by : 314 (Yang Chen)
Previously, in the general article on "Webnovel author levels' standards", I separated webnovel authors into five different levels. But actually, there's a hidden sixth level – total beginners that aren't even at starter level. This refers to complete newcomer authors that have zero experience and have never written a single word for a webnovel.
Still, not everyone needs beginner level guides, even if they're a pure newcomer. Of course, if you're an established author who has experience writing long novels, feel free to ignore this article and move on to the next one, regardless of whether or not your story was successful. Or, perhaps you've never written long novels, but have the natural talent to write as easily as you drink water. In that case, there's no need for you to read this beginner level article anymore.
In fact, there's even plenty of newcomer authors that feel like it's incredibly difficult for them to write a short, several hundred word long essay, or to write an end-of-year reflection. But, when such newcomer authors try writing webnovels for the first time, they find their minds clearing up, with the ability to write like they are possessed, with storyline flowing out from under their proverbial pens just like a stream of water. Newcomers like these naturally don't need to read a beginner level guide like this one, either.
Those who truly need to read this article are those who put their hands at writing webnovels, but find that their minds are empty or filled with mud the moment they open up their computer documents. Perhaps you're a newcomer author who tried thinking for an entire day but only managed to write a few hundred words that even you think is garbage.
In such a case, for newcomers like you, how should you improve your writing, and write your first thousand, ten thousand, or hundred thousand words? How do you take the first step in becoming a god of writing?
I personally believe that you can try the several following tips.
1: Adjust your mentality and create a precise writing goal for yourself.
Unlike most other jobs, success as a webnovel author doesn't always come step by step. Some sufficiently talented newcomer authors are completely capable of earning hundreds of thousands, or even millions, on their very first novel. A single novel can make an author into a master, or even a grandmaster. There are also veteran authors who have been stuck at a certain level for a long time who might one day have an epiphany and find a new writing style more suitable for him or herself, turning them into a master overnight.
However, the cruel reality is, no matter if it's a newcomer becoming a master overnight, or a veteran suddenly improving, there's one condition that's an absolutely necessary prerequisite—
The author needs to already have strong writing skills. This means that such a wonderful thing is unlikely to have anything to do with you who's reading this article, as you're not even at the beginner level.
For authors who aren't even at the starter level, there's only one goal that you should be setting for yourselves. That goal is to be able to naturally write a long novel. To be more specific, there's two major goals within this goal.
The first goal is to be able to imagine and finish a story that's approximately 500,000 words. Simply speaking, you have to be able to write long novels.
This is because the natural way how webnovels work makes it so that only a longer novel can bring greater benefits for the author. The novel's ranking, influence, and author's fame are all affected by the novel's length. To achieve a respectable degree in these areas, the novel will typically need to be at least 1.5 million words or longer.
Of course, from a professional standpoint, a story written for the sake of practice doesn't really need to have that many words in it. That's because in theory, an author who's capable of finishing a 500,000-word long novel has already learned the foundational writing skills necessary. As long as such an author has a complete outline for their story, writing two or three million words will no longer be so difficult.
The second goal is to be able to write approximately five thousand words every day. Simply speaking, you must be able to write quickly.
This is because there's a huge number of webnovels out there, giving you immense competition. Based on webnovel readers' typical reading habits, only stories that have consistent updates will be able to obtain and maintain popularity. For a super consistent release, the lowest requirement is to update at least two chapters per day.
One chapter might have an average of around 2500 words. At the very minimum, they should at least be longer than 1500 words. This is why, for a webnovel author to become successful, their writing speed must be at minimum three to five thousand words per day. When calculating this by months, this means that you need to write at least 45,000 to 75,000 words per month. This is the most basic requirement.
Those are all the prerequisite conditions for newcomer authors to develop into starter level webnovel authors. At this level, the quality of your writing isn't that important. Nor is the popularity of your novel important, either. Being able to write a long novel and write quickly are the two main goals that you as a newcomer author should strive for.
Something that should be noted is that at this level, you should pay more attention to improving your own ability, rather than worrying about your story. There are no tests for you, nor are there any grades. By the time you're in the middle of the story, if you notice that you're having an easy time writing and can easily write five thousand words per day, in addition to having a clear outline for your entire novel, then congratulations. This means that you're now a starter level webnovel author.
2: Choose an appropriate genre and topic.
With the development of webnovels, there's so many genres out there already – eastern fantasy, high fantasy, martial arts, xianxia, modern, mystical, historical, military, gaming, competitions, science fiction, fan fiction…
All these genres have their own specialties, and have different popularity factors and important things to keep in mind when writing. Also, they all have different degrees of difficulty when writing them. Still, what needs to be noted is that these different genres will have varying degrees of difficulty for different authors.
Perhaps one author will find it incredibly painful to write historical fiction, while writing a mystical story is fun and relaxing for him. Meanwhile, another author might find it incredibly easy to write historical fiction, while writing a modern day novel feels all sorts of awkward for her.
Obviously, for authors that are total beginners, you should choose the easiest type of story to write for you. But, what if you don't even know what genre you should be starting out in?
Allow me to recommend a few easy genres for newcomer authors.
1: Fan fiction
Fan fiction refers to using an already existing story's characters and setting as the basis to create new stories. This is a type of story modification.
For example, you could write a story and call it "Harry Potter and His Adventures". This story could be about how Harry Potter ended up with Hermione, or how he has multiple girlfriends. This is an example of a fan fiction about Harry Potter.
What needs to be noted is that in the large majority of situations, fan fiction authors don't actually have the copyright to their own stories. Even if you wrote every single word of your fan fiction novel by yourself, you still have zero right to use your novel for any commercial purposes.
But, even so, fan fiction is still one of the best choices for total beginner authors. The reason is that they are quite simple to write.
When writing fan fiction, you don't need to think about a complicated world background or any detailed settings. Nor do you need to create a large amount of characters. Even the fan fiction's story can be inspired from the original novel. All these things, especially creating the setting and characters, are what newcomers typically have the most trouble with.
Basically, writing fan fiction will greatly simplify the writing process, directly avoiding the most difficult part of all. Without a doubt, this is the easiest way for newcomer authors to get started.
As for what story to base your fan fiction on, it first needs to be a story that you as an author have already read and are familiar with. Also, it's best if it's a story you truly love, perhaps even reading it several times over. This is the basic requirement for writing fan fiction.
On top of all that, I would recommend choosing to write fan fiction about a story whose copyright has already expired, such as "Romeo and Juliet" or "Don Quixote" and so on. Or, it would be best if you could somehow obtain permission directly from the author of the work that you intend to write fan fiction about.
Of course, even if you have no way to contact the author or obtain their permission, it's still fine to write fan fiction. This just means that you can only write for free, without earning any profits, and also respect the original author of the work. After all, for newcomer level authors like you, learning and improving your writing is the most important part. Since your novels are unlikely to be commercially viable at this stage, it's not all that important even if you write a fan fiction novel that you're not allowed to profit from.
2. Modern novels
This genre refers to novels that take place in a modern day urban setting. The city background is typically where the author has lived and is familiar with.
Compared with fan fiction, modern novels have the added difficulty of having to create your own characters. Still, it does decrease the amount of trouble you have to go to in creating a setting. Not only that, when writing character introductions, you can save a lot of effort in having to explain a lot of common knowledge, such as what a character's job entails, or their social status. Saving all this effort is quite precious for newcomers.
And compared to fan fiction, modern novels have their own advantages as well. That is to say, the author can more easily write themselves into the main character, making the storyline easier to think about. Normally speaking, all you need to do is to give the main character a special cheat, or a unique advantage, and the rest will flow as naturally as water.
For example, there's a very popular modern novel with a reincarnated main character. The protagonist has only a very simple cheat—being reincarnated to several years in the past. This is quite an easy scenario for newcomer authors to insert themselves into. Just think about it, if you can reincarnate back to the past with all your memories intact, what will you do?
Most authors can probably imagine it. If you return to several years in the past with knowledge of the future, there's just far too many ways of earning money. Even if you have zero business skills, can't remember a single stock market pick, and don't remember who won the World Cup of Soccer, at the very absolute minimum, shouldn't you know something like what company you should invest in?
Apart from earning money, don't you, the author, have any other regrets as well? For example, do you regret not treating your parents better while they were still alive? Do you regret choosing the wrong major in college? Are you embarrassed at your awkward attempts to get a boyfriend/girlfriend?
And so on, and so forth. Why are you afraid of not being able to think of plots for your storyline and making it longer?
As for the specific details, those are quite easy as well. For example, if you intended to sell off everything you owned back in the day and take out a huge loan to invest in one specific company, what would your parents say, and how would they react? How would all your other friends and relatives react as well? Who would you try to borrow money from, and how would they respond? What's the specific process of investing in a company, and what procedures are necessary? What if the company you invest in temporarily loses value after you invest in it? Would your parents complain at you and tell you to retract your investment? And how will people react after the company you invested in suddenly does super well and you make a huge profit? And, what will you do with the money…
Just this one storyline arc about investing in a company has plenty of content to write about even simply by following the natural process of how people would act. And if you use that as the foundation and intentionally write some conflicts, such as how the protagonist discovered that his friend who he wanted to borrow money from is actually investing in a different company, how he pretended to have a casual attitude when opening up an investment account made the investment company female employee misunderstand him to be someone really rich, or how people scoffed at him after investing in a company and he made a bet…
Wouldn't you agree that all these related events can add plenty of content to your story? Not only that, it shouldn't be all that difficult even for a newcomer author to write such a story arc.
Even if you're one of the few who feel like you lack imaginative prowess, and you don't have the confidence to create interesting scenarios and conflicts, well, there's still one more advantage of writing a modern story—you can borrow ideas from plenty of sources.
The most direct sources of all would be television dramas, especially those set in the current day. This should be easy to understand.
Apart from television shows and movies, there's also hot topics in society, the news, or local gossip and family conflicts… These are sources that are easy to overlook or maybe often considered boring. But actually, it's quite common to make some modifications and write them into your own novel and borrow from such sources.
This is why, from a certain standpoint, modern novels are the easiest novels for newcomers to begin with and to write a long story about.
Imitation type novels aren't a particular genre, but they can belong to any genre. While this may seem rather contradictory, it actually means that a newcomer author could try selecting one of his or her own favorite and most familiar novels and imitate it. This isn't limited by genre.
Imitation could be shallow, or it could be a close imitation as well.
To give a theoretical example, perhaps the original story has a main character named Zhang San, who's the son of the sect leader of Green Castle. Your imitation novel could try having a main character named Li Si, who's the son of the sect leader of the Wudang Sect. The original story had Zhang San falling off a cliff and miraculously surviving while also obtaining a book containing a miraculous cultivation technique. After he successfully powered up, Zhang San was sent by his father to go undercover in the Demon Sect, where he fell in love with the Demon Sect leader's daughter. Your story could try having Li Si being ambushed while cultivating and becoming seriously injured, but miraculously having a great breakthrough in cultivation due to overlapping coincidences. Afterwards, Li Si went undercover in the Demon Sect in an effort to investigate who ambushed him, and fell in love with the Demon Sect leader's granddaughter…
This type of imitation requires even less creative effort from the author compared to fan fiction. From a certain standpoint, this is really cutting it close to becoming plagiarism. Yet, it's still undeniable that this is a usable method for newcomer authors to improve their own skills.
But, please note that this type of writing style is only suitable for practicing your writing. If your story is too much of an imitation, it'll be impossible to even make it public. That's because unlike fan fiction, even if you don't use it for commercial purposes, you've still plagiarized and violated the original author's copyright. It might even spoil certain plots from the original story and affect its sales and popularity.
That's why this type of learning via imitation, in principle, isn't really one of the better ways to learn. More accurately speaking, this is the final way to learn available to total beginner authors that have failed at attempting all other self-training methods.
In normal circumstances, after half a month to a month of imitation practice, the author should have some more insight into writing. The author can learn how to design storylines and write descriptions. At such a time, the author can stop trying to imitate and begin developing a completely original novel on their own.