When I told a few people that I was trying my hand at a visual novel, the reaction was for the most part encouraging: friends wishing me luck, happy for my excitement from working on a project that fascinates me deeply, and a manageable amount of hype that one would expect from waiting for a fan work to take shape.
But when I told a few others who have had prior experience working with or playing VNs, the responses were primarily healthy skepticism. They wished good luck, but more in a “you’re going to need it” sort of way, and after spending an entire week leisurely writing the script for the prologue (I admit, writing the script is my sole strength heading into this project), I’ve come to understand what kind of undertaking I’ve gotten myself into.
Yet, reading through various forums and lurking around in the VN community, the concept of a VN solo work is not entirely out of the question. For those who write these games as a passionate hobby, I identify strongly with their interest in tackling projects and working through the logistics of planning and setting expectations within the scope of their work.
For Hikami Project, the concept that I’m working out in my head requires a scope that extends beyond what I could expect myself to achieve in a short time by myself; specifically, the workload that comes with a target word count feels very much like that of NaNoWriMo. Naturally, I find myself settling into a groove of hammering out words and being productive, and worrying about the difficult obstacles later when I actually get to them.
I promised to myself, having bookmarked some pretty good coding tutorials, that once I had to cross those bridges, I’d have the tools ready for them. But for now, it’s writing time.
I spent last week experimenting with different ways I would organize my ideas, and as it turns out, I’ve fallen in love with Microsoft OneNote:
I compulsively purchased a Surface Book for the sole purpose of replacing my out of date Surface Pro (the original one), and as part of a very good bundle deal, I also picked up an up to date version of Office (the non-subscription kind), which included OneNote 2016. I’ve played around with the free version that was made available for Windows 8 and 10, but there were some extra features that I found I could use for other projects (like a Dungeons & Dragons campaign that I’m DM’ing for some friends), but for the most part I’m extremely happy with how all the information I need is laid out in a way that I can intuitively navigate.
While I’ve had most of my ideas already in place prior to deciding to go forward with this project, the majority of my outlining was focused on the prologue, which I planned out in a way such that it would act like a VN in itself, the way I remember Katawa Shoujo was originally developed. The scope of releasing an Act One Only made it a lot more manageable for me in basically all fronts.
So I spent the entire week writing out the script, working from the outline that I had. I experimented with different ways I would go about doing this, whether I would draft directly onto the .py file via Editra or if I would work off of a text document, and I eventually settled on using google docs. While the ren’py project folder would be on my Surface Book proper, I still like the flexibility of being able to work on the script from multiple locations, like my home desktop, as well as the desktop that I have at my desk when I’m at work.
I’m trying not to over-format the script right now, because I need to transfer everything to code anyway later on, but a simplified screenplay format suits my needs just fine for the time being.
At the moment, there’s only one branch point that determines what paths the player will take, and I’ve settled on a manageable 3 routes. I’ve written all the way up to the branch point, and I’ve budgeted about 5,000 words for each branch point leading up to the end of the Prologue and onward, which means the Prologue section will be approximately 20,000 words, with expectations that this mark can and likely will be overshot.
Which is totally fine by me. I’ve tackled much larger writing projects than this in less time, so it’s well within my capabilities to do this. I’m glad that I haven’t set a personal deadline for finishing the project, but I imagine that I won’t actually look into that until I finish the script. Manageable chunks, yes?