My post “In Defense of the Original English-Language Light Novel” has been getting a lot of attention, and as a result I’ve had a bunch of aspiring OELN authors coming out of the woodwork to ask me questions. This is fantastic–obviously–but often I just don’t have the time to sit down with them like I want to. So instead of trying to cram a bunch of information into a private message, I had some time this weekend and decided to make a guide to writing and publishing an Original English-Language Light Novel that I can point them at.
What I’ve discovered during these exchanges is that I’m often not the first OELN author they’ve contacted, but I’m sadly one of the few that have responded. I know from my own experience starting out that there are a few authors out there who can come off as aloof, but others just seem to want to keep the pool of OELN small, even actively discouraging interested writers. What I’ve learned from experience [and practice] is that the larger the pool gets, the more interest it garners—and interest is good! Established authors should mentor fledglings, give them tips, and help guide them toward success. Excluding people gets us nowhere as a community. I have made some amazing OELN author friends in the past year and found wonderful stories in the process. There is no downside to this unless you let ego get in the way.
So this is my contribution to expanding the number of original English-language light novels out there. You can find the guide under the new [aptly-labeled] “Guides” section of the site menu. If you’ve ever considered writing something of your own, [OELN or otherwise] take a look! It can seem a little daunting at first but with good information, hard work, and a lot of passion–you too can write and publish your own OELN!
I know it took longer than expected due to health issues and my surprise baby, but man does it feel good to finally have it done! As of the first draft it has twenty-six chapters, and is roughly one-hundred and four-thousand words long. This will change as editing starts and beta feedback is received, but so far that makes it almost twenty-thousand words longer than volume 1–and I actually ended it early. That’s right, in the timeline it was slated to go on for at least five more chapters but the thing was getting massive. I scaled back, folded the remaining events into volume 4 [Yes, there is a volume 4 planned!] and ended it in what I felt was a good spot.
In the beginning there wasn’t really a plan for a number of volumes. I completely “pantsed” my first book, [This is a valid writing term, I swear.] deciding to just write and see where it went. I thought maybe it would be a standalone, but by the time I reached the end of volume 1 I realized there was a lot more story left and drew up a more concrete timeline of events. Together, the first three books deal with Achine’s rise to the throne and make a decent trilogy. I didn’t plan it that way, it was just a happy accident.
We are going to be moving soon, so this couldn’t have come at a better time. I have hopes that this year I might be able to participate in NaNoWriMo for the first time ever because I have plans for a new series–one radically different from the fantasy feel of the Atlantis books–and I’m hoping to put out volume 1 of it as a NaNo effort. From there I am hoping to alternate between the two series, possibly working on them in tandem at some points. Until then I am going to take a break from writing [except for edits] because there are plans to release physical versions of the first three Atlantis books, which I am really excited about! But it is going to take some time and work to get them revised and properly formatted for print.
As of this posting the digital version of Atlantis: TVC volume 3 should be released this Winter, while the print editions for all three books will be available closer to Spring 2018. [This is subject to change without notice.]
As a writer of light novels I not only read them, but I also lurk around on forums dedicated to discussing them. Inevitably, some unassuming, aspiring writer wanders in wanting to either learn how to write an English-language light novel, or for someone to read what they’ve already written and tell them if they are on the right track. That’s when a specific type of light novel aficionado swoops in: “You can’t write a light novel,” they cry. “You’re not Japanese!” Sometimes others will come to encourage them, but usually once one of the naysayers has posted the others flock like vultures to repeat the message of: “You can’t do that; how dare you!”
I see it quite often. I’ve been seeing it since anime and manga started getting popular in the USA, way back when I was in junior high school twenty years ago drawing in what my peers back then called “Japanimation Style”. [Note: Yes, I’m old. Also, the term Japanimation is like nails on a chalkboard to me and it kills me to even write it. I am extremely glad it never caught on.] It irked me then and it irks me now, because it’s such a haughty, purist statement. By that reasoning you can’t write a fairy tale if you’re not European, and don’t you dare put pen to paper on that country song if you’re not from the Midwestern United States! If you press them for a legitimate reason, the only argument they have is, “You’re not Japanese, and if it isn’t in Japanese then it’s not a light novel!”
All translated light novels suddenly cease to be light novels by that logic. So what if you’re not Japanese? So what if you don’t live in Japan? The author of the popular light novel “No Game No Life” was born in Brazil. Despite that he’s published in Japan under the pseudonym Yuu Kamiya. Of course, he’s a rare exception in the Japanese publishing industry–but it proves a point. You don’t have to be Japanese, live in Japan, or write in Japanese to create a light novel.
The base of the matter is this–the light novel is a format. It runs from novella word count range to full novel length. [Averaging roughly 50,000 words] It has a manga-style cover and monochrome illustrations at key points throughout. They are usually long, expansive series with multiple volumes–though one-shots are not unheard of. The target audience is late middle-school to early adulthood. The best equivalent we have for tone and length in the USA are the “Young Adult” or the “New Adult” categories. [The latter being a bridge between Young Adult and Adult literature.] But that doesn’t mean they’re childish–not by a long shot. They can be just as gory, profound, or racy as any other work of fiction!
I was around for the rise of anime into mainstream culture in the USA. I remember questionable-quality VHS fansubs that you ordered from some Geocities or Angelfire webpage–and if you were fortunate enough to have had a group of friends invested in the same series, you pooled your money to buy multiple tapes, and made everyone copies of them.
I remember buying manga in Japanese, then reading a [poorly] translated English script of it side-by-side that I printed out from the internet. I remember when Dark Horse and Mixx [Later re-branded as TokyoPop.] were the only legitimate publishers translating manga into English and bringing it over, even though they took liberties with the dialogue and flipped it to read left-to-right which made the art look weird. Now there are streaming services dedicated to anime, and manga magazines like Shonen Jump have been brought over. Right now light novels are on the cusp of pop culture awareness in the USA, and they are going to explode in popularity soon if history repeats itself. There are two publishers that I know of bringing them over currently, Seven Seas Entertainment and Yen Press. [Viz might be a third, but I can’t find evidence that they have started yet.] Neither of them are accepting manuscripts for English-language light novels.
And I say that having seen western animation houses successfully pull off domestic anime [Avatar: The Last Airbender, or RWBY, anyone?] and more and more artists producing popular graphic novels and webcomics in a manga style. Light novels are next, and there are already English-language authors waiting in the wings, slowly building their audiences through web serials and self-publishing.
So, if you’re starting out on your light novel writing journey and have run into one of these people, take heart. If you’re a light novel reader that has run out of things to read, then take a look at the self-publishing sector–there is quite a bit of talent out there if you know where to find it! [Plus, more often than not they participate in Kindle Unlimited, making them free to read if you are a subscriber.]
Those purists are going to get quite a surprise when one day they look at who wrote the light novel they just enjoyed, and find a non-Japanese name on the cover! But until then, all you aspiring authors can do is just keep on keeping on. Keep writing, keep creating–don’t let anyone tell you to do otherwise!
Oh man, so much has happened since I last posted! I’m not even sure where to begin. As I’m sure you’ve all probably figured out, I had my baby at the end of April. It was a boy! 7 pounds, 8 ounces of squishy baby goodness.
He’s seven weeks old now and starting to come out of his “potato” phase. But up until this point we were on a steep learning curve because it turns out the little guy is allergic to a protein in milk. So this means he was rashy, itchy, colicky, and due to all that didn’t sleep well. Of course, that meant we didn’t either. His first week or so of life he was a fairly content, easy baby. [I seem to have a trend of getting good sleepers that sleep six hours at a stretch right off the bat.] But soon he became this inconsolable mess that barely slept. Once we figured things out and got him on the right formula [Read: the most expensive one on the market!] he’s been a different baby. He sleeps through the night again! He is happy and content! He doesn’t scream like his existence is torture! The downside is that it took five weeks to diagnose and I was so sleep deprived that my body now thinks two hours is a fantastic amount of sleep to be getting. I need to retrain it to not think that because despite what it thinks, two hours is not nearly enough sleep to make rational decisions or be creative on.
As for me, the end of my pregnancy was miserable, but his birth was uneventful–quick, even! However, I ended up back in the hospital for three days–I got postpartum pre-eclampsia again. So this means we are done having babies because almost dying a second time was really not on my list of things to do. Ugh. Then within my first week of being discharged we all got sick. I ended up with the flu [despite getting a flu shot!] and pneumonia. Somehow I was able to keep from passing it to the baby, who just had a cold. If you’ve never dealt with a sick newborn, count your blessings. It’s miserable.
Now that my health and the baby’s well-being have been sorted out I’m able to finally get back to working on volume 3 of Atlantis: TVC. [Which I stupidly thought I would have done before I delivered. Very naive of me…] My issue with not getting it done is that so much more is going on than I had originally thought: scenes that I thought would be a few pages at most are ending up being entire chapters; scenes that I was excited for and looking forward to writing turned into plotting nightmares… so the word count is going much higher than I had initially planned. In fact, I’ve had to restructure the original end of the book [by moving some scenes and plot elements to volume 4] to help control the length. I’m already over my 55,000 word minimum and I’m only two-thirds of the way done! Since returning to writing, I’ve completed two chapters. It may not seem like much, but you have no idea how stuck I was on a certain scene. A critical exchange needed to happen between two characters and I didn’t want to screw it up. I like it the way it is now, but that’s not to say it won’t change during edits. [So much stuff changes during edits…]
On a final note, if you follow me on social media, then you already know that while I was on hiatus someone did a video review of volume 1! I always get nervous when there is a review done of my work; however she had nothing but good things to say–so that was a relief! Writing is such a personal thing, and despite the fact that when people review your work they’re reviewing your work and not you as a person, you still feel like you’ve failed somewhere when someone doesn’t like what you’ve done.
P.S: I love hearing from readers! If you’ve done a review of one my books, or have made a piece of fanart or anything like that, please drop me a line and I will check it out. [I might even showcase it on this blog!]
To say thank you to my readers, all my available works are free over the Thanksgiving holiday. That’s right–free! If you’ve been waiting to pick up volume #2 of the Atlantis: TVC series, or to try one of my other stories, now is the time! Want something to curl up with while you snack on leftovers? This deal is for you!
Have a friend you think may be interested in one of the stories listed above? Feel free to share this promotion! It’s for ALL my readers–current and future.
Thank you all for your support. I am truly thankful for each and every one of you.
[Links to the listed e-books can be found on the Shop page in the header, or by clicking on the image above.]
Nope. I’m not going to trot out the same tired advice to trim word count by slashing plot and/or removing characters. I’m going to talk about literarily killing your characters. [Ha! Puns.]
Since my long-running series is fantasy-based, this will all be from the perspective of a fantasy setting. However, that shouldn’t stop you from applying what you learn here to a realistic world. [Provided it’s not a simple case of the magic-user used magic and the victim totally died, because that’s difficult to pull off when magic doesn’t exist in your world. You’re smart–you’ll know how to glean what you need from this.]
We could go on for hours about swords, instant-death spells, and arson; but those are pretty straightforward ways to kill or incapacitate someone. We’re going to go into the realm of cloak, dagger, and intrigue. That’s right–poison.
Poison is the perfect medium! Need a long, drawn out death? Poison. Need something that kills near-instantly? Also poison. Need something difficult to detect, or that mimics natural causes? Poison can do that. Need a reason to send your characters on a quest where they set aside their differences and come together in order to find an antidote? Poison’s got your number.
And as an added bonus, not only can it do all those things, but it’s discreetly administered. Aside from becoming liquid insurance for an assassin’s blade, it can take the form of an ingredient in a sumptuous meal or delicious tea. It could even be released into the air via deadly but wonderfully-perfumed incense. Poison can be everywhere. Not only that, but most poison is derived from natural sources.
That’s right! There is so much out there that can kill someone without you needing to make anything up. If you want to lean hard into the fantasy setting, you could devise any number of fantastic plants or venom that could be made into a plot point. But if you’re like me and want a touch of realism in your stories, you just need to look at things that are common in our world.
My favorite example is rhododendron ponticum. It’s a beautiful, ornamental shrub common to many parts of the globe. In fact, it’s called Common Rhododendron. Look at this thing. So innocuous.
It’s beautiful for something that will cause nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulty, and heart failure if you consume any part of it. But the best thing about it is that honey made from its pollen is so toxic, even the bees that make and consume it are poisoned. In fact, jars of this honey strategically placed in a village took down almost an entire army of Roman soldiers in 401 BC. Though, to be fair, they were left in 67 BC to take down a different invading army. As a plot device, readers and writers alike would call that deus ex machinaBS. [But it’s history!]
The lovely thing is that honey is so innocent. In fantasy it’s often used as a sweetener in place of sugar, and even in our world it is common to drizzle it on pancakes, over oatmeal, in yogurt, or spread it on toast. No one would suspect a thing.
And that’s only one of the things that you can use. There are agents out there that come straight from the ground itself that can kill. Want to venture into the land of slightly-absurd-but-still effective poisons? Look no further than diamond dust.
Yes, seriously. Though it’s not a poison on its own, when ingested the shards will embed themselves in the organs of the victim, causing infection–which leads to sepsis–and death. It’s a slow process, taking several months to work. It is an older method of assassination used most frequently during the Renaissance. It wouldn’t work in a modern setting due to the advanced medical technology we have nowadays.
The poison a character chooses can say a lot about them. What is more fantastic and decadent than a monarch using diamonds to take out the ruler of a kingdom they are at war with?
Another benefit of poisons: they don’t have to kill. In fact, sometimes there is more to be gained in incapacitating someone. Have a scheming advisor that wants power? Killing the king would make the throne go to the next in line. But what if the king becomes too ill to rule? The advisor might become regent until the king recovers… [Spoiler alert: Unless a protagonist steps in, the king will remain “ill” indefinitely.]
You can use poison to enhance tension as well. Finding an antidote can take time your heroes don’t have, and making or procuring it can be difficult on top of that. This is a good way to divide a large group, bring characters together, or send them off to another part of your world. Want a cure to be even harder to obtain? Combine your poisons. Not good enough? Mix real world toxins with ones you invent. The only limit is your imagination and how dead or incapacitated you want your characters to be.
Armed with this knowledge you can now go out there and not just poison your darlings, but do it catastrophically!
Sometimes my writing brings me to strange places. This time it has lead to me making my own liqueur.
If you’ve read volume 2, then you remember a scene with someone sipping Sweet Summer out of a glass on a balcony while attempting to wax nostalgic as they drank. The Tirtessian alcohol makes a few appearances in the first half of volume 3 as well, and I got to thinking… would it be possible to actually make this?
With that thought fresh in my mind, I purchased ingredients and began to experiment. I don’t want to spoil anything too much, but I will say that trying to construct a foolproof recipe has been a test of my patience. I read up on how to make liqueur, made tweaks based off recipes similar to what I was looking for, and waited. The minimum waiting period of each batch is two weeks, and the first one failed spectacularly. I mean it was completely, utterly undrinkable–like turpentine and furniture polish had a nasty baby in my cupboard.
I started on a second batch and made some adjustments after more research. The results were much better than the first go, but it was watery somehow, and not what I wanted. I ended up trying to boil it to get it to condense, and I think that messed it up. That one was discarded as well.
So I started the third batch and held my breath, going for broke. After the two week wait I was apprehensive, and spent a long time carefully straining the cloudy, pale yellow liquid. At this stage it did not look appetizing in the least! It began to take on a brighter hue and cleaner appearance as I removed the byproducts, and my hopes began to rise.
Finally, I had strained it as far as I could and it had magically turned into something close to the bright, yellow liqueur I wrote about. Success!
Well, visual success, anyway. I mean, it looked and smelt like what I wanted, but how did it taste?
I drank a sip of it hesitantly from a small glass. It. Was. Amazing.
The final recipe feels so wasteful because after all is said and done you discard about one-half to two-thirds of the batch in order to clarify it–but what is left is a brilliant, semi-opaque, syrup-like liqueur that coats your mouth in the most wonderful way. I made it in a mason jar, and when you pop the lid off the smell of citrus perfumes the air around you. It’s not sour, like I expected. In fact it’s incredibly sweet, and that makes it feel like you aren’t drinking alcohol at all. My only regret is that I could not strain it well enough, so it’s a bit cloudier than I feel it should be. I may try to pick up a paper filter and see if that helps. [Multiple runs through a fine mesh sieve and a tea sock is how I got the result I have, so we’ll see if I waste money on that or not.]
It’s a surreal kind of indulgence to drink an alcohol that I made up, while writing the story I concocted it for–in some parts, as my characters are drinking it.
To keep it accessible to everyone, I still need to develop a non-alcoholic version. I’m not exactly sure how I am going to manage that, as the alcohol is a key component that drives the chemical change; but I have a feeling that despite my misgivings the non-alcoholic version will be the easiest to make. There will be little to no wait period–failure can happen faster than ever!
The recipe will be released close to the publication date of volume 3. It will be included in the bonus content of the book itself, and here on my blog.
Note: I wrote this over the summer, as I write some posts months in advance but don’t publish them until later. I’m clarifying since it follows my last post. The only thing I am drinking right now that would raise eyebrows is iced coffee, ha ha. [Though according to ACOG, you can drink up to 200 mg of caffeine safely. Let’s put that old wives’ tale to bed for good!]
Though… this would be a great time to work on my non-alcoholic version of Sweet Summer.