UltraRob

About UltraRob

Rob is a teacher, writer and entertainer based in London, Ontario, Canada. He is a teacher at Fanshawe College, Head of Wiseman Educational Services, Organizer of the Forest City Go Club and the founder/producer of the Kung Fu Action Theatre audio drama production group. He is married to his beautiful wife Connie, and owned by his dog Winston.

Figuring Out What to Write

Some writers have problems deciding on what ideas to use and what to leave on the table. However, the solution is pretty simple- you need to sell yourself the idea before you sell it to an audience. If you’re not interested, an audience likely isn’t either.

One approach to solving this problem is writing a book blurb for your story, which lays out the fundamental ideas of the story in an interesting and lively way that attracts readers. If you get excited reading/writing this blurb, then that story might be for you!

Blurbs are written using formulas, and one of the best I’ve come across can be found here.

However, if writing a full book blurb is still too much for you, a simple core premise logline might be better at getting you started.

A Core Premise is the central idea of your story and a seed from which the rest of the story will grow. With it, you’ll know the story you’re trying to tell, and have a guiding star leading the way to the end!

To find your Core Premise, you’re going to use a very basic technique that writers for movies have been using for a long time. In the movie business, writers often approach producers and directors with ideas for films, but they use a very simple structured version of their idea called a logline to get maximum effect and make the producers interested. If they can use it to sell a movie to producers, you can use it to sell a story to yourself- so let’s get started!

A great Core Premise needs to describe most of the following things:

  1. One or two adjectives about the main character. (to give them personality)
  2. The main character’s role or job. (Don’t use a name, just their role for now.)
  3. Anything that’s important to know about the setting or setup for the story.
  4. What the main character’s clear goal is.
  5. One or two adjectives about the opposition. (to make them interesting)
  6. The antagonist, opposition or challenge they face. (Also no names, use roles instead.)
  7. A hint of what will happen if the protagonist loses, or the stakes involved. (to add drama)

These can be presented in any order, but usually go in the above order, and will produce one or two sentences that look like this:

A mousy college student (adjective, who) working in a used bookstore (setting) must find a mysterious book (goal) when her co-workers are possessed by evil spirits (adjective, opposition) that will escape the store at nightfall (stakes).

An overworked executive assistant (adjective, who) at a large corporation (setting) must choose between her work and her family (goal) when a long-time rival (adjective, opposition) threatens to steal a big project (stakes) during a family crisis.

A high school student (adjective, who) must find a way to tell her long-time crush her true feelings (adjective, challenge) before she moves to a new city and they lose touch forever (stakes).

It’s actually pretty easy and fun once you get the hang of it!

Try using the ideas you brainstormed to come up with a Core Premise that follows the rules above. You don’t need to use all the information you came up with, just the main ideas. Also, don’t be afraid to try different versions of the premise with different details until you get one that you like.

Once you’ve turned at least one of your story ideas into a good-looking Core Premise, then you should ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Does this story idea grab you and make you want to write it?
  2. Is this story going to be one you think will interest your target audience?
  3. Is this story going to make your readers feel something?

If a premise gets three solid answers of “yes!” then that’s the story you need to write. If none of them get a “yes” for all three questions, then you need to go back and brainstorm some new ideas and turn those into premises that will work for you.

Another Book Blurb Formula

Found this info in a thread on Royal Road on writing good reader-catching story blurbs by Vincent Archer. I thought it was worth sharing, his original source was a bit vague, so I couldn’t trace it. (Bolding mine for emphasis.)

The blurb is supposed to catch your readers’ attention and sell the story, not tell the story.

I’m going to pick from Author’s Society: Fiction book blurbs start with a situation (a), introduce a problem (b) and promise a twist (c). They usually end with a sentence that emphasizes the mood (d) of the story.

So you start with a catch-up sentence, since often, people will drop the blurb if they don’t like the first sentence, and you end with a kind-of-cliffhanger so that people go from blurb to story.

Blurb sample using the formula (along with ‘a’, ‘b’, ‘c’ and ‘d’) lists:

For nearly twenty years since they’ve opened, the Gilded Gates of the Infinite Labyrinth have brought power and wonders to the subjects of King George III. Fueled by the resources from the place beyond the Gates, the modern age is in full swing across the British Empire (a: situation)

But the Hordes of Napoleon are not standing still. They will not stop until they can achieve total dominance, and ending the British advantage is what they plan for (b: problem).

Jonas Sims never planned to be a Labyrinth Professional and be involved in high stakes games (c: plot twist)

Now he, and the rest of his team have to level, push themselves forward and grow beyond their origins (d: story mood)

Or the Sun may set upon the Empire at last! (final hook)

Another one to illustrate the method:

The town of Las Viadas has two sides, like the twin swings of its saloon’s entrance. One seedy, one bright, and never the two meet. (a: situation)

But sometimes, people go into the saloon and don’t come out, and that’s something sheriff Marcus can no longer ignore. (b: problem)

The thing is, sometimes people who haven’t gone into the saloon come out, and no one finds that strange. (c: twist)

Getting to the truth will not be easy, nor will it leave the sheriff untouched by the weird. (d: mood)

Unless he goes in and never goes out. (explosive suspense)

Of course, you can have a full paragraph for each part rather than one or two sentences. You just need to keep your sentences very short, to the point.

There’s lots of tried “recipes” in writing. We’ve been writing novels and doing mass market publishing for centuries now. Everyone wants to be an amazing writer, but for most of us, myself included, using tried recipes and putting our own touch on them works better than attempts at being “truly innovative”.

You can pick my story and try to see how the classic Hero’s Journey steps apply, and you’ll find they’re all there (well, except the very end, since there’s 5 chapters left). It’s all about the presentation.

Same thing for the blurbs. Classic version works nearly perfectly. The best ones follow the recipe without you realizing it’s there.

It’s not a bad little formula, and I think sells stories pretty well.

(a) Situation

(b) Problem

(c) Plot Twist

(d) Story Mood

(f) Story Hook

You could even use it to sell a story to yourself to decide if it was worth writing. Create a blurb for a story you might write, and see if it gets you exited enough to write it!

Rob

How to Write a Quick Blurb

A “blurb” or “book blurb”- it’s the advertising description that sells your book to the readers. You find it on the back of printed books, or as the description on Amazon.

As for how to write a catchy one, most blurbs basically look like this:

  • Introduction (1-2 paragraphs)
  • Hook (1 paragraph)
  • Cliffhanger (1 paragraph)

Each paragraph is short, just 2 to 5 sentences long, any longer and the audience might lose interest.

Introduction
-who is your main character? (the best blurbs are built around a character, not a story.)
-why should the audience care? (what makes them sympathetic – this is KEY, you need to make your audience like your main character)
-the most interesting details about the character or their world.
-things the audience needs to understand the hook or the cliffhanger.

Hook
-this is the main problem of your story that your character faces
-also, anything special that makes your story unique like special or unusual things about your main character, system, cheat, etc

Cliffhanger
-this is opposition – who or what is standing in the way of your main character accomplishing their goals?
-and stakes- what will happen if your character fails to deal with their problem? What price will they pay and who will pay the price?
-always leave them hanging and wanting to know more!

A few other tips:

  • Don’t refer to any more characters or places than you absolutely have to.
  • Names don’t mean anything to your reader, use descriptions (Not “Bob Smith” but “the last assassin of a lost ninja clan”, or not “Panagea” but “a lost continent filled with warring tribes of powerful martial gods”.)
  • Try to keep the whole blurb under 200 words or less.
  • Don’t use “is” or “have” verbs, use action verbs – “ran”, “conquered”, “convinced” etc.

Webfiction Statistics: Ants Creation

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Antscreation.com is a Taiwanese webfiction site I came across that had some stats available, so I decided to include them in my research. I don’t know a lot about the site, not even how popular it is in Taiwan, but I strongly suspect they are mostly targeting a male audience like Munpia.

These guys really love their Fantasy stories, and the rest is a collection of typically male-oriented genres. It would be great to know exactly what kind of stories these Taiwanese guys (and girls) are reading, and to see what Taiwan’s other major sites look like, but my Chinese is terrible and Google Translate is only so much help.

I do know the site is free to post on, and free to read. I’m not sure if they have a mobile app, though.

GenreNumber
Fantasy7083
Urban/Romance1340
Online Games/Scifi1100
Detective/Mystery766
Martial Arts Fantasy630
Poetry/Literature620
Horror615
Campus/Sports440
Other383
History/Military255

Webfiction Statistics: Korea Combined

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Since I had data from three different Korean webfiction sites of Joara, Naver and Munpia, it only seemed logical to combine them to see what was really popular. I used the percentages from each (since the actual numbers would have skewed things) and created a graph.

In the end, the combined chart isn’t much different than the regular charts, Romance wins by a hair over Fantasy, and everything else trails behind. I suppose if I added Martial Arts and Fusion to Fantasy, then Fantasy would win. However, not by much since then I’d have to add Romance Fantasy, Boys Love, and Girls Love to Romance.

GenreJoaraNaverMunpia
Fantasy25%14%30%
Parody20%
Fusion9%10%
Boys Love8%4%
Romance8%56%5%
Game6%4%
General Fiction (Unclassified)6%4%
Romance Fantasy4%7%
Literary Works4%
Light Novels3%1%3%
Fanfiction3%
Martial Arts2%8%13%
History1%2%
Girls Love0%
Sports0%8%2%

Yes, the percentages don’t quite add up, this is because not all sites have the same genres and I used the Joara genres as the base. It still gives a pretty good sample, I think.

Webfiction Statistics: Munpia

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Munpia.com is another major South Korean webfiction site, and like Naver is a curated site where only the top stories are promoted and accepted writers get paid for their work by readers. Unlike Naver, however, Munpia is targeted at a male audience instead of a female one.

Munpia has a lot of smaller categories, which you can see at the bottom of the post, but this chart showing the top ten categories makes things pretty clear what’s popular.

Munpia is the only site where Romance is just 3% of the stories I came across, and there’s no doubt what its readers like! It also has the interesting category of Modern Fantasy, which is basically modern characters who can use magic like Harry Potter or Harry Dresden. Fusion is mixed genre work, but still based around mostly fantasy and sci-fi.

The other interesting stats on there are Martial Arts, which are mostly period dramas and fantasy stories about characters fighting and similar to the Chinese Wuxia genre (Koreans call it “murim”). And, the Game genre, since the Koreans literally invented the litRPG genre of people entering VR video games to have adventures.

GenreNumber of Pages
Fantasy290029%
Fusion185018%
Modern Fantasy185018%
Martial Arts6006%
Game5005%
Light Novels4004%
Romance3003%
Science Fiction2502%
General Fiction2502%
Alternative History2002%
Sports1501%
War & Military1501%
Medium and Short1501%
Reasoning (Psychological)1001%
Mystery and Suspense1001%
City Essays1001%
Drama1001%
Children’s Novels500%
Plays500%
Boys Love500%
Parody/Fanfic500%
10150

While doing research, I also came across a document that looked at the genres of stories that had been in Munpia’s Top 100 over the past decade (before 2017). So, I turned them into a graph as well!

Very similar, but you can see that in terms of popularity, Modern Fantasy and Martial Arts Fantasy are more popular than there are stories about those genres.

Here is the raw stats for stories that hit the top 100…

GenreNumbers
Fantasy2162
Modern Fantasy1531
Martial Arts Fantasy950
Fusion Fiction695
Romance330
Game276
General Fiction252
Light Novel186
Science Fiction 151
Sports 144
Alternative History109
Short Works81
Mystery 70
City: Essay56
Detective44
Drama27
War and Military26
Parody22
Fairy Tales16
Boys Love11
Mystery-Horror4
7143

Webfiction Statistics: Naver

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Naver.com is the South Korean equivalent to Yahoo.com- a giant portal to the internet which offers news, shopping, entertainment, and everything a user could ask for. They also offer webfiction and webtoons, and have begun to bring these to an English market as well.

As far as fiction goes, Naver is much more popular with women than men, as is evidenced by the stories by category listed on their site:

As you can see, Naver doesn’t offer a wide variety of genres, but focus on a few profitable ones they know will be popular with audiences. There is a male-oriented component, which would be the Fantasy, Martial Arts, and Sports categories, but women’s fiction is around 67% of the site, so it’s not even a competition.

In Korea, webfiction has a broader audience, and is read and written by older writers as well as young ones. Naver seems to be a popular site with Korean housewives who want to make a little extra money writing romance in their spare time. Did you know that 51% of webfiction writers in Korea make money from their writing? That provides a pretty good incentive to write!

The numbers for these stats are curated and accepted stories which have been approved by the site, which is why they’re so low.

GenreNumber
Romance2260356%
Fantasy561914%
Marital Arts32718%
Sports32138%
Romantic Fantasy29687%
Boys Love15654%
Mystery7182%
Light Novels5241%
40481

Webfiction Statistics: Joara

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here.The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Joara.com is South Korea’s oldest webfiction site, having started around the turn of the century. It has millions of users, and a large variety of stories because of its age. I sampled it in July 2019, since that’s when I found a way to scrape data from it.

This chart is based on the number of stories in each of the major categories on the site. Given the number of users and age of the site, I suspect these numbers have been pruned to only include “real” stories as opposed to random fragments and other pieces which would make up the bulk of many sites.

Interestingly enough, this looks like a site where Romance doesn’t rule the roost, however there is a bit of an illusion on this site. While Fantasy is indeed the number one category, if you add Romance, Boys Love and Romantic Fantasy together (since on most sites they’d all be grouped as simply Romance) they combine to 21%, which makes them the second largest category on the site.

Overall, however, I suspect Joara’s membership is more male than female looking at the categories. The dominance of Fantasy is a clue, but so is the popularity of Parody/Humor (which you don’t see on female-majority sites) and Fusion is a mixed genre category that’s mostly other types of Fantasy, so fantasy is really closer to 34%. (Or 40% if you assume most Game stories are LitRPG fantasy stories.)

Not a lot to say about Joara,it seems to follow the fairly typical patterns you’ll see in most webfiction sites. Although, I do note that it’s lacking a mystery/thriller/suspense category, which is also one that tends to be more popular with young female audiences than male ones.

GenreNumber of StoriesPercentage
Fantasy4849025%
Parody3932820%
Fusion182699%
Boys Love162938%
Romance159948%
Game126226%
General Fiction (Unclassified)124596%
Romance Fantasy88294%
Literary Works70334%
Light Novels65623%
Fanfiction63893%
Martial Arts36192%
History11171%
Girls Love6000%
Sports2550%
197859

Webfiction Statistics: Shosetsuka ni Narou! (Let’s Become a Novelist!)

Shosetsuka ni Narou! (Let’s Become a Novelist) is Japan’s oldest and most popular webfiction site, and continues to be a place where publishers find their next hot new novelist. Many light novels, including Rising of the Shield Hero, That Time I Was Reincarnated as a Slime, Kobosuba, RE:Zero, Overlord and a huge list of other titles all started on Narou.

Narou isn’t shy with their genre tag numbers, so it was fairly easy to find out what people were writing on the site.

Narou Genre Tag Pie Chart

Of all the sites I’ve looked it, Narou has perhaps the most balanced and honest selection. By that I mean I can look at those categories and numbers and see the tastes of many ages, sexes, backgrounds, and interests all being combined there, not just a bunch of teen and college age writers.

Narou is still dominated by the big two of Fantasy and Romance, which would be Fantasy 27% and Romance 29% if you combine the sub-genres together, but it does have a bunch of other categories like Poetry, Essays and Pure Literature, which are rare on most webfiction sites.

One thing that does strike me about Narou was that what we would call Science Fiction is broken up into Science Fantasy (2%) and Space (>1%) which shows that harder science fiction doesn’t seem to fly on Narou. I have a theory that youth are intimidated by science fiction, and so they don’t really feel comfortable writing it. Fantasy is so much easier, and requires less research or chances of getting things wrong.

Detailed GenresNumbers
High Fantasy80578
Real World Love46320
Human Drama43796
Low Fantasy34612
Alternate World Love30482
Other28530
Poetry25457
Comedy21353
Essays19190
Horror16149
Pure Literature14750
Action12859
Science Fantasy10168
Fairy Tales8820
Historical7927
Mystery (reasoning)5435
VR Game4247
Space2497
Post Apocalyptic (panic)1611
Game Playthroughs (replay)346
415127

I should note that I have removed the category of Unclassified stories from the list for clarity, which were 253,774 of the stories listed on the site.

Webfiction Statistics: Fictionpress.com

This is part of a series of posts sharing some of the research material I collected while researching my book How to Write Light Novels and Webnovels. There was a lot I found that I couldn’t fit into the book, so I thought I’d share it here. The categories listed are translations of the ones the sites use, not my own categories.

Fictionpress.com is one of the oldest English-language webfiction sites, being a sister site to Fanfiction.net, which is the oldest and largest collection of fanfiction in the world. While nowhere near as large as its older sister, or Wattpad, Fictionpress does have almost 600,000 stories on the site.

Fictionpress makes its numbers public, so they were easy to get. Interestingly enough, the site splits itself into Fiction and Poetry, and the Poetry section is much larger than the Fiction section. This makes Fictionpress one of the web’s more popular poetry sites.

The Fictionpress graph data below was gathered in December, 2017, and omits a number of micro categories to make the chart readable. Those categories can be found in the raw data at the bottom. The General Fiction category is the default on the site, and is where anything un-categorized goes, so I have included versions of the chart with and without it.

With the General Fiction Category
Without the General Fiction Category

As you can see, if we eliminate the General Fiction category, we end up with a chart that looks pretty similar to Wattpad and most of the other sites. These numbers show the teen focus of the site, with Young Adult being the third most popular specific category

What is interesting about Fictionpress is how Horror and Supernatural both get their own categories, and how Humor and Science Fiction are both pretty prominent. Fictionpress is an older site, so it’s gone through more than one wave of popularity for Science Fiction, and I think that’s why it’s got a higher percentage here than it does on most sites.

Fictionpress and Wattpad have similar profiles, and here are their percentages in their top categories. You can see where Wattpad’s focus on Romance really sticks out, and how Fantasy is still a fairly popular Fictionpress genre.

General Fiction11700020.09%
Romance10900018.72%
Fantasy 9600016.48%
Young Adult573009.84%
Horror285004.89%
Humor271004.65%
Supernatural270004.64%
Scifi243004.17%
Action202003.47%
Essay171002.94%
Historical99001.70%
Mystery95001.63%
Biography88001.51%
Thriller76001.30%
Spiritual63001.08%
Mythology45000.77%
Play42000.72%
Fable39000.67%
Kids35000.60%
Western6960.12%
TOTAL:582396100.00%

Overall, Fictionpress is another site where mostly young writers share their stories. Since it doesn’t have a mobile presence like Wattpad and Webnovel, it is slowly fading into history as young people tend to like using their phones for reading and writing these days.