I’m a research junkie. Before taking on any new venture, I tend to waste stupid amounts time reading up on whatever it is I’m about to tackle. So when I got it in my head earlier this year to try editing a visual novel, the first thing I did was start googling like mad:
It didn’t look good. I stumbled on a blog post Moogy had written on VN editing way back in 2009, but that was pretty much it. Still, to paraphrase Cadillac cribbing Brené Brown quoting Teddy Roosevelt, better to dare greatly and fail than just sit around and whine. So I dove in head-first … and landed head-first. I’d been hoping my experience in writing and editing ad campaigns would help me make short work of things. I mean, how different could it be?
Very different, as it turns out. I made a ton of rookie mistakes, followed by a bunch of slightly less rookie mistakes, topped off by several “Did you seriously just do that?” whoppers near the very end. Yet somehow, 36,000+ lines later, I managed to stumble across the finish line, just having edited my first visual novel. The result, MDZ’s translation of Koisuru Natsu no Last Resort, turned out pretty nicely, all things considered. (It should be releasing any day now. I’ll link to the patch when it does.) Of course, I still can’t read any of the scripts without obsessing over the countless things I wish I’d done differently.
Which brings me to the point of this blog. Back when I first started, I couldn’t find any good resources on VN editing. Don’t worry – this won’t be one either. I’m still a rank amateur by any standard, so I wouldn’t presume to offer authoritative advice to anyone. But what I can do is discuss the various editing challenges I faced, my approach to them, and the many, many different ways I fell flat on my face. I might not have the right answers, but at least I can point out some of the things you might want to start considering if you’re planning on editing a VN.
Here's another way to think about it: In the (insanely great) Dark Souls games, there are bloodstains scattered throughout the game world marking places where other players have met their demise. Activate one, and you can see a spectral re-enactment of their final few seconds. Point being, if you see a bunch of bloodstains massed around a door, you can be sure something there’s something truly nasty lurking on the other side. It's probably a good idea to stop, watch, and learn from others' mistakes before going any further.
Let me be your Yoko Ono bloodstain.