Tips for VN beginners

Now that the basics – the fact that the VN of your dreams won’t appear out of nothingness without work – have been covered in my previous, somewhat satiric post, here are some more detailed and serious tips on making VNs. All of this is actually quoted from a post of mine from a Teacup thread on the subject “Things you wish you knew before you started, but I thought it might be a good idea to have this on my blog as well, since the post ended up rather long. I hope this is of help.

I think many of the things a new creator should know are universal, not only limited to visual novels. Things like having confidence in your own work, being realistic about your goals and distinguishing between good and bad critique are very important, especially when you are planning on releasing your own work to larger masses.

  • Have confidence in your work.
    If you are not going to believe in your story and characters, who is – and even more importantly, will you be able to complete your work if you do not? It tends to be that at the start of your project you see it as the most awesome thing ever, but your confidence wears off as time goes on, and it is this phase where many projects die. You got to love your project and have the confidence not to mind its flaws.

    Your work is not going to be the most perfect masterpiece ever made since the dawn of time, and that is the truth, but if you have made it with love and care, it is sure to give someone something valuable. It is not always easy to appreciate these valuable things, since we take the virtues in ourselves and our works for granted, but what may seem trivial to you can be a treasure to many of your readers.

    Personally, I go as far as to say that love is the most important thing in a visual novel project. If you do not give your project any, you are very unlikely to succeed (in the meaning of mikey’s post).

  • Be realistic.
    Your game is going to be just as long and just as good as you make it. If you think you are going to make a 500 000 word epic with a quality that surpasses the Japanese bestsellers of the year, then you are going to have to write all those words and do it all that well.

    You should first and foremost aim to create visual novels that you want to and can create, not visual novels you want to play. Of course, I am not trying to say that you should create visual novels you do not want to play – and who would think that way about a project they have love for? – but things like “playability”, “appeal to masses” and “awesomeness” are bad criteria to base your plans for a visual project on, because very often we cannot reach the technical level of the works we admire, and because our own virtues can be very different from the things we enjoy the most in other people’s works.

    For example, someone might love mystery visual novels because they cannot weave complex tales of crime, and it thus appears great to them: if they attempted to write a mystery visual novel, it probably would be a waste of their potential. They might be more optimal for writing something different; maybe this writer understands humal relations and emotions very well and could create a good slice-of-life or drama story, even if that is not their favourite genre. If the writer chooses the mindset of what they can write instead of what they would want to read here, not only the process of making the visual novel will be easier for them, but the results might be more skillful as well.

    The work involved in the creation of a visual novel is also easy to underestimate. Because of this, it is usually better to opt for a “small project” as your first one. When you get to the actual writing, the small project might suddenly feel a lot larger. If you are a writer and you are not on a schedule, it is also recommended you do not try to get an artist before the script is complete. Realistically speaking, without the script, the graphics are no use, not to mention the consenquences if your project does fail. People who make the art of others go to waste are viewed highly negatively in the visual novel community.

  • Learn to evaluate feedback.
    This is the Internet. If you release here, it is more than likely someone who had a very bad day stumbles upon you and your work and gives you a piece of their mind, even if you do not truly deserve it. When this happens, you should know well enough not to care for them. On the other hand, there are many helpful people out there who put a lot of care into reviewing your work and whose advice you should listen to. If you want to survive as a visual novel maker and improve your work, you should learn to distinguish between good and bad critique.

    Generally, a good way to differentiate between the two is to ask yourself the following: does the reviewer care about my work? If they care about your work, they care about you enough to be polite, to try to note the work’s good sides and give some suggestions on how to make your next visual novel even better, and keep it all in moderation. If the other person is using simple, offensive words like the verb to suck to take their feelings out on you, it is highly unlikely (though possible, since some people have awkward ways of expressing themselves) that their critique is worth caring about. On the other hand, if someone writes an essay-length, eloquent text about the faults of your 5-minute practice game, chances are those words were inspired not by your visual novel, but by something else.

    But if they are polite, care about your work and seem honest, take their words to heart. Everyone’s work has some shortcomings, but if you mind the advice of these helpful people, you can attempt to overcome your current weak spots. It is usually the same people who know what stands out in your work, so you know what points in your work are worth keeping and emphasising in your next work.

  • But most importantly, really: love your projects for what they are.
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