Note: This article is part of a larger series “How to Outline Your Light Novel”, thus it will be cutting right to the chase.
And before we get started, here’s something you should know.
When writing a Light Novel (LN) series, you need several types of ‘conflicts’. Below are a few I’ll be referring to in this article. An article detailing each type of conflict in full can be found here.
- The Series Conflict (SC): An overarching conflict that will be wrapped up at the end of the series. This is usually introduced in volume one, but can appear much later if your story demands it.
- The Volume Conflict (VC): A major conflict unique to each volume. Meaning, it is introduced and resolved within a single volume (though you can have a two-parter).
- Other conflicts resolved at any point throughout your series (character arcs, those necessary to progress the story). You can also use these to allude to a later volume’s VC.
Now with that out of the way, let’s learn how to outline a single volume in your LN series.
How to Write the Introduction of Your Light Novel
Your introduction should take up around 10% of the entire volume and be comprised of three major elements.
Begin each volume with a taste of the current volume’s VC. The standard method is known as beginning in media res, or staring in the middle.
For example, describe a scene in which your characters are about to be defeated or are lost in the desert. Readers will want to know how they got to that point and keep reading.
Your first paragraph should never be a recap of the last volume. Doing so will immediately drain the thrill readers experiences when starting a new book.
But how will they know what’s going on?
They’ll be alright. Once you’ve hooked them, then you can give a brief recap.
Try not to exceed more than a few paragraphs. If someone was interested enough to buy the next volume in your series, there’s a good chance a paragraph or two will be all they need to jog their memory.
And if he’s a new reader, then it’s a good thing you hooked them. Because of such readers, you’ll also want avoid any major spoilers in your recap. That’s a previous volume sale you don’t want to lose.
You also need to provide details about the SC. Establish how the previous volume brought your characters closer to achieving their true goal.
No, you don’t have to explain everything. If explaining who a character is or how their special ability works is important, you can include short explanations throughout the entire volume. It would be annoying if you dumped all that information on your readers at once.
Personally, recaps annoy me, so I tend to skimp on them. One way you could lessen them is by including Character Introductions in the front of your LN. You could even include a story recap there.
Overall, when writing the recap, try to avoid breaking your readers’ immersion as much as possible. They can remember more than you think.
Ok, you’ve alluded to the SC and provided some background details. Now you can spend the rest of your introduction establishing the current volume’s VC.
Make two things clear.
- That the VC will be the focus of the rest of the volume.
- That resolving it will bring the characters closer to solving the SC.
Never make one volume seem like a filler arc or a time-wasting side-quest. Every action your characters take should result in some form of progress.
How to Write the Main Act of Your Light Novel
About 80% of a single volume will be focused on solving the VC you established in the Introduction.
The main act exists separately from the opening and conclusion. Meaning, it has its own ‘three acts’. Those being open, body, and close. To make it easy to understand, think of it in percentages.
- Open (10%): This portion initiates the action. If a new character or villain is important to the VC, they should be introduced here. For example, your SC could be Yuuki wanting to become the greatest figurine maker. So, the VC could be him entering a figurine-making competition and aiming for first place.
- Body (60%): This portion drags out the action. Here, your character(s) will go through several ‘But, Therefore’ problems before solving the VC. Here, Yuuki might have to deal with a huge fee to enter the competition, his rival sabotaging his materials, and finally the competition itself.
- Close (10%): This portion sees the solution to the VC. You don’t want to end the entire volume with solving the VC. Save the last few pages for later (covered in Conclusion section below).
Easy, right? Sorry, not quite. While writing the above, you need to do three other things.
Pile on the Problems
While writing the main act, you should add more conflicts that will be resolved in this volume, the next, or later volumes.
While moving closer to solving the VC, additional mysteries and conflicts should crop up along the way. Provide incentive for readers to pick up the next volume by asking questions that won’t necessarily be answered by the end of the current volume.
And try to make them memorable if they are really important. One of my favorite parts of reading LN series is to try and figure out what might happen in the next volume.
For example, you could introduce a conflict in V1 and have it be the VC of Volume 3. Your readers will love feeling smart that they were able to ‘figure out’ what a later volume would be about.
You could introduce conflicts out of left field, but you can make your series more cohesive by mentioning them early. Every element should tie back into the series as a whole.
You are not writing a story that begins and ends in the same book, but an entire series. You’re asking readers to dedicate extra space in their brain for each volume. Not only are you asking them to read, but to remember what they’ve read if they buy the next volume.
Make each element truly matter.
Forever Moving Forward
No matter what, move your characters closer to solving the SC while solving the VC.
Even if the SC is something as simple as making enough money to pay rent, the VC should result in progressing towards that goal. Again, at no point should your readers think they’ve wasted time on a filler arc.
Readers love progress. You can provide a several doses of it by solving the VC, progressing toward solving the SC, and solving smaller problems along the way, such as character arcs.
Manage Your Cast
One of the hardest tasks for an LN Author is balancing his ever-growing cast of characters.
The most common method of dealing with this is the ‘Standard Harem Procedure’. This involves introducing a new harem member each volume. Almost always, they become the focus of that volume’s VC.
Sometimes, the entire harem will be introduced in V1. In this case, each one is involved in each volume’s VC. Eventually, each one will have a volume dedicated to them.
You could focus on multiple harem members, but one should always have more ‘screen-time’ than the other. The reader should be able to look at your LN’s front cover and know which girl is going to be the focus. Plus, you don’t have a lot of wiggle room given a LN’s word count, so keep it focused.
Let’s say you decide to introduce characters in the above style. I’ll warn you now. Don’t feel you need to add a new major character every volume.
Should you, you’ll wind up with an army of characters that become too much to handle. If you start ignoring them in later volumes, readers will be confused and annoyed because you made those characters seem important.
To avoid this, most Authors adhere to the standard of 5-10 major characters and however many secondary/minor ones they need.
One popular tactic is to introduce a secondary character to be the focus of a single volume’s VC. Doing this, you can have a fresh new character, dump them afterwards, and give your major characters a break (lest readers get sick of them). Plus, you can have that secondary character come back later as a special treat for fans.
How to Write the Conclusion of Your Light Novel
Alright, once you’ve resolved the VC, you should have a few pages leftover, the final 10%.
With them, you need to accomplish three more things.
- Have your characters reflect on what just happened. This can be great for character development and tying up any loose ends. Plus, it allows readers to come down from the excitement of resolving the VC.
- Explain how what just happened moves your characters closer to solving the SC. Again, readers love progress and want be sure what they just read was necessary to the series as a whole.
- Introduce the next volume’s VC. You don’t have to, but if you want readers coming back for more, you need to end on a cliffhanger.
The ultimate goal of The Conclusion is to make reader realize your LN is a series. You don’t want them thinking your story is over when it isn’t.
While you shouldn’t spoil the next volume’s VC, you need to give them enough information to get them interested. They’ll want to know what the next VC could be and see if it’s something you mentioned in a previous volume.
Think of The Conclusion as another Introduction. You’ve already resolved the VC, so readers can’t get mad at you for not providing closure. All you need to worry about is hooking your readers and making them want to buy the next volume.
One Volume at a Time
Now you have a basic outline for a single volume in your LN series. It may seem like a lot, but outlining is the easy part. Filling in the blanks will give you the most headaches.
But don’t worry, Otaku Create is here to help you along every step of the way.
You can learn how to outline the other elements of your Light Novel by checking out these articles.