I’m that one person. I just didn’t submit it to Dengeki Bunko. I submitted it to MF Bunko instead.
Unfortunately, my plot is kind of……lame, to put it, so it probably will never make it past any rounds. So my best bet is to rewrite it (and yes, I wrote it in Japanese, and got a friend to edit it for me). The editor friend is no longer around to help me, but I guess that’s not going to stop me.
Thanks for letting me know Dengeki Bunko encourages foreign writers to submit, I’ll probably spend the next year or so writing a Japanese manuscript for submission. This time I won’t plan too far ahead and just write something simple, short and smooth (the last manuscript was chaotic, cliched and horribly planned).
Everyone, I have a question: until now, we have any interational website for every non-Japanese upload their light novel in English???
Yes, try Fictionpress. Either that or create a blog of your own.
You can try Wattpad. It’s more widely read and flexible than Fictionpress, plus Wattpad novels occasionally get published in book form if they’re popular enough. (www.wattpad.com)
I think I’m going to break the trend and try and get mine published. Of course I have to still write it but I think I’ve got a pretty original idea.
I’m not quite sure what your guide is supposed to accomplish. Is it supposed to introduce someone to what a light novel is? Or are you actually teaching them how to write a light novel? If it’s the former, you can cut out all the unnecessary details like the specific grammatical errors you list. If it’s the latter, you’re going to need to go way more in-depth about some of those steps. Teaching someone how to write and market properly is going to require much more than what you’ve got in the article. Short tips aren’t going to get an aspiring writer anywhere. At most, they can use your guide as a framework for what steps they need to take, but I feel like at that point they’re far more committed and need way more details. This kind of editorial should span several posts if you really want it to be an effective teaching tool.
To be honest, I’m not even sure why English-speakers would write “light novels”. From what I see, they make it a young adult novel with Japanesey names and locations that reads like fan-fiction. While I have no problem with English-speaking authors writing about Japanese folk and locale, the idea of light novels in aspiring writers’ minds amounts to basically “writing” an anime, leading to poor research and lack of effort put in. If anything, English-speaking writers shouldn’t even label their works as “light novels”, because that would imply that they’re creating something different from a regular young adult novel. Why does a light novel need to be limited to being anime-related? Light novels like The Twelve Kingdoms, Guardian of the Spirit, and Kino’s Journey have essentially nothing to do with anime apart from the fact that they were adapted later into some. Writers don’t need to be limited to ANYTHING remotely anime-ish, and shouldn’t have to pander to the otaku fan-base. This post shouldn’t even have mentioned anime. Light novels often have anime-esque drawings, but nothing else differentiates it from any other young adult novel you’d find in the West.
If anything, this editorial should have just provided links to an in-depth novel-writing guide and ended with, “Remember to add anime/manga illustrations!” That’s all light novels are: just regular novels targeted to teens and young adults that require much more work and steps than what you listed. I appreciate the time you put into the guide, but it does professional authors a disservice and downplays the amount of effort needed by aspiring writers.
If you do happen to be a professional writer, then I apologize, but then you should know that this guide doesn’t cover nearly enough to even get a writer started. If you just wanted to make a simple overview, I’m really not sure what function it would’ve serve at all for an aspiring writer.
“At most, they can use your guide as a framework for what steps they need to take, but I feel like at that point they’re far more committed and need way more details. This kind of editorial should span several posts if you really want it to be an effective teaching tool.”
Actually by it’s self it is an effective tool. Most How to write books equate to 80% fluff and 20% practical advice that anyone would get by analyzing the books they themselves fell in love with.
“To be honest, I’m not even sure why English-speakers would write “light novels”.”
Because like almost EVERY Author on the planet, they had and idea and wished to write it down in the style they loved. I see nothing wrong with that, nor should you chastise them for that alone, least you wish for everything you enjoy be chastised in front of you.
“While I have no problem with English-speaking authors writing about Japanese folk and locale, the idea of light novels in aspiring writers’ minds amounts to basically “writing” an anime, leading to poor research and lack of effort put in.”
That I agree with, they are many light novels littered around the internet that fit this very description. And it is a real shame.
“If anything, English-speaking writers shouldn’t even label their works as “light novels”, because that would imply that they’re creating something different from a regular young adult novel.”
Here I disagree, while many should not be classified as light novels, I have come across those that are every way, shape and form, light novels. To those that put in the effort that is a very disrespect thing to say.
“Writers don’t need to be limited to ANYTHING remotely anime-ish, and shouldn’t have to pander to the otaku fan-base.”
Many writers would largely disagree, you see after publication your fan base increasingly determines where your story goes for good reason. You want the money, your publishing house wants the money, you give the audience what they want. Yes, their are some authors that buck that trend but they are uncommon. If you are writing for yourself then by all means write whatever, but when publishing the larger you get the less control you hold.
“Light novels often have anime-esque drawings, but nothing else differentiates it from any other young adult novel you’d find in the West.”
I disagree, Light novels are often riddled with Japanese cultural aspects that cause translators nightmares trying to convey to Western audiences. Light novelist often practice obscure sometimes difficult ways of writing in order to push the boundaries of novellas. Finally, Light novels often do have a few anime cliches, even the most serious light novels have an anime cliche somewhere within.
” but it does professional authors a disservice and downplays the amount of effort needed by aspiring writers.”
The ONLY thing aspiring writers need is imagination to explore, the eagerness to learn, and endurance to finish. If you don’t have these you will NEVER be a writer no matter what style you choose.
I do agree with some of the points you asserted but I feel you are misguided are the others.
“Actually by it’s self it is an effective tool. Most How to write books equate to 80% fluff and 20% practical advice that anyone would get by analyzing the books they themselves fell in love with.”
Why do people get degrees? Authors need technical know-how or they won’t even be properly considered by publishing companies. If a writer doesn’t know what a comma splice is, why are they even in the industry? Just because “most” how-to books have far too much fluff, does not make them an acceptable teaching tool. You’re terribly mistaken if you think you can get by with “fluff”-filled how-to books.
“…nor should you chastise them for that alone, least you wish for everything you enjoy be chastised in front of you.”
I’m not chastising them for writing; I’m chastising them for writing “light novels” with the perception that they’re any different from a regular young-adult novel. Because they’re not.
“…I have come across those that are every way, shape and form, light novels.”
Your definition of a light novel is a piece of literature with a low word count and “anime” influences. What does that even mean? If I have a main character called Sakura and she goes to a Japanese high school and falls in love with her senpai, does that automatically make it a light novel?
In Japan, light novels are just NOVELS for the teen/young adult audience. Kino’s Journey — a story about a girl and her talking motorbike travelling different lands — and Guardian of the Spirit — a story of a woman taking care of an exiled prince who has a monster in his belly — have NOTHING to do with common anime tropes, yet it’s a light novel. Does that mean English-speaking authors are forbidden from crafting novels with interesting premises, and are only limited to “anime”-esque plotlines? No. They shouldn’t be. They should be writing real, honest-to-goodness novels.
“…you see after publication your fan base increasingly determines where your story goes for good reason. You want the money, your publishing house wants the money, you give the audience what they want.”
If you want money, you don’t publish otaku-centered novels, and your publishing house certainly won’t want you to, either.
“Light novels are often riddled with Japanese cultural aspects…”
And the ones that aren’t? Fate/Zero? Baccano!? Spice and Wolf? Are they not considered light novels in Japan, then?
“The ONLY thing aspiring writers need is imagination to explore, the eagerness to learn, and endurance to finish.”
If you’re gonna let writers have imagination, they can’t be pandering to otaku and being limited to “anime” tropes, now, can they? I suggest you re-evaluate what a light novel is before teaching someone how to write one. Because they’re just novels for teens. Reading Fate/Zero would be a good start, if you know Japanese. The English translation is garbage.
“Why do people get degrees? Authors need technical know-how or they won’t even be properly considered by publishing companies. If a writer doesn’t know what a comma splice is, why are they even in the industry? Just because “most” how-to books have far too much fluff, does not make them an acceptable teaching tool. You’re terribly mistaken if you think you can get by with “fluff”-filled how-to books.”
Did you even read what I said before you went off in a rant? First off, “”Why do people get degrees? Authors need technical know-how or they won’t even be properly considered by publishing companies. If a writer doesn’t know what a comma splice is, why are they even in the industry?” This has very little to do with our argument so let’s set that aside. You ask why? Because when someone writes a novel it typically goes through countless edits and rewrites before submission, some even get profession editors to edit their stories.
Now lets focus in on, “You’re terribly mistaken if you think you can get by with “fluff”-filled how-to books.” This was exactly what I was saying in the first place. Please reread what I post before going off in a tangent.
“I’m not chastising them for writing; I’m chastising them for writing “light novels” with the perception that they’re any different from a regular young-adult novel. Because they’re not.”
How do you know they are not?
“Your definition of a light novel is a piece of literature with a low word count and “anime” influences.”
…Their are very few things that make me angry, things such as this. First off, DO NOT put words into my mouth. This is as big a proof as any, that you did ZERO research on this page before attacking me. I specifically stated months prior, what I define as a light novel.
“My definition of a light novel after observing so many of them, is that a light novel is a novel of roughly small to medium size and word count. Some may be larger but they are largely out liners in relation to the majority of Light novels resting on the shelves of book stores. Each book should consisting of at least 10 manga/anime style illustrations sketched in black and white inserted into the novel’s body. The novel can be as diverse as the author allows, spanning multiple genres and age demographics but must focus in on readers who have or had prior exposure to anime, manga, or like minded media.” This was written on December 6, 2013 at 2:41 pm. And I stand by those words.
“What does that even mean? If I have a main character called Sakura and she goes to a Japanese high school and falls in love with her senpai, does that automatically make it a light novel?”
Does your novel, listen to that word NOVEL focus on readers who are actively interested in Anime? Does your novel have a minimum of 10 illustrations with animemangaesque art? Does your story have medium to small word count? Then in my mind yes it counts. The setting, nor the character’s origin matter.
“In Japan, light novels are just NOVELS for the teen/young adult audience.”
Incorrect, their are light novels publishing house, publishing light novels for nearly every age group from teens/young adult to adult men and women. The Teen/Young adult audience may hold a large share of the market, but they do not represent the entire market.
“Kino’s Journey — a story about a girl and her talking motorbike traveling different lands — and Guardian of the Spirit — a story of a woman taking care of an exiled prince who has a monster in his belly — have NOTHING to do with common anime tropes, yet it’s a light novel.”
Where did I say it had to have anime tropes? No really, I want you to go back and find in this comment bar where I said a light novel needs to have anime tropes.
“Does that mean English-speaking authors are forbidden from crafting novels with interesting premises, and are only limited to “anime”-esque plotlines? No. They shouldn’t be. They should be writing real, honest-to-goodness novels.”
What’s wrong with them writing light novels? You know, I’m getting the feeling this isn’t about Western light novels at all, but about some internal conflict you have with Westerners and anime. I don’t know why you have it, or how you developed it but I can tell you this. Like it or not people are trying to develop their own stories, anime has allowed many to broaden their minds and accept/debate theories they never would of imagined prior. You have NO right to tell them what they are writing isn’t a light novel, you have NO right to tell them they shouldn’t write what they consider a light novel. I like writing, whenever I can I attempt to write and improve my style so that I may one day be as great as my favorite light novel authors. So I will not, and never will accept your rationality that Westerns should stick to writing simply novels.
“If you want money, you don’t publish otaku-centered novels, and your publishing house certainly won’t want you to, either.”
Again, you didn’t read anything I said…Being aware of your readers is what makes you money. If you think I’m wrong write a book about purple unicorns that crap rainbows and try to offer it to your nearest non-fiction publishing house… Oddly enough quite a few light novelist made money doing just that…
“And the ones that aren’t? Fate/Zero? Baccano!? Spice and Wolf? Are they not considered light novels in Japan, then?”
I have not read Fate/Zero or Baccano! But Spice and Wolf is my favorite light novel series/ anime/ manga/ light novel so allow me to ask three questions….
1. Do you actually write stories? By stories I mean over 15K words?
2. Have you ever looked back at your writing and found 0, and I mean 0 connections between the two worlds?
3. Lastly, when you read a book, do you REALLY read a book? I don’t mean for the plot but deeper, for the voice of the writer?
If you did you would catch the subtle cultural aspects that are within Spice and Wolf. I could easily list of one in the first chapter but letting you read my favorite light novel would be better.
“If you’re gonna let writers have imagination, they can’t be pandering to otaku and being limited to “anime” tropes, now, can they?”
I never said they had to be.
“I suggest you re-evaluate what a light novel is before teaching someone how to write one.”
I suggest you read before you write.
“Because they’re just novels for teens.”
Tell that to the publishing house Seishinsha Bunko.
“Reading Fate/Zero would be a good start, if you know Japanese. The English translation is garbage.”
All translations lose something, it is the same when English is translated to Japanese and visa-versa. You will never know how many friends tell me the Japanese authors and or Mangaka screwed up Christianity in their stories with misinterpretation of religious text. If people want to start somewhere they should start with the stories that inspired them, that is what a creative writing college professor once told me, in comparison to the condescending, and in some parts out-right incorrect, rant you handed me. His holds more weight. I highly disagree with your stance and suggest that you refrain from arguing with me until you have thoroughly read the comment section of this page along with the entire first volume of Spice and Wolf.
Good day and happy reading.
“I’m really not sure what function it would’ve serve at all for an aspiring writer.”
Well, I kinda disagree because find this post very informative and helpful. I always wanted to write a light novel and I’m currently searching posts and blogs for improving my writing skills. I just saved this page for me to have a guidance.
You bring up some legitimate concerns, so I’ll tackle them one at a time.
The purpose of this post
The primary thought I had in mind was to inspire interest in light novels. As an academic, I’ve expressed my own ideas about how light novels work in other posts, and I wanted to attempt writing through a new perspective – that of the LN writer. This was to show that there is craft involved in writing LNs. Because of the recent critical backlash against LNs through their anime adaptations, I was getting the impression that Japanese light novels that follow a certain, formulaic trend were regarded as vulgar art, or in some cases, not as art at all.
This was not a satirical post, however. I combined basic writing advice with genre-specific discussion, in order to show that basic writer’s sense should not be discarded in capturing the light novel “feel”.
The definition of light novels
You are right in saying that in Japan, LNs are equivalent to young adult fiction. To the average English-speaking anime fan, however, the term “light novel” takes on a narrower definition and refers to a genre of literature as much as it does to a form. It is to this audience I was writing for.
I would say that most people who searched up “How to write a light novel” and found this page knew exactly what they were looking for, or they already had a basic idea of what sort of story they wanted to write. They wanted to write a novel that was anime-inspired. My argument is that this desire does not inherently cheapen their ideas or the story they write.
I also noticed in your comment that you disparaged fanfiction. As a literary critic, I strongly believe that fanfiction is a legitimate form of literature, copyright issues aside. Light novels arise from a similar subculture as fanfiction does, and that’s okay. The guide was written to assure LN writers that what they are doing is still an okay thing by literary standards and that these stories can still find an audience.
How useful is the guide to an aspiring writer?
I like to think the brevity of this post makes it useful, not as an exhaustive tool, but as a simple framework. It was written to be readable and easy to follow.
In any case, if I wanted to write a serious guide for aspiring writers, even a series of long posts would not have been enough. I encourage writers to read widely, anyway, and not to rely on one guide as a be-all-or-end-all.
That being said, I understand your criticisms and there are certain parts of this article which I do think need updating. Thank you for the taking the time to tell your thoughts! If you have any more questions, feel free to ask.
To inspire interest in light novels (in which case, perhaps a more appropriate article would have been to define what a light novel is), or to inspire interest in writing light novels? You say that those who searched up how to write a light novel would have already had some basic idea of what that was, so I’m guessing you wanted to drum up interest in the writing of one. If someone already had a basic idea, wouldn’t they also have wanted a more in-depth guide on how to write properly? I just feel like your guide is a bit too in-between (too in-depth for those who aren’t invested in writing one, and too basic for someone who is invested or interested in investing in writing one). I do like the idea of analyzing existing LN to compare them with poorly received animated adaptations. Have you written such a piece already?
I hesitate to define LNs as a genre as opposed to a form of literature, since that may creatively stifle writers. I think of the fantasy genre which is plagued with Tolkien-verse mythology because authors are so fixated on writing a genre as opposed to just writing freely and letting the product define itself. I would still like to know what you define as the “LN genre” in this case. School girls? Normal boys turning suddenly being bestowed powers by a gift-giving goddess and love interest? Cat girls? Girls with guns? Samurai? Harems? These sort of themes (minus cat girls and maybe harems) are covered by current genres. What differs in your definition of a LN genre, then?
I apologize for the fan-fiction comment, since I don’t mean that every single piece uploaded is garbage, but without being screened by editors prior to being published, it’s easy to find pieces not worth reading. I do speak in general terms though, and I have read some great ones in between slogging through many poorly written ones.
Perhaps it was how the guide lacked links to other resources and references that I assumed you wanted it to be read as an exhaustive list of tips. I simply find “How to ____ in _____ steps” articles to be misleading because they makes me assume that those are the only steps I must take.
Thanks for answering. I’m by no means a professional writer, as you can probably tell, but I do love novels and am frustrated that best-sellers are often Hollywood material in hopes of being adapted to film (e.g. lots of “witty” one-liners, action scenes, lack of attention to atmosphere and setting). Perhaps my concerns stem from my fear of LNs being too anime-inspired, whatever that may be, and even if grammatically correct, lack a literary “feel”, if you know what I mean.
That’s how I feel about this article, too, and to be honest, I never expected it to get as many views and comments from aspiring writers as it did. It was actually intended for the regular readers of my blog. Other commentors seem to have found this useful, if only by virtue of the fact that this is pretty much the most detailed guide on how to write a light novel on the Internet. (I find that to be pretty sad.)
I’ve expressed interest here in personally helping writers who approach me with their work, at least, and I think the assurance that there is someone out there interested in reading and critiquing your work is the most helpful thing an aspiring writer could ask for.
Try these two posts: Understanding “Otaku Pandering” in Anime and Light Novel Culture and Light Novels Frustrate the Crap Out of Me. They’re not academic dissertations (this is just a blog, after all) but they offer a basic framework for understanding the light novel as genre.
My personal view is that recent light novels have imposed genre restraints on themselves, but the current trends of the industry don’t necessarily dictate that every light novel is or should be written as such. I think for me the defining trait among most LNs is their self-awareness and immersion in otaku subculture. They cover typical genres in YA fiction like fantasy, sci-fi and romance – the only real difference is the culture around them. It’s very much the same thing as asking what defines an “anime-ish” anime. It’s hard to pin down in exact terms, but you tend to know it when you see it.
In practical terms, any piece of writing that is genre-obsessed will probably not end up being very good, which is actually why I kept my guide vague and tried not to tell people what specific tropes or elements to include.
I understand your concerns. That’s something I’ve grappled with whenever I translate light novels. In the Japanese LNs, you see, the language is often colourful, but the prose does deliberately break away from literary form. Conveying that in English in a way that doesn’t feel like shallow writing is very difficult. You can see how I’ve tried to deal with this for yourself from the Hentai Ouji to Warawanai Neko translations I’ve written on this blog.
I’ve come around to thinking that a lack of literary “feel” isn’t necessarily a detriment when it comes to light novels, but they’re certainly a barrier to anyone who is highly familiar with English literary prose (as you seem to be). The language barrier is obviously a big issue here. Ultimately, however, I think that LNs are fascinating to read and study, precisely because at their heart they do so many things differently from our YA fiction. They’ve made me, at least, rethink my assumptions about what makes “good writing”.
Thanks for this post. I will use this as my guide for trying to write a light novel. For now, I’m currently finding some good light novels to read and hoping to create one of my own. I think it will take time but if i created one, would you mind reading and correcting it for me?
I can’t guarantee editing the entire story for anyone, but I can always read what you write and offer some basic feedback. Be sure to contact me when you do write finish a light novel!
I really want to right one, but the hardest thing for me is the pictures to go with it. Hmm what to do. I don’t really know of any software for this.
[…] How To Write A Light Novel In Five Not-So-Easy Steps. […]
You said you want to see English light novels. What about German ones? (Because I am from Germany) :D
I really liked your guide because it featured many points I had overseen or which are not important for normal novels. But actually, I need to learn how to draw proplerly ;)
(reposted from ANN)
This is highly interesting.
However, I don’t think an English LN will ever get published. LNs are so steeped in anime culture that they probably would only ever take off in Japan. Now, from what I’ve heard, a lot of LN’s are actually aimed at normal teens in Japan, which surprises me, but I have a feeling those “normal” teens are already fujoshi/otaku in the making.
I feel an English LN makes sense on the internet, at a site like Fictionpress. There you can post it, shop it around to people on anime sites, and really hit the people you want to aim your book at–anime fans. Yes, it’s not published, but if you’re a writer, you should only care about getting readers and not the prestige of getting published.
I am writer myself, trying to get published. However I also sometimes like to write stuff on the side–my own LN’s, one might say. I’m gonna try to use the techniques I mentioned here–putting it on FictionPress and shopping it around to various anime sites. I dunno how successful I’ll be, but it’ll be a fun diversion from getting my to-be-published book done.
[…] novels captured a part of my imagination and wouldn’t let go. I wrote my own light novel and a guide telling others how to write one. I saw the close ties between light novels and fanfiction (another […]
Hey Froggy-kun, i’m currently writing a light novel and the prologue is about to be finished. I was hoping to get your feedback. ;) I’m Writer-kun
Hello, Writer-kun. I don’t have unlimited time on my hands these days, but I’m happy to give rough feedback on your prologue. Plug me an email at email@example.com
Fortunately, I’ve posted it here ata http://thewriterofthoughts2014.wordpress.com/ still
I’ll be sending it to you and hope for your critic and advise on this. Thanks froggy kun ;)
A good advice indeed!
But I have this extra question: Would an anime setting truly work with a non-Light Novel story, for non-Otaku reader? Basically, it using normal tropes – more like “archertype”, but present it in a normal literature way. For example, I am building an idea about a sci-fi story takes place in the Vietnam war, but with powered armor. Like Muv-Luv.
I don’t see why not. People tend to have stereotyped visions of what makes “anime” and what makes a “light novel”, but they tell a variety of different stories with a variety of different forms.
Interesting choice to make a sci-fi out of the Vietnam War – that’s not a popular war to write about, except maybe for anti-war propaganda lol
Well, my story itself could be considered a piece of propaganda.
That and a Rin/Yukio Okumura dynamic.
Now I wonder it, you’re the only blogger writing about this stuff. Kepp up the good work!
Interesting guide. Although I’d say step 2 is rather pointless (I certainly skipped it). Accidentally using tropes often turn out great. Purposefully using one tends to fall on the flat end when the writer become to conscious about it.
That being said, there isn’t much of a market over here for it… which I think you noted elsewhere.
[…] standard of writing also needs to improve. This is where I’d point to my guide on how to write LNs, but there are certain sections of that post that are seriously outdated. In any case, I encourage […]
Inspired by this, I am currently in the midst of writing a light novel series involving what you might call a magical boy. I’m playing around with the magical girl genre with this as well as changing the source of their power into technology. It’s definitely somewhat complicated to explain in a curt comment, but I’ll leave the title of this WiP to maybe pique your interest: Digital Guardian: Moderator Raven.
So if I ever even finish the first volume of this, would you maybe, I don’t know, read it, Froggy-sama?
Sure, I’ll read Digital Guardian: Moderator Raven (nice title lol!) when you finish it, but enough with the “Froggy-sama” business. It’s embarrassing :’)
Froggy-san. I have finished the first few chapters. Note that this is a very rough first draft, and Google Docs doesn’t have the badass font I used for the interface dialogue (you’ll see what I mean). So. Um. Whenever you have time, I will personally sacrifice my chromosomes in your name if you give it a quick look-over.
Ha ha, a bit of an update since we last talked, Froggy-kun.
I actually submitted the Japanese draft of my light novel to Kadokawa. If it succeeds, I’ll let you know. I could possibly be the first ever foreign writer to get a light novel published in Japan.
On the other hand, the chances of failure is astronmically high. I only have a less than 0.5% chance of succeeding, so I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath on it and expect too much. Still, trying is better than sitting around and doing nothing (especially since I already have the light novel written), so I submitted it to them anyway.
Will let you know if anything happens.
It sure has been a while. And good luck!
I am a writer, and English is my first language, I’m writing a novel and i finished one novel already, but it’s not for general audiences due to it being too anime-inspired. I wanted to turn it into a manga, however i’m unable too for now. To the writer of this guide or anyone who knows, where can I upload my light novel so people can read it? I plan to release the volume as a whole for sale, but i’m doing monthly releases of the chapters for free. I have artwork done by a professional too. so i’m pretty much good to go. just gotta edit the volume as a whole once again. Plan release is September 2014, look out for it, it will be a 7 volume series called “S” (yes it’s just one letter however each volume will have an added part to the the title, like volume 1 is S – Day of Corruption).
if you’re interested, it’s a fantasy based on the 7 sins with each sin granting power to the one who holds the spirit of the sin. i won’t go into detail though to keep this comment shorter.
I would like to thank you for this, I am currently writing a light novel called “the devils exorcist” and this has been a huge help
I’m really interested in writing a light novel, but I need somewhere where I can get People’s opinion on my work. Any suggestions?
Hi,guys. I’m making a web site about how to write Light-Novel now. And I want to read your light novel written by English! If you want someone’s opinion and you are looking for person who give you opinion. Maybe it’ll take a lot of time but..feel free to talk to me. I give you my opinion.
Thank you very much :)
I read this a little about where I have and haven’t gone wrong. I think my writing is going through a very edit edi edit phase as I had rather long explanations for each sentance when certain things didn’t need to be said.
I’d like to either know if a website exists for people to share their light novels/the things they write. If not I may look into starting one, most likely with the help of a service like enjin as I am not a web designer.
I’ve given this a very insightful read and I am glad that there is a wonderful guide such as this. I’ve had a 4 year old story made originally as a love letter to Durarara and Baccanno in terms of zaniness and thrills however I had no idea or concept of what a Light Novel was or how it was made. This gave me insight and even better tips to optimize in making a story that I feel captures the spirit of both of my all time favourite Light Novels. Thanks plenty for these tips!
honestly, if I have some funds I would like to creating a light novel, instead of a cute girl romantic comedy that we all got now, I would like to create a light novel about a ordinary guy from the Fast and Furious-esque races into the big championship (LeMans, GT, F1) and asking this guy (patrickbrown.deviantart.com/) as my character designs…
A bit late to the party, but I am writing a Light Novel currently, I post monthly.
Please give it a read:
Great guide, it has good points from several animes to show multiple points of view in how things are written. I am usually writing really “freely” in general. But in 4 months time I will probably write novels/romances, work on movie transcripts and light novels. Since I am an otaku, I would really like to pursue light novel writing, hence it intrigues me. Even when I am not writing “light novels” my visions that lurks in both my mind and heart will always be drawn to automatically create the illusion of anime characters coming to life within my writing.
Frog-kun, you could add my email or Skype (qqtryagain)
Same goes for anyone out there! I would love and toss ideas around for both light novel writing or any writing in general. If you are an otaku I would gladly discuss manga/anime as well!
You sound like a really fun person to brainstorm with :) I always have interesting concepts and ideas, but no one to bounce them off of.
Hi, could you shed some light abou Dengeki Bunko for me? I plan to hire a translator as soon as I can since I know next to nothing of Japanese. I want go over some of the guidelines for submissions, but seem impossible to find it on that site of them. Can you, please, point the way for me?
Hi, Saky. I am Japanese. I want to read your novel.
Guidelines for submissions is here. http://asciimw.jp/award/taisyo/novel_apply.html
1)42characters×34lines long novel 80~130; 42×34 short novel 15~30; (You have to write it vertically by using word processor)
2)You need to prepare “Story Line” within 800 characters.
3)You have to print your novel. And you have to write page number on each pages.
My skype ID is higashijima7771
Could you show me your novel? I am curious!
I’m also working on my original light novel called Cyber Abyss. Please give it a try. I’m updating it every one to two weeks.
Here I stand (sit) in 2015. As I read this, I almost want to take up the challenge of getting a light novel published in Japan. I know I have a good story. I can say that with confidence. However, I think my writing has much to be improved upon. I have been working with betas for, well since the beginning of my journey 9 months ago. I have loved seeing my light novel develop, but every time I read it, I know I need to keep working on it. I might be on my third draft officially, but I read and re-read three times each edit. I would not be surprised if i’m really on my tenth pass. It’s 50k words, and that is only the first half of the two part book. I have art from a professional for my story as well. But who knows if I will ever even get to the publishing point for my story. I am never satisfied with my writing, even if I am one-hundred percent confident on my plot. My characters are my own, and while I write them as embodiments of my emotions; my heros born out of my own desires, loves, interests, and qualities; my villains out of my hate, rage, and negatives. I feel every emotion in my book. I legitimately hate my bad guys. I cry when my main character cries. My blood boils when his blood boils. I am him, and he is me. That’s how I write. Unfortunately, I know there will be a disconnect between what I feel, and what I can give the reader. Until I can correctly portray what I feel, I know my novel is not good enough. So EDIT EDIT EDIT!!!!
I made a website as hard as possible. However, I think there are a lot of grammatical errors.
This is a website for the person who doesn’t know how to create a story. I hope this will help.
Is it alright for light novels to be fast paced?
This is such an immensely helpful article you’ve written!
I am a freelance writer. I do it for a living…but I’m a nerd. I’ve been into anime and manga since about 8 years old, and it hasn’t stopped for the last 16 years, lol. I spent a lot of time writing successful fanfictions for fanfiction.net, I also wrote my own fantasy stories, more rooted in traditional fantasy/fiction however. Roleplaying with my friends and my husband actually made me a better writer. I have a novel idea right now, but had contemplated putting it in light novel form. After reading your post, and the helpful posts from both Evan Holt and Tanaka Tomoyuki a couple of years back, I think I have a better idea about how to go about this. I work closely with a publisher who I am well acquainted with, and so I needed to figure out how to approach this story. Who knows, maybe I’ll bring out a whole new genre since I think a combination of both types of work would be best :) Seems I was also doing a lot right this whole time. Thank you for your article!
I don´t think i understand you guys (i don´t mean the guide, it was prefect though). Why are you all trying to write a light novel that somehow connects with a genre of game. Well, I´m thinking of something myself (I´ll be sure to post the link when 1st chapter is on) but surely not a game genre. Why? I think that anime, manga and also lioght novels are filled with game genres so to really get through, to be popular you need to do something that noone else did. Something unique, something that people will remember for ages because of that.
Hello. I wanna say that I already began to write a light novel in English or in French.
I already made some chapters .
After all isn’t so hard to make an light novel .
I can make a very good light novel but I have a little problem
I can’t draw so I have to found some fanfiction characters.
When it’ll be done I’ll announced you.
BTW for more infos you can follow me on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Koizora-no-Yume/1454143874885011 .
I hope you’ll like it.
P.S. I am an author too so this is why it is easy for me to make this ;)
If u have another questions I’ll wait you on Facebook to:Koizora no Yume.
I’ll use a English name too(Sky of love and dreams)
This was one of the most helpful articles I’ve read on light novels, thank you!
Are there any specific sites you know of if, say, I were thinking of posting my light novel online for free? Preferably one that is frequented by anime lovers but really, anything goes. I’m not looking to get a novel published, so many of the recommended/professional sites are eliminated, just somewhere others with my similar interests can read the story.
Fictionpress would be a good website. Just select the manga genre for your story and it should be understood that it’s a light novel type of story.
Didn’t actually read all of it but I have a question. What’s the minimum/maximum word count for light novels? I know japanese and english wordings can be quite different when translated but I want to know what’s the requirements for sending a manuscript. It’s not actually for me but I want to help a friend as much as I can.
Well, I think that minimum would be about 30000 words in english and maximum, I really don´t know. I would say about 80000 words, but that´s just my imagination. I´ve never read a light novel which would have more than 75000 words in english so I assume about 80000 being a maximum, although I don´t think that it´s really set.
I´m writing a light novel in english too, but I´m making slow progress due to that I´m not a native english speaker and neither a professional writer. I would appreciate if you would look at it a bit, although I have published only a prologue till now. I would be happy to hear your thoughts about it.
You can find the novel here. Or if this link wouldn´t be valid, you can search on the wattpad for “Matus_Palko” as that´s my name in there.
I´m looking forward to your feedback and btw, this article was awesome. It gave me really a lot and I must thank you for it froggykun.
First things first: wow there are a lot of comments here. I had to scroll for a long time to get to the bottom, because the end key did not occur to me. Terrifying, I know, to have to scroll through comments on a website.
On a more serious note, I came here because I thought of writing my third NaNoWriMo based off common light novel tropes (in this case, the TRANSPORTED TO ANOTHER WORLD AS THE HERO trope).
Then I read the part about the deeper metaphorical allegories within light novel series. I nodded my head to Sword Art Online and Oregairu; all the ones listed were believable, though some felt like a bit of a stretch.
Soon after though, I remembered a wonderful story called Mahouka. At first glance, it seems like Mahouka is trying to say that no matter what you’re born with, through hard work, diligent learning, and strenuous effort, you can stand on top, no matter your innate talent. This, in a way, is very inspirational. Then, later on, they reveal that exactly just that was necessary for Godtsuya to ascend to his position of being able to turn a single droplet of water into an explosion equivalent to a nuclear missile and regenerate his body.
I could just be having tunnel vision here, but for some reason I can’t think of another hidden motive or theme. In fact, if asked, I would say that this series, and probably many others, weren’t written to critique or push a specific idea of overplayed tropes, and that the authors merely thought it’d be interesting enough to set it apart and stand out in the light novel industry. I suppose that is what you meant in the opening of that section, but frankly speaking, I think that less aware/mindful stories have topped the charts. In fact, Mahouka did.
Man, this is an old post. I doubt I stand by much of what I wrote anymore. I think I did give a lot of those light novels too much credit. I hadn’t heard of Mahouka at the time I wrote it, which might explain things as well.
Also, I remember thinking Mahouka was trying to point out how dumb education standards are with its MC, until I realised that Tatsuya is only bad at that one area just to highlight how awesome he is at everything else. It left a bad taste in my mouth too. And quite a few other LNs have similar subtext, like Rakudai Kishi from this season.
That said, not all LNs are THAT bad, even though they’re really formulaic. I think the fun comes from seeing all those familiar tropes play out, but with that one subtle twist to make it seem interesting. They’re not DEEP commentaries, but they’re interesting nonetheless.
Also, trash titles top the charts all the time, no matter what medium you’re talking about. Alas ;)
It might be a topic worthy of revisiting, if you’re not sure if you agree with what you originally wrote. It’d certainly be good to get an update on this post.
Hey, thanks for the advice. I’m premiering the first chapter of a Light Novel on my blog tomorrow. Pretty generic virtual world premise but I would love it you could provide some feedback.
This post was so informative,especially the comments. I’ve read only a few LNs and I think they are awesome and this awesomeness has led me to believe that I have a chance in getting published in Japan. I know it sounds unreal plus I don’t even know how to go about learning Japanese not to forget that I started writing only a couple months back but this post has raved me up to the extreme.
BTW does anybody know other non Japanese LN writers other than the Brazilian who wrote No Game No Life. coincidentally I stumbled on this post while I was searching for the former.
This comment was one of the factors that inspired me to write a Light Novel. I already have tons of ideas, and right now, I’m halfway done with the first volume of an 8 volume series.
I only know of one publisher, YenPress, and I’m not sure whether or not they accept originally english Light Novels, but I’ve sent them an email regarding the matter, and I’m still waiting for a reply. If any of you know more publishers, please inform me, I am very serious regarding this matter.
Thank you for this post, it has helped me move forward with my dream
Help please, I have a question ;[ ;[ How many volumes are there in a series? Like can it have 3 parts (like a trilogy or story arcs, maybe seasons) with 8-10 light novels each? Or just one series and the light novels just goes on and on depending on the writer? Is one light novel a volume or one chapter in a huge story arc (or the entire series)? Thank you so much! I really want to write one, you see huhuhu. I’ll wait for your reply. Cheers!
I saw this website today and i decided to take it very seriously since I’ve been planning to create a light novel myself for a couple of months now.I already have the whole plot in my head and i signed up in this “NaNoWriMo” mentioned above.The problem is that it doesn’t really seem like the right place to me and you can only publish your work in November!?Anyway i just need some suggestions on how to proceed with the whole thing because I’m quite short-handed considering my circumstances so information of any sort will be appreciated.
Thank you in advance and sorry If i made any grammar mistakes.
Here is a website where you can publish your content : http://thenovelpage.com
These guys are new, but they already have a strong community going. I also heard that they will eventually start paying the writers. Good luck to all!
I was thinking of writing an LN for fun, and this is a very helpful guide! Thank you for in senpai! (notice me please~) I planned on just giving it to Baka-Tsuki to publish for free. I like writing for the sake of it.
Thank you for posting this informative article.
I’m actually working on an English light novel myself, and have plans to publish on Kindle sometime this year. The steps and tips in this article have been of great help to me in the writing and editing process.
Again, thank you for this great information.
I am writing a light novel in the mean time. I am not good at expressing details a lot so I just write out the skeleton of the chapter before giving it to my excellent English friend to edit. Though only finished writing chapter one, I hired my brother to draw illustrations since he has a really drawing skills. I am actually thinking of having my novel published one day and this guides helps me a lot!
So basically light novels are a blend of memoirs with a lot of dialogues and lay more emphasis on the little things in life like having a normal conversation with a friend,peer etc with the live commentary that goes inside our head. plus the illustrations.
It was so damm helpfull, thank you very much, I don´t write LN’s in english, I write them in spanish, but I could translate them I guess, I don’t think there is a good market in México.
Currently writing a novel, which I was originally thinking of making into a light novel. Because the novel will be around 80000, I have the option of also making into just one novel, instead of two light novels. Reading about light novel publication from outside of Japan is actually depressing. Which has me know thinking of forgetting the whole light novel idea and just going for a regular fantasy novel. It is sad because I wasn’t what I originally wanted the novel to be. :(
So to revive something (again, as I see the most recent comment was within the past ten days), here’s something I think you might find interesting: http://skythewood.blogspot.ca/p/manuscript.html
If the link dies for one reason or another, it’s a light novel series in translation… about writing light novels. This seemed like the only relevant place to try to suggest looking at this.
Anyhow, have a nice day, hope you find it amusing, and I never knew that conventions of ellipsis varied between languages.
I’m writing a light novel! Currently at book one, planning a series of around 6 books roughly. Think I’ll leave out the pervy fanservice though, cos as a girl that’s annoying
[…] Source: How To Write A Light Novel In Five Not-So-Easy Steps […]
Reblogged this on Rose Manei and commented:
I really liked this post, it was well written and it helped me out quite a bit since I’m currently working on writing my own light novel, (or it might just end up as a series of short-ish novels,) you’re tips were great, thank you!
i am writing one myself, i do it as a hobby and i would like some ppl to read, but idk where i can post it, any suggestions?
Well it seems I am a few years late to this party but whatever. I really don’t have anything going for me. I get good grades at school, especially on subjects like biology and math but I am not practical at all and to be honest, I am pretty bad at writing and my english isn’t all that great either. You can probally find some grammatical errors in this comment already.
Yet I am still thinking about writing a light novel even with my lack of writing skills and limited vocabulary. I have had a small idea in my mind for over a year now and over time it turned into a little story. And as time passed I added new bits to it which seemed fitting to me and now I have decided to actually start putting this on paper sometime soon.
No idea how long this story is going to be and how long it will take me to write it. Not even sure how good the overall story itself is but I want to write it anyway cause I have nothing better to do and I want to give this a honest shot.
Wish me luck.
Hi, Im sure there are rules in writing a Light Novel, like for example, how many pages is the maximum? how many words is the minimum? The format, font size , margins .. something like that. can you tell me that? thanks
Hey I saw your post not here but on a different website that brought me here I think this guide is extremely helpful at least it is to me as an english book/anime lover I really want to write a light novel to be honest I make up so many different stories every day and I think this is a perfect way for me to not let them just go to waste So Im currently working on my first rough draft of a story that I have actually come to love and all the characters I feel people can relate to at least one of them I know im not the best writer and theres going to be lots of mistakes but I think if I keep at it one day ill get it right I want to be an english writing light novelist that not only gets popular with alot of readers here but gets picked up in other parts of the world like Japan its a farfetched dream but you never know if you dont try right? thank you for your help my friend
You actually helped me a lot, I just noticed some things I should change or add in my LN!
Since I’ve started it not too long ago, and I’m still working on the structure, it’s really great to see articles like this and take some advice, so thank you! ^^
Can Anybody Join A Contest Or Write Light Novels Even When You Are Not Living In Japan? Answer Me Pls :D
I would actually really love to see a type of contest like light novel contests in Japan, happening in the country that I live in, Slovakia. But… I highly doubt that. Those kind of contests aren’t a popular demand, because there aren’t enough people to fill them in. It’s true that there may be contests like that in USA or in other bigger countries, but if you’re living in a small country like me, don’t get your hopes up. But if you wanted to join a japanese ln contest, I think you need to live in Japan, plus, know japanese on a native level.
Hi. you can call me Ryosha. I’m a beginner author and currently trying to write a LN even though I never took any special class or course in writing one. It would be great if you can have a visit to my page worldofryosha.wordpress.com and leave me some comments on my LN. Its a fantasy romance between a human girl and noble demon. i’m not a japanese and i’m not an english-native so your supports is much appreciate to improve myself. :D
I’m writing a LN in English and need it to get translated to Japanese for submission into the dengeki bunko novel contest next year but it needs to be translated into Japanese. Can you recommend a company or someone who can professionally translate English to Japanese in light novel format? Thanks for the guide, it definitely gave me hope.
First, this is a great article and still relevant four years later.
Second, I noticed that there are still comments being posted, many from inspiring light novel writers.
Last, although there weren’t any U.S. original English light novel publishers when you wrote this article, I’d like to provide an update: Vic’s Lab, LLC, formed in 2014 to fill that void. They are welcome to submit their OELNs to VicsLab.com for a chance to be published.
i just read this, i have started my one light novel yesterday, :) this is good, not sure where to publish it even tho is free, I just want the feedback :) i have put it in Reddit and I have a google doc (Spanish) but well.. i have only 1 chapter