How Do I Write?
You should know this on a basic level if you want to be an author of any kind. You need at least a simple understanding of sentence structure, grammar, and punctuation–either learned or innate. Many things can be fixed in editing, but your editor needs to be able to figure out what you meant to say. If this translates to “I don’t know how story structure works”, then let me show you a handy thing known as Freytag’s Pyramid:
This is the basic skeleton of a story–a good tale takes interesting characters and forces them into a problem or situation they can’t help but react to. The way the characters plan to handle this problem–which is usually riddled with problems and setbacks of its own–comprises the rising action. The Climax is the high point of the story: a big fight, a grand tournament, or perhaps a final showdown. No matter what the conflict is, it needs to come to a head and resolve in this segment. Falling action is what happens due to the outcome of the Climax. Did your characters defeat the evil wizard? Did they win the grand tournament? What happens afterward–do they realize that they don’t feel fulfilled like they thought they would be? Do they vow to change their world or life in a meaningful way now that they have triumphed? Your characters should enter this period changed in some way from the way they began the story, because of the events leading up to or occurring during the climax. After that is denouement: the story wraps up any loose ends or side-plots, and makes its way towards a satisfying ending. Due to the nature of light novels being multi-volume, denouement often leads to a cliffhanger or last-minute plot lead in order to hold your interest in the series.
What Kind of Software Should I Use?
There is no software or method that will improve your writing with no effort. I’m serious. So before you go out and drop money on expensive software, or buy that fancy leather journal you saw online, use what you already have on hand. Want the visceral feel on pen on paper? Buy a cheap college-ruled notebook. Want to work on your computer? Give Google Docs or OpenOffice a try–both are full-featured word processors that are free to use. [And as a bonus, Google Docs can be accessed on any trusted computer with an internet connection. How neat is that?]
However you decide to get words from your head, just remember to do it often. Practice is the key to improving your writing, followed only by reading. That’s right, reading. What you enjoy reading defines your taste in books, and will manifest itself in your writing voice. People who like the same style as you will be drawn to your writing, and you want that–write for your own enjoyment: your target demographic is ultimately you. [It sounds cheesy, but it’s the truth.]
Later if you want to upgrade to a word processor/writing organization program, you’ll know exactly what features you need for your method of work.
What Kind of Story Should I Write?
Whatever kind of story appeals to you! Want to rehash the Hero’s Journey–have at it! Want to write a high school romance? You’re good! Want to write an experimental horror story about a team of operatives that is trapped in an alternate dimension? It’s a go! You don’t need to limit yourself to what’s popular in Japanese LNs. The “Teleported to Another World” and “Trapped in an RPG” themes that were popular a few years back are losing steam. The rising stars now seem to be “Magic Academy Hijinks” and “High Schooler is a Secretly Famous ___”. These things change, and people don’t always like what is popular at the moment. Write whatever makes you happy!
Should I Distribute Online as I Go, Or Should I Wait?
Distributing each chapter as it becomes available is what Webnovels do, and you are free to do this if you want. All the OLEN authors I spoke with prefer to wait until they have a fully edited and polished volume available to put up for sale. I myself prefer this, but I have been known to post a few chapters or excerpts as teasers to cultivate interest and make people want to purchase my work. If you want to release your work for free, that is entirely up to you! There are a few English-language webnovels available for free–and they are quite popular!
How Do I Submit My Work to a Publisher?
This is where things get rough. You see, you can’t. Translation companies like YenPress and Seven Seas don’t accept OELN manuscripts. Yet. There is a huge push for them to from us OLEN authors, but the market for light novels itself is just getting on its feet. [Think manga in the early 90s, if you were around for that.] It’s only recently that manga has come into focus as a media deserving of the same attention anime gets, and in five to ten years I see LNs having that same popularity. I don’t blame the publishers for being conservative right now, but we hope in the future they start accepting manuscripts from English-language authors, or hold contests similar to the Dengeki Novel Prize held by publisher ASCII Media Works in Japan.
You could take your work to traditional publishers, but they are unlikely to take a chance on something so niche. If they do like it, they may strip the illustrations from it entirely or ask you to drastically change the plot/character interactions to sell better to English-speaking audiences. If you are willing to do that then there is no reason for you to not query traditional publishers. But a word of caution–choose whom you submit to carefully. If you send your wacky vampire-high school romance to a publisher that puts out murder mysteries, your manuscript is going to end up in the circular file. [Whispers dramatically: the trash.]
Beyond that, you do what the rest of us do: Self-Publish.