Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

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Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#1 Post by Mandy » Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:03 am

Hey all!

I'm feeling kinda blocked with my writing right now and I feel like it's because I'm not very confident in my writing abilities. I want to improve but I'm not sure how to go about it. I've only written one VN so far as an entry for NaNoRenO this year. But I've already started writing two scripts for another two VN projects I'll be working on with some friends. Does anyone have any advice for someone like me who wants to improve their visual novel writing?

I know the obvious one would be to write a lot! I am currently trying to get into the habit of writing a bit each day. Some days I do and some I don't...

I also know that writers should read a ton. I honestly don't read a lot, but I do read just about every day and it's not always fiction... What would you suggest a VN writer read? Just a lot of VNs or should I read traditional novels too? What do you as a writer read?
I find it hard to balance out writing and reading... I'm usually only doing one a lot and not much of the other.

I should also mention that I'm new to the VN world so I haven't even read that many VNs yet... I've read about 20+ I guess.

Anyway, some honest advice would be much appreciated.
If you wanna tell me I'm a lazy writer and that I should just quit, go ahead. I'm all ears.
But I can't promise that I'll give up... xD

Thanks!

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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#2 Post by FonaCall » Sat Apr 30, 2016 7:48 am

Hm... Improving your writing, huh?

Well, I can suggest workshopping your writing. Like, let other people read drafts of your work and get their opinion on it. How does it flow for them? Is something lacking? Is there a bit too much of something? Are there any grammatical errors? That sort of thing. Heck, you can even get other writers and go for it together!

You don't really need to follow every suggestion they give you for your re-write, of course, but it would be good to consider points that make sense.

For reading material... I just tend to get anything available and interesting to read, really. If you want to read something with the intention of using the experience for your VN writing, I guess you could pick something with a writing style that you would want to emulate. Either that, or try and pick out elements that you want to "use" from the things that you already read.

Also, since you want to write VNs in particular, then write VNs or something close, like plays or short stories. Even if you do write a lot, writing something unrelated won't really help you improve on VNs that much, IMO.

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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#3 Post by Graff » Sat Apr 30, 2016 8:40 am

I've never read much books in my lifetime, but I've always loved RPGs with lots of text such as the classic Final Fantasy games. Of course, you don't really pick up much descriptive writing from that considering the text is mostly dialogue-based. Still, I was inspired to become a creative writer by said media, so I told myself I would study up on it; I didn't necessarily have to read a lot. I just had to pick up a few literary techniques.

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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#4 Post by SundownKid » Sat Apr 30, 2016 10:19 am

Mandy wrote:What would you suggest a VN writer read? Just a lot of VNs or should I read traditional novels too?
Read as many traditional novels in the genre you want to write as possible. That's the #1 way I would suggest to improve your writing for VNs and otherwise.

The unfortunate truth is that in general video game writing is just not as highly edited and well thought out as books. Like, in localized games the localizer can just write whatever they feel like without a huge amount of editing oversight to make sure it reads well. While it can still improve your writing skills, it just won't do that as much as reading a good book. A VN can also lean on images as a crutch and not have to include certain details that a book would otherwise leave in.

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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#5 Post by kitsubasa » Sat Apr 30, 2016 11:03 am

I'd agree with Sundownkid -- read the classic novels for your genre, to start with, since they'll show you the basic tropes, themes, and writing style your work is drawing from. For instance, if you're writing a story about people being murdered one-by-one in a closed setting, you'd probably want to read Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None. If you're writing a will-they won't-they romance between smart characters, you'd want to read Pride and Prejudice. So on, so forth.

Once you've got the basic reading for your genre out of the way, the next thing would be reading popular modern works. People being murdered one-by-one in a closed setting? Maybe Hunger Games. That way, you'll know what the current expectations for the genre are, and what you can subvert or play with.

Then, look into other mediums! Because visual novels are, well, visual, looking at films and comics and plays for ideas and thoughts on how to combine character images with speech is worthwhile. In the above example, you might decide to watch Battle Royale, or watch a TV adaptation of And Then There Were None. Try and stick to well-regarded things here, too, so you're not learning from questionable teachers.

The last thing I'd suggest you do in this sequence is look at other VNs/games. When it comes to picking up influences for a work, drawing from things that've already been made in your medium is a risky business. If you end up adapting styles and stories from other mediums into a visual novel, you'll still come out with something new and interesting. If you take too much from another VN, though, you'll just be recreating an existing game -- which means you'll be inviting comparisons to established work, as well as potentially looking like you're ripping the earlier work off. Definitely play some VNs to get ideas of what's possible and what already exists, but don't lean on them too much, at least where the content of your writing is concerned. To continue the above example; you might cap off that research process by playing Dangan Ronpa and Zero Escape, to know how others have brought the genre into an interactive format.

If you're not into reading, I'd add that prioritising film/comics/TV/theatre over modern novels is generally okay, as long as you know how to read each format for ideas. If you haven't been taught how to critically understand visual media, try and find some film/TV 101 books, or books on understanding comics. They are applicable to VNs, but figuring out how can take a bit more work than regular prose.

Just... yeah, whatever you do. Read, watch, study widely -- but don't forget the originals. They've lasted decades or centuries or millennia for a reason.
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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#6 Post by Mandy » Sat Apr 30, 2016 5:50 pm

Thanks to everyone who has replied so far! :)

I also agree with Sundownkid. But the thing is, there isn't a lot of novels written in the specific genre I want to write in. I primarily want to write fantasy, but with LGBT+ characters and romances. There aren't a lot of novels like this and there are even less of them written in the first person POV (which is the POV I'm trying to learn how to write in right now since I think it suits VNs better than the 3rd person POV.) And this annoys me to no end! Which is why I want to write stories like this.

I guess I just have to read as many fantasy novels as I can and have the straight beaten into me if I ever hope to improve. TTwTT

I also like that kitsubasa has suggested watching films and reading comics as an alternative to reading novels. I think I'll try this too.

Thanks again!

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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#7 Post by Rossfellow » Sat Apr 30, 2016 8:35 pm

I quote Roy Peter Clark, from his 50 Writing Tools book. Read for form and content.

This means one can study different aspects of different work, and use what they learn in their own story. Note the difference between Form (How something is written) and Content (What it's about).

For example, you want to write an LGBT (You're going to have to be more specific, by the way) fantasy. If you can't find everything you need in one novel, you'll have to compile them from a list.

(This is just an example and not a guide. It's a tool, after all, used where you see fit. It's also possible to study a story for more than one aspect of it.)

-Use [Fantasy Story] to study world building, adventure plots, and related conflicts.
-Use [Romance Story] to study how to present relationships, how to set up drama, and how to illustrate feelings of affection or attraction towards another character.
-Use [Autobiography] to develop a deeper understanding and connection with the subject matter. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of someone who resembles a character you're writing can go a long way to making him/her relateable. Because autobiographies are about specific people, this means you'll also have to be specific about your subject matter.
-Use [Reference] for other things that help your world become more realistic (or at least believable), ranging from science articles to galleries of historical architecture, etc. They also work as inspirational fuel.

How you put all these together will test your skill as a writer.
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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#8 Post by YossarianIII » Sat Apr 30, 2016 9:19 pm

If you're looking specifically for 1st person POV, LGBT+ romance with fantasy elements, off the top of my head, a few things I'd really recommend are:


Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (not fantasy, but a very unusual true story. considered one of the best autobiographical comics and IMO totally deserving of the praise. Also has a solid sequel Are You My Mother?)

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (again, not fantasy but a great fictional graphic novel that looks at race and sexuality in the 60s)

Princess Knight by Osamu Tezuka (a foundational fantasy 1950s manga that looks at gender roles)

Gone Home (a love story and one of the best examples of what "walking simulator" video games are capable of when smartly written)

Love & Rockets by Jaime Hernandez (one of the great alternative comics with occasional sci-fi elements; the Locas storylines aren't always 1st-person but frequently include LGBT+ romance)


Also, if you're looking for LGBT+ classic novels, Oscar Wilde and E. M. Forster are two good starting points.

Finally as a bonus, if you count music, IMO the best narrative songwriter right now is Courtney Barnett, who I think identifies as lesbian.


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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#9 Post by Silken Sail » Sat Apr 30, 2016 10:01 pm

Rossfellow wrote:I quote Roy Peter Clark, from his 50 Writing Tools book. Read for form and content.

This means one can study different aspects of different work, and use what they learn in their own story. Note the difference between Form (How something is written) and Content (What it's about).

For example, you want to write an LGBT (You're going to have to be more specific, by the way) fantasy. If you can't find everything you need in one novel, you'll have to compile them from a list.

(This is just an example and not a guide. It's a tool, after all, used where you see fit. It's also possible to study a story for more than one aspect of it.)

-Use [Fantasy Story] to study world building, adventure plots, and related conflicts.
-Use [Romance Story] to study how to present relationships, how to set up drama, and how to illustrate feelings of affection or attraction towards another character.
-Use [Autobiography] to develop a deeper understanding and connection with the subject matter. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of someone who resembles a character you're writing can go a long way to making him/her relateable. Because autobiographies are about specific people, this means you'll also have to be specific about your subject matter.
-Use [Reference] for other things that help your world become more realistic (or at least believable), ranging from science articles to galleries of historical architecture, etc. They also work as inspirational fuel.

How you put all these together will test your skill as a writer.
This is a very good answer. You can take your lessons on form from Hemingway or King and your lessons on content from Tolkein or Austen. Don't narrow down your research to things that match your specific genre. That's how a lot of genres can become bogged down in their own regurgitated tropes -- because their creators only consume the media within that one specific genre. Hayao Miyazaki implied that was a big problem with the anime industry in 2014.

The only thing I'd like to add comes from another thing Miyazaki said in that 2014 interview: “If you don’t spend time watching real people, you can’t do this, because you’ve never seen it.”

Basically, don't forget your greatest, most easily accessible resource: the world around you. A lot of the greatest characters in fiction came about because their authors were inspired by someone they knew, or even someone they just observed. Ultimately, you want your audience to be able to relate to or empathize with your characters (yes, even the villains) and that won't happen if the characters don't feel "real." So when you're out and about, take some time to people watch - without being rude or creepy, of course! This is something many artists do and it's really useful for finding inspiration and creating art that really resonates with people.

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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#10 Post by trooper6 » Sat Apr 30, 2016 11:43 pm

Um...there is a lot of LBGTQ Fantasy.

Lesbian feminist separatist utopian nobles written by women for women published by women's presses and sold in women's book store were all over the place in the 70s and 80s for example. But you don't have to just stay in the 70s with Daughters of a Coral Dawn.

Here is a list of 190 lesbian fantasy books on Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/3270 ... an_Fantasy

The media is out there...you just have to do a bit more research to find it.
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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#11 Post by Klawzie » Sun May 01, 2016 1:50 am

There's some amazing advice in the posts so far. I want to highlight some of them, but I'd just be reposting bits of every post, so we'll just say it's all worth reading over again. And then come back in a few weeks and read it again.

And, by the way, you should be actually doing these things suggested, not just going, "Ah, I see. Well, I'll get around to it one day." Us lazy folks have a real problem with that. "This is good advice, I feel inspired! So I'll start on that next week. Oops. Too busy. Next week, when things die down. Oops. I got a new video game that is way too interesting to put down, I'll get to it after I finish the game. Now.... what was I doing again? Oh right, wallowing in how I'm not improving. Gosh, I wish there was a way to improve..." Bookmark the thread (either literally or using the forum's "bookmark" button) and come back to it from time to time. Especially since if you are following it, you're going to be learning and you'll actually see some of the good sense of some of these suggestions that you didn't understand before because now you're noticing different things when you consume media or watch people.

Most people learn better by doing. Most people put off "doing" by researching. (I am definitely one of those people.) I'm one of those types who will spend an hour on the top of the bunny slope asking all sorts of questions and building up my courage before utterly plunging down the hill by myself and realize I understand things a lot better now that I've done them and maybe I should have asked more questions about how one stops before doing it. (Moral of the story: You don't know what you don't know until you've done it. Also, sometimes you have to fall on your butt to avoid crashing into a line of small children queuing for something.)

(I know this point was brought up before, but I can't help but stress it since it's something that I feel has really helped me.) If creating is your calling, you're basically just going to have to get used to everything you do or see being potential inspiration/reference fodder. That means - get out and do. Try lots of things. Try to remember everything - but most importantly for a writer, at least try to remember how it felt - emotionally and in the tactile sense - and smelled. Everything else you can jog your memory of by watching videos or looking at pictures.

Also.... don't forget that "one size doesn't fit all". What works for one person might not work for another. And it's perfectly fine if you try something (and hopefully give it a real shot, not just give it a half-hearted try once) and it doesn't click with you.

And if you're really set on being a creative? Never give up - never surrender. xD
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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#12 Post by Mandy » Sun May 01, 2016 2:07 am

Rossfellow wrote:I quote Roy Peter Clark, from his 50 Writing Tools book. Read for form and content.

This means one can study different aspects of different work, and use what they learn in their own story. Note the difference between Form (How something is written) and Content (What it's about).

For example, you want to write an LGBT (You're going to have to be more specific, by the way) fantasy. If you can't find everything you need in one novel, you'll have to compile them from a list.

(This is just an example and not a guide. It's a tool, after all, used where you see fit. It's also possible to study a story for more than one aspect of it.)

-Use [Fantasy Story] to study world building, adventure plots, and related conflicts.
-Use [Romance Story] to study how to present relationships, how to set up drama, and how to illustrate feelings of affection or attraction towards another character.
-Use [Autobiography] to develop a deeper understanding and connection with the subject matter. Being able to put yourself in the shoes of someone who resembles a character you're writing can go a long way to making him/her relateable. Because autobiographies are about specific people, this means you'll also have to be specific about your subject matter.
-Use [Reference] for other things that help your world become more realistic (or at least believable), ranging from science articles to galleries of historical architecture, etc. They also work as inspirational fuel.

How you put all these together will test your skill as a writer.
Thanks a lot for this great advice! I actually bought his book recently and I totally agree! It's best to read widely and to take what you like from each book you read and to put it into your own work. I really like how you've explained it too, I think it makes more sense to me when you explain it this way. I'll try and use this tool in my writing and reading from now on. :)
YossarianIII wrote:If you're looking specifically for 1st person POV, LGBT+ romance with fantasy elements, off the top of my head, a few things I'd really recommend are:


Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (not fantasy, but a very unusual true story. considered one of the best autobiographical comics and IMO totally deserving of the praise. Also has a solid sequel Are You My Mother?)

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse (again, not fantasy but a great fictional graphic novel that looks at race and sexuality in the 60s)

Princess Knight by Osamu Tezuka (a foundational fantasy 1950s manga that looks at gender roles)

Gone Home (a love story and one of the best examples of what "walking simulator" video games are capable of when smartly written)

Love & Rockets by Jaime Hernandez (one of the great alternative comics with occasional sci-fi elements; the Locas storylines aren't always 1st-person but frequently include LGBT+ romance)


Also, if you're looking for LGBT+ classic novels, Oscar Wilde and E. M. Forster are two good starting points.

Finally as a bonus, if you count music, IMO the best narrative songwriter right now is Courtney Barnett, who I think identifies as lesbian.
Thanks a bunch! I'll definitely check out these recommendations. They sound great! ^^
Silken Sail wrote:
The only thing I'd like to add comes from another thing Miyazaki said in that 2014 interview: “If you don’t spend time watching real people, you can’t do this, because you’ve never seen it.”

Basically, don't forget your greatest, most easily accessible resource: the world around you. A lot of the greatest characters in fiction came about because their authors were inspired by someone they knew, or even someone they just observed. Ultimately, you want your audience to be able to relate to or empathize with your characters (yes, even the villains) and that won't happen if the characters don't feel "real." So when you're out and about, take some time to people watch - without being rude or creepy, of course! This is something many artists do and it's really useful for finding inspiration and creating art that really resonates with people.
This is also sound advice! I also think it's really important to make characters feel as real as possible.
I guess I need to get out more and observe some people haha. x3
trooper6 wrote:Um...there is a lot of LBGTQ Fantasy.

Here is a list of 190 lesbian fantasy books on Goodreads:
http://www.goodreads.com/list/show/3270 ... an_Fantasy

The media is out there...you just have to do a bit more research to find it.
Thanks for the list! And I'm sorry if I've annoyed you... I'm a pretty lazy reader so I guess I haven't looked around a lot for these kinds of novels but I do know they exist and I have read some of them. I'm just really picky with what I read in general. I guess I should just read what is available in the queer fantasy genre and learn not to be so picky. ;w;
Klawzie wrote:There's some amazing advice in the posts so far. I want to highlight some of them, but I'd just be reposting bits of every post, so we'll just say it's all worth reading over again. And then come back in a few weeks and read it again.

And, by the way, you should be actually doing these things suggested, not just going, "Ah, I see. Well, I'll get around to it one day." Us lazy folks have a real problem with that. "This is good advice, I feel inspired! So I'll start on that next week. Oops. Too busy. Next week, when things die down. Oops. I got a new video game that is way too interesting to put down, I'll get to it after I finish the game. Now.... what was I doing again? Oh right, wallowing in how I'm not improving. Gosh, I wish there was a way to improve..." Bookmark the thread (either literally or using the forum's "bookmark" button) and come back to it from time to time. Especially since if you are following it, you're going to be learning and you'll actually see some of the good sense of some of these suggestions that you didn't understand before because now you're noticing different things when you consume media or watch people.

Most people learn better by doing. Most people put off "doing" by researching. (I am definitely one of those people.) I'm one of those types who will spend an hour on the top of the bunny slope asking all sorts of questions and building up my courage before utterly plunging down the hill by myself and realize I understand things a lot better now that I've done them and maybe I should have asked more questions about how one stops before doing it. (Moral of the story: You don't know what you don't know until you've done it. Also, sometimes you have to fall on your butt to avoid crashing into a line of small children queuing for something.)

(I know this point was brought up before, but I can't help but stress it since it's something that I feel has really helped me.) If creating is your calling, you're basically just going to have to get used to everything you do or see being potential inspiration/reference fodder. That means - get out and do. Try lots of things. Try to remember everything - but most importantly for a writer, at least try to remember how it felt - emotionally and in the tactile sense - and smelled. Everything else you can jog your memory of by watching videos or looking at pictures.

Also.... don't forget that "one size doesn't fit all". What works for one person might not work for another. And it's perfectly fine if you try something (and hopefully give it a real shot, not just give it a half-hearted try once) and it doesn't click with you.

And if you're really set on being a creative? Never give up - never surrender. xD
Thanks Klawzie! :)
I agree! There is some amazing advice here and I'll be sure to take advantage of it haha.
Yes, it is very easy for us lazy creative types to procrastinate and put things off. I've had enough of doing that though. I really want to move forward and make some progress!
You've given some thoughtful advice too. I also think the best way to learn how to do something is by just doing it haha... and by experiencing things too. I'll be sure to keep this in mind. <3
You're right! Giving up isn't an option, we can't surrender. xD

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Re: Any Tips for Improving Your VN Writing?

#13 Post by Lesleigh63 » Sun May 01, 2016 11:10 pm

Getting critiqued is helpful (but you do need to be ready to hear the negative comments).

Understanding basic plot structures/types is also helpful (although they tend to be for kinetic writing, add branching and things can get a little difficult). So there's basic plot structures for romance writing, fantasy/quest based writing, etc.

Reading books/articles about the art of writing - Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V. Swain is one of my favourites (everytime I read this book I come away with something new - something I hadn't quite grasped on the first read through).
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