This title is too long!:Volume1 Chapter4
Chapter 4 - May 1, I taught her
I'm a High School Boy and a Bestselling Light Novel author, strangled by my female classmate who is my junior and a voice actress.
This is my current predicament.
The 'near-death experience' referred to the swirling lights that could cause movie film to move.
Modern people would use such an expression 'a fatal near-death experience', and some would even shorten it to describe the moment 'when people continued to recall the past before they died'.
I once read it in the books.
People would quickly see their past memories before they died.
It was said to be because the mind was searching for a certain something at full speed.
Seeking for a clue to escape the crisis from their past experiences.
Thus, I vividly recalled the past.
Recalling everything that happened from the first time I met her, till this point.
May had arrived.
The first week was commonly dubbed as 'Golden Week', but this day and the day after were still normal days. I had to attend classes today and visit the After Record tomorrow.
After school, I changed from my uniform into plain clothes, and got on the same Limited Express train as usual.
The passengers on this day were a lot more than the previous week. It's Golden Week, and there are many dressed up for hiking.
Having already anticipated this, I queued earlier than usual, and managed to secure the usual seat right at the back, placing the luggage right beside it.
There was still some time until the train departed. I wondered if Nitadori would wait till the train departed before coming over as per usual, so I continued to wait leisurely, without any worry.
A few days ago, I realized,
Did Nitadori deliberately wait until the last moment to arrive at the platform, and came in from the other carriages?
This station was a little distant from school, but there were still students who would head to school from there. If any particular person was to see Nitadori and me walking side by side with each other at the platform,
"What are these two doing?"
There surely would be such rumors. As both of us would take leaves every Friday, I didn't have belief that I could fool others if I was to be questioned.
And if she really did put in such thought—
I surely would have to thank Nitadori here.
I suppose it was because of my manly plea that she did not choose 'Vice Versa'.
What did she choose then? Surely there wasn't anyone who didn't know what it was. The answer's 'Momotaro'.
She brought a picture book directed for children,
"A long, long time ago, at a certain place (in a galaxy far, far away)—"
And recited from the beginning.
It really was a 'professional prank'.
With much poise and care, she narrated the text. Her voice was ostensibly a textbook example, each word spoken with such clarity there was no way any word could have been mistaken.
The lines themselves were really exciting. Nitadori showcased all her acting talents, not withholding anything at all, using different voices for the old granny, the old grandpa, Momotaro, the dog, monkey, pheasant and the demons.
I was looking forward, so I really couldn't see her, but she probably was acting with her entire body like what professional voice actors will do. I could see my classmates look on, completely flabbergasted.
Eri Nitadori's solo performance ended after 6 minutes and 34 seconds.
For us, who did not pay a single cent hearing this, we were first stunned momentarily, and then we applauded.
The teacher praised her exuberantly with grandeur words, and simply continued,
"Now then, the next one will be Suzuki, and after that Hisakawa."
That Suzuki who'll be following up after Nitadori really is very pitiful here. As for who that Suzuki, I don't even remember how he looks like now.
After class, the girls were gathered around Nitadori; some boys joined in too.
I decided to get up a little later for a stroll.
Many of my classmates were hailing Nitadori for how amazing she was,
"Have you acted before?"
Someone posed Nitadori this question, and she answered,
"Actually, I did join the drama club in my previous school, and I really put in a lot of effort practicing my recital acting. The teacher was strict, but I did recite the story very well today, so I wonder if he'll praise me."
"Eh?" "Oo" I heard such voices. Now that she mentioned it, I recalled her specifically stating in her self-introduction that she transferred in from the previous year. I had no idea exactly where she was prior to that.
"Aren't you going to join the drama club?"
A certain male classmate asked that.
Anyone would have thought about that—if they didn't know about her job at that moment.
"I decided not to join a club due to various reasons."
Nitadori replied with an answer that could barely be considered one.
While I intended to stop eavesdropping and get up,
"Why aren't you around on Fridays? Is it related to the various reasons you mentioned?"
A certain girl, poor in comprehending the mood, asked without holding back. Hearing her tone, I suppose there was no malice at all.
"No, that's not it."
Nitadori responded curtly,
"Then what it is?"
And that girl pressed on with the question.
She let out a slightly perturbed voice.
There's another classmate who's definitely never around on Friday here, but it seemed that classmate wasn't being noticed in any way. My presence is so small it's shocking, and only in this situation did it help me out here.
But I was still worried if I would end up distracting her. I missed the opportunity to leave while pondering if I should quickly leave my seat.
At this moment, it'll be worse for us if I'm to slip off here. While pondering over what I should be doing at this moment, Nitadori said,
"My dad's currently living alone in Japan, due to busy work, and not because my parents are talking about divorce here, you know?"
That was the first time I heard of such matters.
But even so, I practically knew nothing about her.
"But I can only meet him in Tokyo on Friday, so I have to do so even if I have to take leaves from school. That's how it is."
Of course, all that has to be a lie. Her tone however was so overly natural and fluent, even I was about to blurt out, I see, so that's how it is, and believe her here.
As for the other classmates' reactions.
"So that's why!"
Hearing their reactions, I knew that they bought the story,
The acting skills of a professional voice actor's really amazing.
Feeling relieved, I went out for a stroll.
While strolling, I wondered.
Nitadori lied saying that she would head to Tokyo to spend Fridays with her family, and in fact, she went for her after record. She could have met her father after the after record was done, but that definitely was not the main reason.
Now then, what was that 'my parents are living separately' thing she just mentioned here?
I believed her completely when she said that. What happened on Friday however made me feel that she could be lying for the sake of it.
Nitadori's acting skills differed from any ordinary person. I couldn't determine the validity from her words.
In other words,
I knew nothing about Eri Nitadori other than she's 'the voice actress portraying Meek, and my classmate who's a year younger than me'.
Once I thought that much, my bad habit would kick in.
This bad habit here would refer to the 'delusional' habit, which I'm using as my money tree.
Who exactly was Nitadori?
Her relatives live in Japan, and she coincidentally takes the same ride as me because she wants to know about an author, and thought of all the questions to ask me. Was it all a lie?
Perhaps Nitadori's a professional killer?
She has her sights on me, ready to kill me with a given chance. She plotted behind the scenes and became a voice actress, obtained a role, learned of my true identity, and joined my class?
That was not a coincidence, but something to be expected, right?
The reason why she asked me all these questions is that she wanted to know more about her target before taking action, right?
In that case, isn't it dangerous for me to turn my back on her?
A single boy suddenly began to laugh at himself, and two girls standing nearby, probably 1st years, immediately scampered helter-skelter.
Sorry to terrify both of you like that.
But that utterly foolish delusion I had was so interesting it made me laugh.
She intends to kill me if there's a chance?
I ate so much of the sea salt potato chips she provided, and even drank some tea.
If she really intended to kill me, I would have been dead 2, 3 times.
It's dangerous for me to turn my back on her?
I spent hours with my back facing her from Monday to Thursday.
The time she spent seeing my back was a lot longer than when I saw her.
The train began to rush.
The carriage became somewhat packed as the passengers were either headed out or home, and it became bustling.
During this situation, Nitadori came from the carriage behind, saying,
“It's been a week, sensei. There's a lot of people today. Thanks for reserving a seat for me.”
With one hand, she held onto the handle of the luggage bag she always used; in the other, she held out the bait meant for me, as usual.
“Here. This is the thanks for today.”
I took in the bag from the convenience store,
“Sorry for always,”
And answered in an old-fashioned manner.
Nitadori placed her bag behind her seat, tidied her hair, and sat down.
“Didn't we say not to mention that?”
And again, she showed me a pretty smiling face on this day.
These snacks were really a relief to me, typically hungry at this time.
Actually, I would eat 2 pieces of toast before heading out every week. But as I'm in my puberty, I would gladly accept any food that appeared in front of him.
After guzzling down a third of the potato chips, I drank some tea.
“What shall I talk about today?”
I then turn to the seat on the right to ask. Even I too was a little surprised that I ended up initiating the topic so easily.
Nitadori immediately answered,
“I want to know how to write a novel?”
“What do you mean?”
This question's a little too vague, so I asked.
“Well...sensei, didn't you say 'I'll tell you about writing a novel next time'? I want to know how to do that, the specifics of writing a novel. For someone who never wrote a novel like me, I didn't know how to write such a novel.”
“I see...so we're going upstate in such a state?”
I muttered out my true thoughts.
Nitadori tilted her head, asking,
“Ah, sorry. Just a simple word pun. Maybe you'll understand looking at the words.”
“...Oh!! You're like an author to be able to come up with such words on the fly.”
“Because I am an author.”
I ended up saying these words again this week.
Nitadori quickly adjusted her glasses with her right hand,
“Now then, please explain how a professional author begins to write.”
To be honest, I only entered the profession for 2 years, and the term 'professional author' really was very discomforting to me. But even so, since I'm in this job for a living, that should be a term I should be using for myself, even if I'm a professional.
But even so, I did have a thought about Nitadori 'a professional voice actor's really amazing!'. I guess this applies to both of us.
I decided to tell her how I wrote a novel,
“There's something I have to be clear with you first.”
“What is it?”
“No matter the number of authors, there's at least that number of methods to write. Right now, I'm pretty much just going to talk about 'the method I use'.”
How does one write a novel?
As I had just mentioned, the method differs accordingly per person—
The one I used was the one I mastered while creating 'Vice Versa'.
Based on the order, that should be the most suitable.
First, I had to come up with the plot.
This word in English can mean a conspiracy, a plan, but beyond that, there is the meaning of a structure, a scenario. Of course, when I (and the other authors) use this term, we would be talking about the latter.
I once searched up the definition of the term 'plot' on the internet. Strictly put, the definition seemed very complex.
Leaving that definition aside, I would typically think of it as 'a summary of the story' when coming up with this term.
In 8th grade,
“I see! So I need to think of a story!”
That was what I realized, but nowadays, I would not use the term 'story'.
I didn't know when I started, but I started using the term 'plot' instead.
“A plot, I think, is a framework, a blueprint of a novel.”
“I don't think there's a definitive correct answer in the amount of plot. The file 'Vice Versa' was called 'a story of one transported to the other world, becoming an immortal', and that can be said to be the simplest summary of the plot. In any case, just understand that as 'the protagonist heads to the other world and becomes an immortal.”
“I see. But the construction of the plot isn't always that simple, right?”
“Of course. There are times where I have to be clearer in explaining the plot, especially when explaining to the editor-in-charge.”
The first step of writing a novel is to propose a plot, and I do think there's 2 ways to go about doing it
One of them is,
“Propose a plot for something that is to be written next time.”
This would be what can be considered a storage, and I can go about writing it a little simpler as it's just something only I need to understand. It's fine to keep it simple even if I only have a few major points. That was the plan for the file called 'Vice Versa'.
Soon after, the contents of the novel gradually existed, and there was no need for me to keep expanding on the ideas I thought of (if there are ideas I can think of, naturally, I'll record them first)
“A story of people living underwater, and venturing the land.”
“A futuristic crime story.”
“Human dolls begin to move and started attacking humans.”
I'll simply record such ideas down once I think about them, even if it's just a simple concept of a single line or sorts, and it's an asset I may be able to use in the future. My computer contains many of such ideas
Another method of composing plots would be,
“The author comes up with ideas to the editor-in-charge, telling him what the author intends to write.”
In this situation, the idea's the blueprint, a proposal to a business partner that conveys 'I want to write this. What do you think?'
The writing would also different accordingly based on the authors. Of course, I understood this well, having asked other authors myself.
Some will basically come up with short ideas comprising of one liners.
In contrast, others will come up with long ideas, as long as a novel itself.
Some will come up with a document that's like a report, clearly and concisely stating various factors like 'what happened? How will the characters act?' (like me)
In contrast, others will start writing the characters' emotions in this plotting phase, and edit their works.
“In that case...the author won't start writing without obtain the editor-in-charge's permission, right?”
This is just my own experience, and also what I heard from the editors of other light novelists. I prefaced with this, and,
“Typically yes. But there are exceptions.”
In my case—
Leaving aside the submitted entry that was completed, what happened afterwards, beyond the second volume of 'Vice Versa' was,
“Typically, I'll begin writing after all the ideas I proposed have been approved. I'll send a message over through email conveying my ideas 'I intend to write the next volume like this. The characters will act like this,new characters will debut, these are the parts to shock the readers, and this is the ending'”
My house was connected to the internet, and I began to make contact with the editor-in-charge through email. I didn't think this answered the questions though, so I didn't mention it.
“The amount of plot I need to write differs per volume...but they aren't very long. A short one's about a dozen lines or so, and even if it is a little longer, it's not more than one pocket book spread page, or 2 pages.”
“That's considered short, right?”
“I really don't know. I think this is the only thing that differs...”
"There's something I'm a little curious about. You just said that you'll 'typically come up with plots. Does this mean that you didn't do that for a certain volume/"
"That was the case for the 7th volume."
Nitadori, whom I'm really grateful to for reading all my published works, immediately thought,
“It's the story of the 'Moving Country', right?”
The 7th volume of 'Vice Versa', the 4th volume of 'Side Shin', describes the story of a large moving country.
The stage was set in the most advanced country in Reputation. The country is 3km long, 1km wide, and moves on numerous caterpillars.
This country is equipped with massive mechanical arms, and spinning drills in the front; it can grind and level any land, obtaining all the resources. Once it arrives at a place, even the mountains will be leveled, and all that's left would be a barren land.
Typically, the country would only excavate minerals from areas with few people, and certainly would not cause trouble for other countries. Once a coup d'etat occurred however, the country harbored an ambition to rule over Reputation given the scientific power they possessed.
And Sin took action to stop that country's ambition.
Shin's mission was to infiltrate the country, die over and over again, and approach the central area of the country.
“Yeah, this is the only story I wrote without actually thinking of the plot.”
“Erm...why's that? And how did you do it?”
I tried recalling that certain day, answering,
“After having my meal, I just spent the time watching TV, and then I saw a large German excavation machine. That gigantic machine was called a 'Bucket Wheel Excavator', more than 200m long. I know such a thing exists, but it was the first time I actually saw that thing in action. Have you seen one before, Nitadori?”
Nitadori shook her head as her eyes stared at me. The sight of the glasses moving was a little amusing.
“This monster gigantic, long-necked dragon-like machine moves on caterpillars, yet the shape's very complicated. It's like a mesh of factories jammed together.”
Once I said this, I felt it was better for her to see a photo. It really is difficult imagining the appearance just from describing it.
I fish out my smartphone from my pocket, and begin searching for pictures using the search term bucket wheel'.
“This is it.”
I handed the smartphone to Nitadori so that she could see.
Once she took it, she scrolled through the phone a little.
She probably didn't have much interest in the machine (well, it's normal, since she's a girl), so her reactions' lukewarm as she returns me the phone.
Keeping the phone, I said,
“Once I saw that gigantic machine just grind and level the ground, I had an idea 'the enemy's going to invade in the next volume', and then I began work. Immediately.”
“So, 'immediately', as in?”
“It's as the term implies. The show wasn't finished, but once I saw the part introducing that machine, I immediately shut the TV, and added a new file in the computer called 'a story about a massive country', beginning to write the story out. I didn't think of the structure at all; at first, I started to describe a massive country that's very hostile, where Sin and his ministers were glaring at it, and then Shin came...after that, as for what happened later, I just typed out what I thought. I didn't think of the structure even at the very end, just writing and thinking 'the story will develop this way, and then that way'. I didn't care about how much I wrote, I just wrote.”
Nitadori frowned a little, remaining silent.
Is she terrified by this unreasonable, illogical method of writing. I wondered worriedly.
“You managed to write a novel so suddenly...what do you have to do to do such a thing...?”
Contrary to my expectations, she's very impressed.
But even so, I could only answer,
“Well...I just had an inspiration.”
I did pause to think of the plot midway through, but I kept writing for another 2 weeks and 3 days before I finally finished it.
Nitadori looked like she saw magic as she stared at me.
I suppose I can take that as praise, but this is all what I did, and what I could do, so I really can't feel proud about it.
I can't act at all (and I never acted), and I feel that Nitadori's powerful recitation was much better than what I can ever do.
“Erm...the 7th volume's just an exception. Normally, I'll think of a plot, and once the plot's all smooth flowing, I'll begin to write.”
I said, and decided to proceed with the topic.
Regarding the process of writing a story, I only touched upon the first step.
The train conductor today's still a woman, and she came to check our tickets a lot later than usual. Once it's done, I began eating the potato chips, and gulped some tea.
“Now then, leaving the exception aside...assuming that I finished a volume's worth of concepts and submit it to the editor-in-charge, and that the editor-in-charge finds it interesting and asks me to write.”
“I'll have to begin writing, to actually get down to composing the story.”
After coming up with the manuscript, the next step will be to write the story.
But even so, the step's as the term implied, to actually focus on writing the story with determination.
Plotting is just deciding the main points, so there are a lot of issues I have to write and decide.
“No, I have to correct that. There's a need to decide on certain aspects while writing, and that'll be a lot more than what's already decided in the plot. For example, when manuscripting, I haven't decided on stuff like 'the guest characters' names.”
“Why? I thought you'll decide on the characters that'll appear in a story before writing them in.”
“I suppose some authors will do that, but that's not me. It's a different case for me though. While important characters are different...I'll prefer to wait until a character debut and pause to think of a name rather than to decide the names of all the characters that are to appear before writing. As for why—”
“Once the plot's basically decided, I'll begin to write. If I have to begin writing after confirming everything else...I feel that I won't be able to start writing.”
If I've to compare it to a plan for a trip.
Some may plan this way,
“I'll try spending a week visiting Kyoto this time, venture around all the shrines. I want to go to this temple and that shrine, I want to eat that. If there's still time, I want to do something. At latest, I need to be back before a certain time.”
And some may plan this way,
“Take the Shinkansen on Monday, reach Kyoto station at noon. First, we'll head to a certain temple, and stay until 3. At 4, we'll head to a certain hotel, take a shower a 5, have dinner a 7. The next day—”
My style of planning would probably be the former. I guess I won't be able to leave house if I have to come up with the perfect plan before going on a trip. I suppose I have to stop at a certain point rather than to just come up with the plan, say 'I'm leaving', and open the door.
“Speaking of which, I won't exactly follow the plot while writing.”
I curtly stated.
Nitadori's again taken aback.
I too was startled by her as both of us exclaimed loudly. Luckily, it's loud inside the carriage.
“Is there a need to be so shocked?”
I whispered. Nitadori herself voiced out softly, but her voice's still audible,
“Of course! The plot's a blueprint and a plan, right? In other words, you don't complete your work based on the plan at all?”
I nodded firmly.
“Is it alright to do that...?”
“Currently, there's no problems.”
I simply replied.
Surely I had to assemble the story according to the blueprint.
And that I had to write based on the plot.
If I kept worrying about that—
If I kept being restrained to be honest.
To put it bluntly, I really can't imagine myself being some author.
I don't know what others think, but even though I only have 2 years of experience as an author, I do write with the thinking 'the completed work is what I wanted to write'.
Assuming that the blueprint was 'a blue, light, small, streamlined sports car'.
Even if the completed car is 'the weight's still acceptable, the inside's wide, and it's an egg-shaped black wagon car', I don't think it's a failure (though the example itself is a little extreme).
“Ah, I completed this work.”
That would be what I would think, and I would repeat it again. As long as I found the story to be interesting, I would submit the work to the editor-in-charge. ('interesting' is always the most important aspect. This alone is the one thing I will not budge on).
It's not uncommon for the plot to continually change when writing.
“How does it change?”
“For example...when I'm unhappy with my initial concept, or when I thought of a new plot development when writing. It's very common; I never counted the number of times it happened, but this is the most common.”
“I see. What else?”
“The next one's an adjustment if the plot's too long. For example, I'm supposed to write a plot's worth of content, but after finding the story to be too story, I had to add some parts. Or maybe the opposite happened, and I wrote too much, so I had to cut off a few scenes. Using my experience, the latter's more common.”
“In that case...don't you feel regret about 'being unable to write what you originally planned'?'
“I answered that question already, and I don't feel regret at all. I rather have a completed manuscript work than an idealistic idea. I'll try my best to edit to improve it though, of course.”
“And also, I'll often change the character profiles.”
“I'll add new characters to cook up the atmosphere. In contrast, if I can't finish with the characterization, I'll think of reducing the number of characters. There are few female characters, so I need to change the gender for a few characters. The twist that 'this certain person's actually female' is always king, so I include this very often. Before then, when writing halfway through, I'll have thoughts of 'eh? It's probably more interesting to change this guy into a girl', and so I change what was supposed to be a guy into a girl.”
I didn't know whether Nitadori's speechless because she's amazed or dumbfounded.
But this was how I completed my novel.
I wanted to avoid following a fixed path (plot concept) when writing and end up 'unable to reach the final destination', 'spending too much time', 'kept making myself tired'.
“And because of this...I can't keep sticking to the plot that can be changed midway through.”
I felt I said some very ordinary things.
“Till now, I thought all authors would have a clear goal and write according to it.”
I learned how amazed Nitadori was from the large eyes under the glasses and how shrill her voice became as a result.
“I too think...such people exist. But...I don't think all authors will do that.”
Writing is a tough, yet wonderful thing—
And there's still tough parts later. The actual writing itself is always the longest part.
I had to actually think through a large part of the story, and convert it into words.
At this point, I only knew how to write using a word processing software, so in fact, it should have been 'kept typing',
But to make things convenient, I'll continue to use the term 'write'.
“I suppose you know that the content of a story can be divided into the 'descriptions' and 'dialogue'. The descriptions refer to the narrations and the explanations, or in other words, anything other than dialogue.”
I too found my own explanation to be very crude.
Nitadori nodded, and asked,
“Then, sensei, which do you find harder to write, the description or the dialogue?”
“Hm, about that, it's definitely the description.”
I did mention before that I could not write back when I was in 8th grade.
And the description was the part I couldn't write.
I feel that those aiming to be authors will reach the hardest hurdle, how to think (formulate) a story , and also,
How to do the descriptions for a novel.
“As I said before, I struggled over and over again, and barely managed to write it...but I was really suffering back then.”
Looking at the back of the seat in front of it, I lamented.
It's interesting thinking of the times as a hammer after learning how to swim. The efforts put in back then definitely won't be for naught.
But even so, this isn't the time to be thinking back about what happened back then. I have to explain to Nitadori why the description is hard to write.
“Well, first...the aim of description is to explain to the readers what happens, so the author has to convey the intent to the reader.”
"And so, it's best to have a story that's simple yet easy to understand. In other words, there's no need for text that's extremely complicated. The ideal should be when the topics and the narratives are very clear, and there's no misunderstanding whenever any reads it."
Now then, if there's a question 'is the description all that simple in all the stories to be found in the world', the answer will be, of course not.
In fact, authors will added interesting similes, outstanding metaphors, correct grammar, and so on. In other words, authors will do all kinds of 'cosmetics' to present the text as more splendid, wonderful.
"I do feel this way. The decorating of a text is like an illustrator's fine strokes, the parts that'll emphasize the unique traits of each other. For example, just as 'some illustrators have delicate drawing styles', there are some authors who have delicate styles when writing. Also, some authors will include a large amount of metaphors, and some will keep it simple, yet refine it to be much prettier later on."
Those wanting to write novels will think,
"I have to write that kind of story too."
And so, they end up unable to write it out.
For example, someone watched an Olympic event on TV, and was impressed by a participant's performance.
He thought of trying to start with that sport, and began to do so.
Is he however about to immediately perform as well as an Olympic representative? Of course not. Anyone will understand this.
"Why can't I run 100m in 10 seconds?"
"Why can't I hit bullseye all the time?"
"Why can't I leap elegantly between the uneven bars?"
I don't really think anyone will have such troubles.
In terms of novels however, I do feel that many people begin off, but have the frustration of 'why can't I write like this particular author'.
"Speaking of which...I was like that when I first started writing. Back then, I think I was seriously thinking 'I did read so many books, but why can't I write that kind of a story'…"
And saying that, I turn my eyes to the distant past.
Nitadori remained silent,
"Well, I guess, that's impossible…"
And amicably agreed with me.
"Yes, it's impossible. There are amazing geniuses who exist in this world however, and there are exceptions to be seen everywhere, so I don't dare to say it's absolute. Anyway, most of the people probably can't do it."
The main difference between the sportsmen in the example and writing is—
Basically, 'writing stories in Japanese' is something any Japanese can do.
Anyone can come up with a half-baked story, so they probably can imagine themselves writing a story like a novelist.
And then they got frustrated over being unable to write.
Before they gave up in the end.
"Then, as for 'what do I do in this situation'...or I should say 'how did I do it'..."
"I started writing from those parts I could. That was back when I was in 8th grade, so I'll skip on the explanation—"
Though I read a lot of novels till this point, I had yet to actually write a story myself. I could write a story in Japanese, but it was stupid of me to think that I could actually successfully write a 'Japanese novel' right from the beginning.
“So I'm saying isn't that 'if there's no bread, have some cake'. I feel that if I can't write a story that's more difficult, try writing something simpler.”
“I see. Start improving on what you can do, huh?”
'Yeah. I feel that a simple text will do, so the one thing I focus most on is 'comprehensiveness', and I decided that I had to begin writing first.
It's impossible to just imagine and write a story like a certain professional author. Thus, I'll start from 'a simple story that's easy to understand'.
And then, I completed the story first, before revising what I wrote over and over again.
I continue to spice up the simple text, like 'a little additional narratives', 'slight changes in terms', and so on. If I feel there's no need to do so, I'll naturally let the text remain as such.
Soon after, I ended up being able to write better than how I did when I first started off.
“And then, when writing, you're able to write better text...is that it?”
“Well, it can barely be considered as such if you're calling a text that can be called a novel.”
“You're being humble again. Do you still find writing the description very difficult.”
“Yeah, even now, I do think this way. I'll feel really frustrated writing the descriptions. I can do it, but I'll still ask myself, is this enough? Is there a more obvious way of showing this? And assuming that it's easy to understand, is there a better way of spicing this up in a way readers will find amusing? It's not difficult to edit a text when writing a novel.”
“But of course, I still have to meet the deadlines, so there's a certain time when I had to tell myself 'this is enough'. Till now, my method is still to reread the story 3 times, and if I don't find the story to be awkward in any way, I'll submit the script.”
After explaining till this point, I drank some tea, and Nitadori asked,
“Then, what about the dialogue? It's easier, but is it really that easy thinking about it?”
And I honestly answer,
“It's far easier than the descriptions. I'm always able to think of conversations easily..”
I always had delusions ever since young,
And in my delusions, the conversations took a large chunk of it.
I kept thinking back on the characters (myself included back then) having such cool, boisterous, or interesting conversations.
I myself am introverted and timid, and I'll be so tense whenever I faced anyone, wondering what to talk about. In my delusions however, I'm able to actually chat with others without holding back.
In an actual conversation, the other party actually exists. I didn't know what he'll say (though I had some guesses).
After hearing the conversation, I'll think of how to answer him, and continue to listen to him. This continuous process definitely isn't easy (and at this moment, I'll be much more fatigued than usual thinking about 'not wanting to hurt the other party', or 'not wanting to say anything rude'.)
For example, it's like 2 people having a serious Shogi match.
In my delusional conversations, I'm proceeding with all this myself, so I know what the other party will be saying.
For example, I'm playing Shogi by myself. I could cook up the atmosphere of the match and determine the victory. All the moves are dictated by my brain, so it's much easier than having an actual, serious match.
The reason why I'm bad at actually conversing with people in reality is probably because I'm too used to playing Shogi by myself. While under the misunderstanding that 'the conversation will probably go just as I think', whenever they say something unexpected, I'll end up not knowing what to say at all.
“But to me, you look like you're able to converse normally with ordinary people, and you are able to actually do it.”
“That's because I'm basically answering questions...I think answering questions about myself is the simplest form of dialogue.”
“Then, isn't that it!?”
“What you talked about when describing the descriptions. Start from the simplest conversation, and then you'll soon improve!”
Though the conversation's full of relative pronouns, I'm glad to be able to talk to her without any concerns. As she had said, I probably never had any talent of talking with people right from the beginning.
Start slowly from the simplest part, and soon after—
“Erm, the conversations the characters in the novel have...is completely different from an actual conversation. I think this is the case not only for a novel, but also for anime or a drama script.”
I racked my brain furiously, and said.
“Yes! I understand that!”
Nitadori agreed for the time being.
I'm glad. There's probably no one unhappy about being acknowledged by others. I once read in a certain book that the basic skill of getting on someone's good side through words is not to deny others.
“It's much more complete and easier to understand than an actual conversation, right?”
Nitadori gave the correct answer. I guess this is to be expected of a professional voice actress that's staring at the script all the time.
In fact, the conversation here is different from a conversation in a novel.
If one's to actually record an actual conversation and fill it out (or write it out), it's obvious that an actual conversation has a lot of colloquial and mistakes. It's really difficult to read text where every line's recorded.
It's after I searched through the internet that I learned that there are 3 methods to record dialogue and convert them into the words. 'transcribe', 'fluffing' and 'editing'.
'Transcribe' will mean adding all the sounds, including 'well', ahh', and all kinds of onomatopoeia, and they're all recorded into words. This is used when there's a need to accurately record the conversation.
'Fluffing' will be to remove those meaningless sounds, or make the bare minimum edits at the parts that are overly strange.
'Editing' will be as the term implies, to reconstruct the text into easy to understand sentences.
“I do feel that this also has something to do with the author's own preferences...but novels basically are 'edited manuscripts'. If I want to give a stammering feeling, I'll add terms like 'well'. If it's a text, I'll add ellipsis.”
“'Ellipsis', as in?”
“The punctuation used to contain sentences...used to describe silence.”
“Eh! I didn't know that.”
“It has 3 dots. Accurately put, there's a rule of thumb to put at least 2 or 4 of these. This punctuation however is based on the author's own preference, and it's the case too in publications other than light novels.”
“What about yourself, sensei?”
“For me, I'll still follow the rule, to add two of these, 6 dots altogether. If there's a need to emphasize silence, I'll double that; in other words, I'll use 12 dots.”
Speaking of ellipsis, I had a little urge to talk about how to write a story, the rules, and all sorts of stuff.
But it'll be way off topic in that case, so I held back.
“Is there anything to take note of with regards to other parts, like dialogue or anything? I want to know more about conversations.”
Nitadori said. I guess this it to be expected of a voice actress.
“Now then, let's talk about a conversation in a novel. I do think there's a very big difference, other than the fact that 'the characters conversation are a lot more polished than an actual conversation'. That is—”
“Character conversations are not exactly meant for each other.”
“Hm? Then, who are they for?”
Nitadori tilted her head, asking, and so I answered,
“For the readers.”
“Ah...I see, so that's how it is...”
“For example, right now, I'm having a conversation with you on the train...”
Nitadori chimed in, seemingly happy about it. Is this my imagination? But even so, I can't understand what's there to be happy about. It's useless to worry about such things however, so I continued,
“If I'm a character in a novel...I won't be talking to you, Nitadori>'
“...Hm, now that's definitely the case.”
And now she's looking unhappy. I really can't understand her.
“The one I'm talking to is the reader. I'll be portraying this character, and convey to the readers what the author wants to express. That's the kind of impression. Ah, I think I'm getting a little obnoxious here. Sorry.”
“No no. Then, am I talking to the readers too?”
I nodded firmly.
Nitadori then turned her stare to the top right corner of the carriage ceiling,
“Dear readers, hello there. If you find this book to be very interesting, please recommend it to your classmates!”
Her speaking voice was completely different from before, very cute. It can be described as the 'anime voice'.
I couldn't see from this angle—
So I didn't know what sort of expression Nitadori was showing on her face.
The carriage on May 1st is far more packed than how it normally was.
Many people got off midway through the trip, but there were also a lot of commuters on this trip. The free-seating carriage became lively.
There's still no seat in the one seated in front of us, but there's finally a young woman seated at the right side of the aisle, near the window.
In that case, we couldn't converse as we normally id.
And once I wondered that, the woman immediately put on her earphones to listen to music, and closed her eyes.
“Looks like...my sleep magic worked.”
Nitadori said with a serious face,
Sleep magic's the most basic of spells in 'Vice Versa', able to cause the inflicted party to be overwhelmed with a great urge to sleep, and prompt them to do so.
And this was a common spell Sin would use in the real world whenever he encountered a tough situation.
Nitadori asked me how I write, and at this point, I only answered the concept planning and a small part of writing itself.
“Well, in the process of writing, what's the next step?”
I start to ponder, and I had little thought,
“I'll digress a little. Is that okay?”
“Now then, when I first started out, I would obviously following a rough outline of the concept or the ideas I thought, and continue to write enthusiastically.”
“I feel that writing is a job is something that can conceive all kinds of possibilities if you think hard, and yet continue to throw it away.”
“Hm? What do you mean?”
“Well...the novel I had was conceived in my mind. At first, what developed was the ideas, and then, the concept will be formed. At that phase, my story's yet to take shape. That's because, as I had said, I'm not limited by the concepts when writing.”
“But once I continue to write, I'll decide on which parts I want to keep. Of course, there are times when I'll rewrite it, or I'll abandon certain scenes...but if I'm happy with the parts I've written, I'll keep that part.”
“Ah, I think I get what you're saying here, sensei.”
“Once I'm done writing a novel, the content will take care, and won't become another story altogether. At this moment, I'll give up other possibilities. The possibilities I give up on will be far more than the possibilities I chose. It's tough giving up on them, but I got no choice. If I don't give up on them, I won't be able to make choices.”
“Just like life.”
Nitadori said with a grim look.
I didn't intend to give such a massive impression; all I wanted was to describe 'how hard it is to give up'.
“Just like life.”
However, I decided to play along.
“Now then, we mentioned the plot, began written, and later...”
I wondered what I was to say next, muttering.
“Can I ask? When did you decide the title of the work? Who decides it?'
Nitadori took a gulp of tea, and reached her hand out to me.
“Ah, thanks. Now then, I'll explain this part first.”
“No problem. Go ahead please.”
I feel that the title's very important.
Either way, the first thing the reader wants to see first is the title and the author (in the world of light novels, the cover is as important too, but I'll leave that for another time). When picking a light novel title, I'm very particular about the readers' impression on the title.
When coming up with a title, it has to be impactful, and also easy to understand.
“Leaving aside the impact first, let's consider the ease of understanding the title. Assuming that there's a book titled 'a Certain murder ', we'll be able to tell what kind of a story it is.”
“Yes, it's a detective novel, right?”
“Yes. This is a classic example, but I feel that all kinds of novels will have similar names, so in that way, the best way is to determine the title of the book. If I want to write a detective novel, I'll do that unless there's a situation where I can't compromise.”
“So, sensei, how did you decide on this light novel title?”
“Hm. In the world of light novels, the title—”
Can only be described as chaotic.
There are all kinds of titles, an entire variety of them.
Some titles are simple enough, including the protagonist's name.
Some titles are formed using the protagonist's name with another noun. 'OO's XX (OO no XX)' is quite common.”
There are also short phrases used to describe the world setting.
At a certain period, there were titles of four hiragana words with exclamation marks added at the back, including anime and manga.
And also, there's one that's often seen currently—
The extremely long titles that can be said to be sentences.
“Ah, yes, those extremely long names are really scary. If they need to be made into anime, when the news for auditions get circulated, everyone would be thinking in surprise, 'Woah, another long one!'”
"I feel that such titles are very popular due to the impactfulness that will leave a great impression. Also, they can add additional 'selling points' into the title, like little sisters, demon lord, class reps, maids, and so on, so I guess it's for convenience sake."
"Ohh...I guess this is a calm analysis only authors can do."
"But stories with extremely long titles isn't just for long titles. Such titles aren't really uncommon in sci-fi. Do you know the original title of the movie 'Blade Runner'?"
"'Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?' The Japanese version uses the direct translation, and the English title is this long. There are also some titles that are really long in movies, so I think the trend of titles being so long they're sentences don't simply appear in light novels."
"Hmm...then, sensei, will you use that kind of title?"
After pondering for 3 seconds, I concluded that no, I won't do that. Currently, there's an oversaturation of extremely long titles, so the impact has weakened, and it gets a little stale."
"No, I won't."
Nitadori chuckled, saying,
"I knew you'll say that. I do think that 'Vice Versa' is a wonderful title. It's short, but it conveys the setting well. When I first saw the cover, I was thinking 'wow'."
I wanted to thank her, but instead, I asked her,
"Nitadori...is your English fluent?"
I, who was supposed to be the one answering the questions all this time, actually took the initiative to ask her a personal question. Even I was shocked by this.
"Why...do you think that way?"
It seemed she was more startled that 'I got it right', rather than me asking the question. And so, I honestly answered what I thought of,
"Hm, when I was looking for this English term, I realized that a lot of Japanese don't know this at all, and I heard that even the textbooks don't have it. It's commonly used in English conversations however. You knew what it meant the moment you saw the title...and I guess your English conversation skills might be decent."
Nitadori blinked the eyes under the glasses.
"...Amazing work, Sherlock."
Is her English fluent after all? Again I learned something about Nitadori.
"My English's decent, but it's nothing to be proud of, and I never mentioned it to others."
"Understood, I'll keep it a secret at school. Normally, I won't be to talking to anyone anyway.
"You'll have an increase in number of friends soon! Hey...aren't you decent at English yourself? Do I try talking to you in English?"
"Did you forget the 'My Warld The Number First'?"
And while Nitadori was reining in her laughter, I informed her of the origin of the title 'Vice Versa'.
Once I had my world setting, and recorded down the plot—
“Ah, 'Vice Versa' does sound good.”
I just had this feeling, and went along with using it.
As I said before, it's a term I learned from a certain movie. Ever since then, I kept remembering it..
As I said, I suppose most of the Japanese don't know this term, and that's why I named it as such.
In other words, I had it as a selling point,
“I don't know the meaning of the mysterious term, but it sounds cool.”
If the word 'vice' is looked at as an ordinary word, it'll mean 'evil' in English. To a German reader, 'Weiß' would mean 'White'.
When I first started the content of the first volume, I had the English teacher teach Shin the meaning of the term Vice Versa.
I hoped that after the readers read the meaning of the book, they would have a 'I see, the title represents the setting of the world'.
“Ohh...so that means you actually thought hard about it before coming up with the name, right?”
Nitadori looked impressed at first, and then said,
“And you did that to actually reveal one of my secrets so discreetly...I never thought you had such intention.”
“Of course. When naming the title, I already expected that we'll be seated on this train 3 years later, on May 1st.”
“As to be expected of you, sensei. You really have a way with things...”
I suppose I'm not really good at the Manzai routine, but I could easily handle it if my partner's Nitadori.
I continue to explain about the book title, answering her the question of 'who names the book'.
“First off, the contest entry is obviously titled by the author.”
“But after winning the award, it seems there's often a change in title.”
I didn't change the title of the work before, so most of these is hearsay. To change the title of a work, there's 3 methods to this. 'the editor-in-charge does it', 'the author comes up with a new name', or 'both people do it'. (Also, there's an example, when the ideas are revealed for a public voting).
What will a modern author do?
It seems it'll be one of the three.
I heard the timeframe for naming a book isn't fixed, and it's decided based on the situation.
As for me, the title of my current work (series), 'Vice Versa' was conceived when I was coming up with the story, as I had said.
And this is what I heard from the editor-in-charge and other authors—
Some will want to think of a cool title, and then expand their thinking from there.
Some will come up with the name when plotting the story (that's me).
Some can't think of the title at all, so they'll first try to come up with a placeholder title. Once the manuscript's done however, they'll decide on the actual title.
Sometimes, the placeholder titles will become the actual title because there aren't any other ideas.
And after hearing this,
Nitadori gave a somewhat bemused yet serious look.
“Wh-what is it...?”
And while I answered so timidly, Nitadori asked,
“Sensei, if you have to write such a situation into a novel and give a title to it, what will you do?”
This extremely gaudy question caused me to let out an awkward cry.
“In other words, if you have to come up with a story where you're a protagonist, what'll you call it?”
“I already fired myself...”
“I know you said it already! If you're to think about it again, what'll you do? In fact, at this age, you're already a light novel author, and your work's adapted into an anime. That's just like a light novel protagonist, isn't it?”
“...I never thought of that before.”
“How about it? If you try thinking about it, what will you title your book?”
I began to think.
After thinking over and over again, letting Nitadori wait for about a minute, I muttered,
“Erm, 'No Longer Human'?”
Nitadori was a little peeved to hear such an answer, saying,
“Isn't that blatant copying?”
“Then, 'No Longer Protagonist'?”
“Like it has changed much!”
The train moved into the city.
It's already dark outside, and the carriage's starting to buzz.
I already explained the concept planning, writing, and the title. What's next?
Do I start from the part after writing the script?
“Is there anything you'll pay particular note to when writing? Like something you have to pay attention to?”
“Other than the deadline?”
“Other than the deadline.”
“Hm...there are a few things.”
It's trivial, but since she asked, I thought of it, so I decided to ask her.
When writing, I'll follow the 2 pages, 34 lines, 42 characters per line 'Dengeki Bunko format', horizontally.
I'll occasionally write the text in vertical manner, and then use the 'print preview' function in Word to view the publication layout when converted into Dengeki Bunko format.
Some may think, in that case, why don't I simply do it in vertical format instead. As I had explained it long ago however, I'm already used to landscape, so I don't intend to change that.
When checking through the layout, if I find the words to be too crammed,
I'll increase the name of lines.
“Eh? Why do you do that?”
“Because the priority is 'readability'.
A light novel's the first novel most people would have read in their lives.
That was the impression I had through the fan letters I got and the online book reviews. To me, who grew up living with books, I really was surprised that 'many read books for the first time after entering Middle or High School'.
But any point is a starting point.
And after saying this, I realized I got many things 'I have yet to start on'.
Once I realized that light novels are 'an entrance that conveys the interesting aspects of novels', and bore the mission to guide people to interact with books, I started to have an idea.
For the sake of those who have yet to touch books, I want to try my best to make my work easy to read.
For those who have yet to have the habit of reading books, what kind of books are easy to read?
First off, the sentences; it's best if I abstain from using too many difficult sentences. As I said before, i actually fulfilled this, unexpectedly.
The next one should be the impression the pages give a reader.
Rather than cram pages with words,
I suppose it's better to leave some spaces when at certain intervals.
When writing, I'll occasionally end up in situations where 'I'm in a groove'.
That's a wonderful moment where my thoughts simply flow.
During that situation, I don't have time to think of aligning the text, and the words will often be cramped.
Thus, I'll look at the text calmly, and then add in more spaces.
When writing, I typically don't adhere to a certain amount of text per chapter. At most, I'm guessing a certain number of pages per part, (for 'Vice Versa', I'll divide each chapter as around 30 to 50 pages).
And so, the amount of spacing to increase the number of pages won't be much of an issue.
If it's like a magazine or a newspaper, the column size does have a limit, and I most probably can't do it as I please.
“I see. So you prioritize readability, and not let the words be too crammed. Anything else you take particular note for?”
After thinking for a few seconds, I answered,
“The names of the characters, I guess. I'm always bothered by it.”
“Really? Bothered about what?”
“The one thing I really have to take note is to make sure the names don't clash with any real life celebrities or characters in other works.”
“It's still tough having to come up with names for so many people, right? How do you come up with names for your own characters?”
“It seems like some will name characters according to certain rules. For example...I know that a certain manga has all its names based on prefectures.”
“Then what about 'Vice Versa'? How do you go about naming it?”
“Other than Shin and Sin, there's basically no rules for most of the characters, especially the characters in Reputation. I'll just use names that I think are cool. Characters like Pluto are as such. As for 'Side Shin', the characters with Japanese names are actually, randomly named...just as long as they don't clash.”
“So...how do you check on that?”
“It's easy to do so now. Just search through the internet for any names you think of.”
“I'll use it if it's not a name or family name that clashes with characters from other works, or any name that clashes with any celebrities in real life.”
“Then...what about Meek?”
The eyes under Nitadori's glasses were as serious as she showed during the After Record.
At this point, a strong impulse arose in my heart.
Ah, I see.
This person in front of me is the voice actress portraying Meek.
“Homunculi like Meek are the only exceptions. There's a rule to their naming.”
I answered, and Nitadori suddenly leaned her body and face towards me.
Too close. The glasses are too close to me.
I tilted my body slightly back, and Nitadori too reverted back to her original position.
She asked a second time. Looks like she really wants to know.
Well, it's to be expected. It's the character she's going to portray in the future, and it's the first official named character she's acting the role of.
Tomorrow, Meek will be appearing for the first time in the After Record for the 5th episode.
She'll debut for a few minutes, and actually talk to Shin.
I've been wondering, have I actually told anyone how I got Meek's name.
I didn't remember if I actually said this to the editor-in-charge.
I also didn't remember if I actually mentioned it during the anime script meeting.
If I've yet to tell anyone,
Nitadori will be the first one to know.
Well, I guess it's fine to tell her this.
I immediately had an answer.
She's a colleague, and someone who'll keep secrets. There won't be problems even if I do tell her.
It's noisy inside the carriage, but for added safety, I hushed my voice as much as possible to answer her.
“The names of the Homunculi actually originate from Russian.”
“Before that, do you know of the 'Naming Dictionary'?”
She shook her head slightly, and I explained to her.
As the term implied, the naming dictionary is a dictionary for names.
It records all sorts of terms in languages of more than 10 countries, marketed as 'Convenient for naming products, companies and shops'.
The first column's basically English, followed by French, German, Italian, Spanish, and so on. The number of languages recorded in each book's different.
I too have such a naming dictionary. When coming up with names for 'Vice Versa', I'll find a good katakana name for characters.
And as this is really convenient.
I do feel that for authors, or anyone aspiring to be authors, it's not a bad thing to have a naming dictionary with them at all times. The naming dictionary can also be classified for ordinary types, fantasy worlds, or even military.
The name Миг was what I found when I was flipping through the book. It sounded cute, so I memorized it.
Readers would often mention this name in their review, but I want to say, the name Миг wasn't meant to imitate that famous voice synthesis software cum popular character.
“Then what does the name mean in Russian?”
Nitadori's stare was intense. I could feel the rage from the anxiety she had after I explained the naming dictionary to her.
I didn't want to get bitten to death, so I answered,
“It means 'instance'.”
Nitadori muttered softly..
And again she did.
Once she understood the meaning of the name of the character she's portraying.
I don't know what this voice actress is actually thinking.
But what I'm thinking inside is, 'Good thing I didn't come up with an indecent name for this character'.
The other homunculi are also named based on Russian, and currently, there's more than 10 of them.
Свет (Svet) means visible light, and that's still decent.
Лес (Les) means forest. Speaking of which, this particular homunculus is in the country of the deserts, so the setting's different from the name, at least.
Доска (Doska) means blackboard. He's a handsome young man, but his name is a blackboard.
Складки (Skladki) means folds. She's a pretty girl
Гриб (Grib) actually means mushroom.
Пугало (Pugalo) actually means scarecrow...
That was close.
I nearly ended up in a situation where I'll be saying,
“The name of the character you're portraying actually means 'mushroom' (or 'scarecrow')!”
That really was close.
Nitadori kept her head lowered, and I added on with the explanation,
“In English terms, it'll mean 'moment'. I think it's a similar pronunciation in Russian, and the reason I actually remembered it well is because before I actually confirmed the name, I did check for info on the internet. Meek sounds cuter though, so I decided to use it.”
This really is off topic, which I never said to Nitadori,
'In Russian pronunciation, 'Миг' can be read as 'MiG'.
As for 'MiG', that'll be the famous fighter jet manufacturer. The company manufactured lots of fighter jets, like the MiG-25 or the MiG-29.
Anyway, the company has nothing to do with this 'Meek'.
Some fans will submit their illustrations onto the internet, and one of them has Meek standing in front of a MiG-21. I really like that illustration, so I had it saved.
There's another thing I haven't told Nitadori.
Meek actually means 'Instance', so I had a thought that sooner or later, it'll become a topic somewhere.
It's rare to get a meaningful name, so when I talked about 'Instance', I'll add the name 'Meek' in furigana by the side, coolly emphasizing this point.
I thought of that, but I haven't used that.
If I don't hurry with it, I guess I won't be able to use it even if I want to.
Thinking about that, I reached my hand towards the tea by the windowsill.
“Thanks for telling me all of this. I had been wondering about it all this time.”
The formal language from the seat on the right side really shocked me.
Turning my head aside, I found Nitadori there, staring at me.
Once she saw my surprised look, she too was taken aback. Looking at her expression, it looks like she hadn't realized she used formal language.
I was thinking that it wasn't good to pursue the matter, so I did my best to say in an earnest voice,
“Erm...don't mind me. I'm looking forward...to the After Record tomorrow.”
“Yes! Please allow me to do that! I will do my best tomorrow!”
Again, she spoke in formal language.
I felt a shock in face of the sudden bombardment of formal language. This conversation's too impactful, so I'll occasionally add such a writing style in my work. I never thought I'll actually get this experience however.
Probably got into 'work mode'.
To me, I really wish she would stop with the formal language as before.
While thinking about it for a little while, she suddenly stood up, saying,
“Please excuse me for a while.”
And then, she immediately went through the automatic doors behind us.
The train passes through some tunnels that are rather long, moving through smoothly. It's a pretty, lush mountainous area around here, but it has become rather dim outside the window, so there's not much scenery to be seen even after leaving the tunnel.
It's still noisy inside the carriage. Looks like Nitadori had cast a really powerful spell, for that woman's still affected by it. I hope that she's getting off at the terminal however.
Nitadori has yet to return. I'm not really picky about her taking too long; it's useless to be picky about it if she's headed to the toilet.
I was only thinking,
“Ah, so nice.”
Potato chips go best with sea salt after all.
“Ah, kept you waiting.”
Once I was done finishing the potato chips, Nitadori managed to recover, and returned. Did she wash off her 'work mode' with water? Or did she hand it off to someone else?
As usual, she had her hair tidied, let her hair drape in front and behind her chest, before sitting down quickly.
“Now that we mentioned 'concept, writing, title, character naming'—”
“Can I conclude this as 'this is a volume done' for the time being'?”
“Then, what will an author do next? Is there anything to take note?”
Listening to the question, I pondered.
Nitadori's asking some really detailed questions. Is she planning to write a novel herself?
But I did remember her saying not long before 'I don't intend to register'.
In that case, I guess a certain acquaintance of hers want to be an author for some reason.
Or maybe that she's already an author, and I don't know? Is she a voice actress and an author? Is she planning to get intel beneficial to her from a rival?
Once I had my delusions till that point, I decided to return to reality.
“Now then, assuming that I've completed a volume worth of manuscript, it's now the work to check through it, and then complete the elaboration (or bump and knock).”
“Bump and knock?” (TN Non-snark: 推敲)
It's a term taught in elementary language classes, and I thought everyone knew this.
Perhaps Nitadori was on leave that day, so I explained.
Elaboration would be to read through the text over and over again, and add on.
There is a origin to this term. A certain Chinese poet was wondering,
“Which one do I use? Bump or knock?”
While walking, he bumped into an official and his men.
That official, a man of literature himself, said,
“'Knock' is better.”
And having said that, the poet decided.
So, by connecting the two words, that term came about.
“Eh, it's the first time I knew about this. Thanks.”
“Erm, do mind it. Assuming that I'm done with writing a novel, the bump and knock's done for the moment.”
So what will I do next? I'll send the manuscript to the editor-in-charge, get him to read through, an check through it.
For practically all the authors, including me,
When we talk about 'sending the manuscript', we're talking about email.
I'll attach the Word document to the email, and press the send button.
Thus, there's no need for the editor-in-charge to come over and get the manuscript, and I don't have to send the actual physical copy over.
I can send the file from anywhere in the world. With a computer and internet around, I can work anywhere in the world.
“You aren't in Tokyo at the moment anyway, sensei. Are there many authors working outside the capital?”
“Amongst the authors I see at the end of year party, most of the authors are living in Kanto, including Tokyo, followed by Kansai. There are a few living far away. The end-of-year party is a rare chance to get all these people gathered.”
I'll get back to talking about email attachments.
Before adding the word document to the email, I'll add '111' to the back of the file, before sending it out.
This refers to the '1st manuscript'. A single '1' is enough, to avoid mixing up the volume numbers, I'll add three repeated numbers before sending it out.
“And once the editor-in-charge's done checking, and you edit it, it'll become the 2nd manuscript'?”
“That's the case. I'll add '222' at the back of the file.”
“Then, how many manuscripts do you have to do?”
“Well, before this...I think it's better to explain to you the discussion meeting and the review. What do you think?”
“In that case, go ahead with it, sensei.”
The editor-in-charge will be in charge of checking through the manuscript, and review it.
Writing's difficult, but so is review. Sometimes, reviewing the work's worse than writing it.
After I send the manuscript, the editor-in-charge will have to spend days, or even a week to check through it. If he can't get the time to do it, this period will be lengthened.
And then, the editor-in-charge will notify me of a meeting time and date. There are mainly two methods to this,
One of them is to hold a meeting through the phone, and the other's to meet face to face.
“I can understand a meeting through the phone...but meeting directly will mean, that the editor-in-charge will be looking for you?”
I shook my head,
“I think that some authors and editors-in-charge will do this, but I haven't done that. I've always been going to Tokyo. I'll hold meetings through the phone sometimes, but to be honest, I think a face to face meeting's better. There are some parts in particular that need editing, and a face-to-face meeting right from the get go will do.”
I'll head to Tokyo according to the date.
2 years ago, when I was in 10th grade, all the meetings will be held on Friday nights. For me however, I'll ask the editor-in-charge to spare time for me.
After school, I would hurry towards the station, take the Rapid Express before this one, which leaves at around 3pm.
And so, I'll be able to reach the editorial branch at Idabashi before 7pm.
We would use the conference table beside the editorial branch. I heard that some will hold meetings in restaurants or cafe, but to be honest, I really don't want to do this, for I'm worried that the people will eavesdrop on what we're talking about, or things get leaked. Anyway, I can't hold the meetings with a peace of mind.
The meeting's typically around 2 hours long, and if longer, about 3 hours.
“That's rather long...so in detail, how do you proceed with the meeting?”
“First, erm, the meeting basically starts with the editor-in-charge saying 'this is very interesting', or something, I guess? That'll let me feel relieved, since it's not a situation where, 'I can't use this story at all'.”
“Can't use at all? That means—”
“Yeah, that's how it is. It's scary if I can't use the story at all. Anyway, it means 'this story's meaningless, so I can't use it'.”
“In that case...what'll happen next?”
“Of course, I'll have to rewrite.”
“Have you encountered a situation where you can't use the story at all...?”
Actually I haven't got this at all.
So when I said that, it's just me imagining things.
As I had said before, once I submit my concept, once the editor-in-charge agrees with my ideas, I'll begin writing.
But even so, it's as what I said before. It's very rare to have the original concept being exactly the same as the manuscript.
No matter how interesting the concept is, if the novel isn't interesting, or if the completion's too little, or if any of these two occur, the editor-in-charge might not use this at all.
After chatting with other authors, I learned that there are actually many authors who had stories that were scrapped.
Will this happen to me some day?
I felt terrified every time.
Even though such a reply will give me relief, I still can't let my guard down.
Every single time, the editor-in-charge will pose me lots of issues.
“So, how does the editor-in-charge raise them?”
“I feel that at first, they'll start from the entire plot process. This is the part with the most need for change. Both the editor-in-charge and I will use the term 'Drastic changes'; this is the part that really needs a lot of changes, so even if all the trivial parts are pointed out, it's meaningless.”
“I see. Are there examples where you need drastic changes?”
“For example, 'the entire story flow feels a little unnatural', or 'a certain scene is too long', or 'the story development needs to be changed completely', or something...”
Once there are parts that require drastic changes, the situation gets really tiring. It's not as bad as being unable to use it, but the editing part really is important.
Okay, leaving aside the 1st volume where I needed 3 revisions, there was one time in my experience when I needed a drastic change in the 3rd volume.
The editor-in-charge pointed out that the final battle was too long.
The battle against Pluto in the first volume was really long, and I thought I did good for that, so I got cocky and said that I wanted to get a high, but the results weren't as good.
The editor-in-charge pointed out that the battle part was too long, so I made heavy cuts on the battle scenes in the 3rd volume.
It's like a woman who had a breakup, and had a haircut. I'm not a woman though, and I never had a breakup.
“Eh! Then, did your first love succeed?”
The moment I mentioned the haircut example, Nitadori responded very enthusiastically. Really I found her to be girlish given how interested she was in regards to 'love topics'.
“So, sensei...how's your girlfriend like?”
I knew this Nitadori was asking a rhetorical question.
“I have yet to receive a confession from anyone till this point...”
“Why the formal language?'
I guess a person with neither friends nor girlfriend is probably an alien.
And I'm not an alien. Inductive reasoning complete.
Back on point,
I revert the topic back to the cutting of the manuscript.
Because of this, I cut a lot of parts from the original fight scene.
And the number of enemies that originally appeared in battle was reduced in half. A few would have appeared in other scenes, but even though there were some named characters, I scrapped them.
Looking at the results however, I felt this correction was really appropriate.
The battle description was simple, short, and compact, and I could add on the relaxing scenes later. Those scenes would become plot points later on.
“When there's no need for drastic changes, the editor-in-charge will typically say 'I'll explain it from the beginning'. In other words, he'll list all all the issues from the beginning, in chronological order. He'll then specify the problem, like maybe the story structure's shoddy, the meaning hard to convey, or basic mistakes like typing errors or wrong kanji.”
“At this moment, will you be looking at the printed manuscript?”
“That was how it went at first. The editor-in-charge will use the printer in the branch to print two copies, one of them for me. He'll also mark out the issues in red pen, which I call 'red marks'. After that, I'll follow the red marks and edit the manuscript on the computer.”
“I see. But you just said 'that was how it went at first', right? What about now?”
Nitadori asked the obvious question.
And I answered,
“I'll bring my laptop to the meeting.”
At the end of the year when I made my debut as an author, I received the publication fees for the 2nd volume that was released that October.
About money, I'll leave that for later (if I'm asked)—
Anyway, I used that money to buy a little laptop.
It's thin and small, not troublesome even if I put it in a bag and bring it around. Also, I actually bought a brand new model, and managed to pay it off in one go.
And using this laptop, I could work on my way to and fro, or in the hotel. This really helped me out.
The large laptop I first bought was old, but it wasn't faulty, so even after 4 years, I'll continue to use it. When connecting to the internet at home, I'll use the large one. If I have to be picky about it, the operating speed's a little slow, but this won't cause me any problems.
It's very helpful to have 2 computers for work. In case one breaks down, I can continue to work.
I once read in a certain book that professionals always have a spare just in case, but the one stating it in the book was a cameraman.
I'll typically bring that laptop, which I bought with my own money, to meetings.
At first, I would edit the red marks that night in the hotel in a handwritten manner, but,
“Actually...my handwriting...not nice at all...”
I never thought Nitadori would be that surprised.
I suppose she never did see my handwriting; no, actually, I did write something on the blackboard during class. Back then, I did my best trying to write.”
“Hm, there are times when I can't read my own handwriting...”
This really isn't something to be proud of.
But I really couldn't do anything about it.
At first, after having my meeting with the editor-in-charge, I'll write words on the script in red pen. My handwriting's so atrocious however that there are times when I don't know what I'm writing.
When writing, I still remember the points he pointed out. If I think of how to edit it, I'll record it down.
But there's naturally a lot of parts I need to edit.
After 3 hours, I couldn't remember the parts the editor-in-charge asked me to edit.
And in that situation, there are times when I'm troubled because I can't read my own red words.
“Ahh! What did he say is the problem here!”
And such situations just kept increasing (at this moment, I'm left at my wits' end and have to call the editor-in-charge.)
So I decided to bring a laptop to the meetings.
So in other words, at the conference table—
The editor-in-charge will have the printed manuscript, while I'll be looking at the laptop screen.
Of course, I wouldn't forget to first add a '222' at the back of the file name.
Once he points out the errors, I'll immediately move the mouse. If it's skipping lots of pages, I'll use the search function to move to that page.
And when he mentions the issue,
I'll edit it immediately if it can be done easily. A mistype or a wrong word can be classified as such.
The advantage of this is that the editor-in-charge can make the corrections immediately.
If the issue requires a longer time to explain, I'll leave a few spaces and add what's the need, like,
“I need more lines here.”
“I need to cut a lot here.”
“I need to make this scene match the last one”
Or things like that.
“As for the time required to edit the manuscript...if there's a need to edit a lot of it, it'll take about a week. If there's ample time until the next deadline, I can spend a few more days. I'll then complete the second manuscript and send it to the editor-in-charge again.”
“And the editor-in-charge will check through it again?”
“Yeah. He'll check if the parts are edited, and find mistakes. Of course, there'll be far fewer mistakes in the second one than in the first one—or I'll cry.”
“If there's no need for me to head down to the editorial branch again, the second and third draft review will be done through the phone. When calling through the phone, I'll put my cellphone in hands-free mode and put it in front of my laptop, holding my meeting this way. He'll call me, and since it'll typically be a long talk, 30 minutes will be considered quite short. There was once when we talked for 2 hours.”
“I see...there's something I'll like to ask first.”
“When the editor-in-charge tells you 'this part needs correction', do you feel hurt about it? This novel conveys all your ideas, right? Even if it's a small part, you won't feel angry or hurt to hear 'please edit this part' will you?”
“No, practically not.”
I simply replied.
As a professional author.
In other words, since a publisher's willing to publish my books, and I can obtain a publishing fee—
The work I write has to be checked by the editor-in-charge.
If I think I'm completely rejected because my work's denied, and I sink into depression,
I can't be a professional author.
A long time before I became an author, probably 5th grade, I once saw a prose with such content.
I don't know who the author was, probably a bestselling author.
Back then, I only thought 'I see'. When I had the potential to be a professional author myself however, I suddenly thought of it, and I couldn't forget about it.
Of course, if I encountered a situation I can't back down on no matter what, I'll insist until the very end.
To insist until the very end...in fact, such a situation's very rare.
When our opinions clash, I'll typically back down and edit the parts.
I've been doing that till this point, and the books were a hit, so I felt I should simply do that.
After emphasizing this part clearly, I added on,
“I haven't ended up in a situation where the story doesn't get picked up at all...maybe I'll be really sad if I do end up encountering that. At the end-of-year party, I think a senior writer I met said 'if your work doesn't get picked up many times, it'll get really depressing'.”
I can only imagine it in reality, but that definitely hurts.
Nitadori probably felt the same too as she lamented.
“Now then, I'll get to the part 'how many versions must I do'.”
“Typically, I'll finalize things at the 3rd manuscript.”
“Finalize, as in?”
“It simply means completing the manuscript. I'll think of it as 'sending the completed, edited manuscript out' though. That part basically means the job is done. The deadline will typically mean that the story's to be finalized on a certain month, certain day.”
“I see. So that means you're done with your best.”
“Yeah, but even though the writing's done, I still have a lot of things to do before the novel gets published.”
I've explained things to the 'finalized' part, but an author's work doesn't end here. It's easier than writing, but there's a lot of things to do.
I look at the watch, and find that we'll reach the destination in an hour. I leave the seat again, washed my hands in the toilet, and returned to my seat.
I've taken this trip several times, and it'll take about 3 hours from the station nearest to my house to the terminal. Back then, I would read books, listen to music, space out, record down the ideas I thought of, or work on my laptop.
I never thought that I would be seated side by side with my female classmate (though she's a year younger), chatting non stop.
And she's a voice actress, to boot.
And she's actually acting in the anime adaptation of my novel.
“Kept you waiting!”
“I waited for you! Now then, please go through the process after the finalization!”
“I'll feel very relaxed after the finalization's done, freedom, a sense of liberty, like 'Great! It's over!' Some authors will say stuff like 'feels like I just broke out from hell'. Well, but my thinking's more like 'okay, time to write the next work'.”
“...Eh? You aren't going out to play?”
“Right now, I feel that I'm enjoying myself writing. When I first finalized my script, I had a sense of accomplishment over having finished something, so I think such a feeling will prompt me to work on the next story.”
“A-a workaholic? Are you a workaholic, sensei?”
“I guess...but as I said before, the work doesn't end here.
Now then, what'll happen to the manuscript after it's finalized?
After the editor-in-charge does the final checks, there's a need to do a cross check.
The manuscript will be printed in the exact layout as the print book, and they are then handed to the reviewers.
“Reviewers...what are they?”
Nitadori asked. It's not commonly heard, so I guess it's not strange for her not to know.
“Reviewers means that they check whether there's a mistake in the work. That's what they do.”
“There's also the term proofreaders. Have you heard of it?”
“I think I heard of it. Is there a difference?”
“I got curious once and checked on it. There's actually a major difference between them. Simply put, proofreaders check that the original manuscript is the same as the printed work.”
“Eh? What about reviewers? Is there another work?”
“Reviewers check if there are mistakes in the Japanese, whether the plot is logical, whether there are factual inaccuracies, all kinds of checks, actually.”
“What are factual inaccuracies...any examples?”
I spent three seconds thinking of a good example, and said,
“Assuming that I have a line in the text 'I'm head to the capitol of USA, New York City.”
“So the reviewer will point it out to you, saying, 'the capitol's actually Washington D.C.. You made a mistake'. Right?”
“That's right. But...this line may be correct.”
“Yeah. It'll be correct, if it had just gained independence, that is.”
Nitadori answered without thinking, and I was really surprised by it.
I read through many books, and accumulated lots of useless trivia, but I never expected Nitadori to actually give the correct answer immediately.
“Correct...back then, the capitol was New York City. If the story's set in that era, it's correct not to edit it in that situation. The reviewers have to be particular about that. Of course, if there's a mistake in the information the author found, and wrote it as 'Capitol, Philadelphia', the reviewer too has to say 'looking at the year and date, the capitol's still in New York City' and point out the error.”
“Wow. This job's tough—I see. So that's why the original manuscript has to be handed for a professional check.”
“That's the case. On a side note, the term required is review, but some authors can understand if you use the term proofread.”
When I debuted, I too didn't know the difference between review and proofread, and of course, I couldn't differentiate between the two.
In the following explanation, there'll be certain professional terms. For experienced authors and editors, those might be common terminologies, but they might be foreign to most ordinary people. In other words, most people who just became authors won't be familiar with those terms.
“Erm...what does that mean?”
A rookie will keep asking the editor-in-charge this question as they create their won work.
I too couldn't explain what I was doing when I was doing the first 4 volumes or so. The editor-in-charge was just telling me 'edit it like this. Then this.” and I would follow.
“Erm, there'll be some professional terms used later on...”
I prefaced with those words, and explained,
“The book and the manuscript printouts are both called 'Galley proof', or simply 'gally'. More people will use the term 'galley', and I've been using the same term too.”
“Galley...what does that mean?”
“Well, I too was curious as to why it's called 'galley', so I did my research through the internet.”
“The internet's really convenient. And so?”
“After that, I found that the term originated from a Galley ship. It's an old type of ship, with many oars on the flanks, and the slaves or soldiers will keeping rowing. That's called a Galley.”
“Galley, is it? Such a term can refer to a kitchen on a boat or a plane.”
“You really know your stuff, Nitadori.”
“Eh? I'm glad that you're praising me, but there's no benefit of that, you know?”
“I'm just stating my honest thoughts. Not really praising you there, actually?”
“Besides, I got lots of things I don't know of. Not as impressive as the internet, at least.”
“You're being humble again.”
“Okay, keep on talking.”
“Okay, continuing on, why is a galley ship involved with printing—”
Back then, when talking about printing, it'll refer to the movable type printing.
She's not acting humble now, is she?
Movable type printing refers to the use of metal word molds, line them up, and then use that to print. It's a lot easier than to 'copy' or 'woodblock printing', where the printing can't work if a part of the mold can't be used.
This was one of the three great inventions that prompted the European Renaissance (the other two being the compass and gunpowder). Humans were able to provide books for more people using such a cheap, quick manner.
“You never attended history class in middle school?”
“Well...I guess I probably fell asleep back then? Anyway, please continue with the Galley ships.”
A single word required movable type blocks, so there's a need for many of these to print out an entire page. Once the words are chosen, people will put the words on the platter. That platter has something to do with the ship, so people call the ship Galley.
I don't know who said it, but someone from somewhere once said,
“It's really crammed and packed inside, like the oars of an old Galley ship haha.”
Anyway, that's what happened.
The term galley ended up being a term used to check if there is an error printing the words.
And people began to call it galley proofing, a review of the manuscript.
Galley printing soon became used for reviewing script, and then it became a 'reviewed manuscript'.
In this example, people in modern society no longer use printing techniques, and they're all printed from a computer, but the term used in the past still lives on.
“Eh...I learned something.”
“Well, that doesn't really involve an author's work actually...”
“I know what's reviewing now. Will this come out in the test, sensei?”
We're off-topic, so back to the point.
“Erm, which part did I explain to...?”
“To the part where your manuscript becomes a basis for comparison, and handed to the reviewer'.”
“I see, thanks.”
Once the review script's printed, it'll be handed to the reviewers.
This action is called 'first check'. It's the first check (or review), so that's the term.
The next one's called the 'second check'.
The first and second checks refer to the actions,
But sometimes, it can also refer to the review script, so it gets a little complicated.
From here on, I wouldn't omit the 'script' part when talking about it.
So when the reviewers print the first review script and do all kinds of checks—
I'll receive a 'duplicate'. To be precise, it's a duplicate copy.
Anyway, it's the exact same printed copy as the one sent to the reviewers.
As the author, I'll have to reread this manuscript and check through it.
This action's called the 'author's corrections', or simply put 'author's review'.
Basically, at this step, I just need to 'check for missing, or incorrect words, check if there's anything else wrong.
“But then, the more I look at the paragraphs or text, the more I'll take note about them. I've reread it many times when writing, but I'll keep finding parts where the text, or pacing is worse off.”
“What will you do in such situations?”
“I'll try to correct it as best as I can.”
It's a printed story, so I need to mark out the parts that need correction in red pen, and note down how I'm supposed to go about doing it.
On a side note, correcting the manuscript with a red pen is also called 'red correction'.
When editing the manuscript, the editor-in-charge will use what's called a 'correction symbol'.
These are symbols designed to accurately convey how to correct the text. For example, if there's a need to swap the top and bottom lines, he'll use a reverse S shape symbol. The top lines will be on the top of the lines, and the bottom line at the bottom.
I didn't know that at all, so I wrote down a rather complicated, unique method of correction.
And the editor-in-charge kept asking me.
“So, what does this mean?”
Leaving aside the correction symbols,
If I'm holding a first review duplicate copy, and I want to make major changes to it no matter what,
And my biggest thought is “I want to rewrite this page!”
“Can you do that?”
The answer is yes, I can.
“It's actually not that impressive...there's a method called 'swapping entire pages'.”
As the term implies, I'll rewrite what I want to rewrite, and send an email saying 'please use this for page OOO). Sometimes, I'll end up swapping out many pages.
“But...I do think it's best to avoid major changes like 'swapping pages'.”
That's because that if I'm to make full page changes at this phase, the page will end up not passing the first review.
I thought the act that if time allows, I hope to improve the manuscript.
But if I don't tell myself,
“That's enough. It's complete.”
From time to time, I'll end up correcting it over and over again.
It's ideal to finish the work at the finalized part.
“Though I think this way...”
“But life isn't that easy, huh?”
“Now then—once the reviewers finish the first review, the review copy will be returned back to the editorial branch. Thus, I'll finish the author's review before the deadline.”
I divert my topic back to the process.
“I have to do two things. First is to hand the manuscripts with my red marks to the editor-in-charge, and second, to check through the first review the reviewers did.”
Nitadori titled her head, asking,
“Hm? I get the first one...but why the second?”
When reviewers find out an extremely obvious error during the checks—
For example, like 'there's no period at the end of the paragraph', 'the furigana's completely wrong', they'll correct it with red pen.
But there are times when the reviewers end up 'unable to tell if it's wrong', and they'll mark the questionable parts with pencil.
Basically, only the authors can edit the text.
The editor-in-charge and reviewers won't make changes at will.
I have to be in charge of the red marks, and also answer all the issues marked in pencil.
“Then, what kind of issues will the reviewers point out?”
“All kinds of them—”
In fact, every reviewer has their own style of pointing out issues, and the frequency of them.
The reviewers of Dengeki Bunko are basically outsourced, so I can't tell if they're all done by the same people.
I don't know the reviewers names, and I don't know what kind of people they are.
But if I have to say something—
Thank you for everything you did.
“The most common issue here is probably the difference between the words displayed, and the furigana. In other words 'mismatched terms'.”
“Mismatched terms...for example?”
“At a certain point, the term 'produced' can be read in three different ways, and the terms used my be different elsewhere, or the katakana for bodyguard isn't consistent. In katakana terms, some add the black 'middle dot', and some don't.”
(TN: Bodyguard can be read as 'ボディーガード' or 'ボディガード'. Just a lengthened middle for the first. Produced can be read as '生みだす', '生みだす' or '产み出す'. All three are read as Umidasu)
“Also, there are often cases of people pointing out the strange use of 'Teniwoha'.”
“That's...basically the usage of particles.”
“Women? Girls?” (TN: 助詞 and 女子 have the same pronunciation, Joshi, じょし)
“No, how am I supposed to use girls?”
“Erm...for bad things?”
“I'll get arrested by the police, so don't say it. The particle here refers to the Japanese particles used to help convey the meaning.”
“Ah, ahh...I know that.”
“You should be knowing that, right?”
“I-I guess? So in other words, the use of particles is called 'Teniwoha', and some people will point your mistakes in them, right?”
“Right. When I'm too engrossed, the particles gets weird, like I can't differentiate between the use of 'ga' and 'ha', and that's still okay. Sometimes, there are lines that don't look Japanese at all...most of the problems will be pointed out by the editor-in-charge, and the missed parts will be corrected by the reviewers.”
“I see. Anything else?”
“Anything else...like a basic, stupid mistake...it's embarrassing talking about it...but I did mess up on the characters back then.”
Even I didn't know why I would be making such mistakes.
When writing the 5th volume of Vice Versa, I kept mistaking the names of two characters, and it lasted for 20 pages.
The bearded old man's using female pronouns, and the beautiful lady's saying things like
“I'd say that I don't understand.”
Once the editor-in-charge pointed it out, my face paled. I really wonder what'll happen if the book's published like that…
“Also, I did make such mistakes before...8 people fall into a hole. 3 died. How many people escaped?”
“If we're not considering that Shin died, 5.”
“Yeah, this is elementary math. In the original manuscript however, it ended up as 4...”
“It's fine for you to laugh out loud, you know?”
“No need for that. Anyone can make mistakes.”
“Thanks. Sigh, I got such mistakes pointed out several times. Also, when 'the author does the author check', I'll definitely use a pencil or a mechanical pencil.”
“Because the editor-in-charge will be making corrections in red pen at the top, indicating 'this problem appeared before, and I corrected it'. I heard that this stuff will be kept.”
“So I typically use a multipen with red and black ballpoint inks and a mechanical pencil function. I keep it with me at all times.”
“Ohh! You brought it along today too? What does it look like?”
I stood up to show her the real thing, turned my body around, and reached for the rack.
There's a pen pouch attached outside the bag, and I had two of them stuffed in there; one of them's a spare. I took a pen, sat down, and handed it to Nitadori.
“Oh, so this is your good partner, sensei? Looks classy!”
Nitadori marveled in an ostentatious tone. Actually, this is cheap stuff, nothing too fancy. I guess they do sell them in convenience stores too.
“So in the future, when your memorium is built, this pen will be used for display, right?”
No, that's not the case.
Speaking of which, I never thought about building a memorium or something. If someone has that much money, please use it for aid relief.
I stick that pen into the chest pocket, and continue explaining,
“I'll hold my mechanical pencil and check through the first review that went through checking. Sometimes, I'll add some stickies if there are problems, but I'll typically flip through the entire manuscript page by page.”
And then, assuming that I can see the parts from the reviewers,
and if I agree to them, and hope to make such changes in the text,
I'll use the mechanical pencil to mark the part with a large circle, writing 'please do this'.
In contrast, if I feel there's no need to correct it,
I'll mark it with a cross.
Sometimes, I'll write down 'please leave it as this'
“Please leave it as this?”
“It has nothing to do with mothers.”
(TN: Text has it as Mama de. You know what Mama is.)
“Ah, I see.”
I'm really grateful to the corrections by the reviewers, but there are a lot of parts I wish to maintain. Looking at my situation, there are some moments where I'll leave strange Japanese in the conversations, so I'll mark all those suggestions with crosses.
And so, I continue to flip through about 150 pages per volume, (around 300 pages per book), checking through them.
Sometimes, there are moments where even I can't decide.
For example, the reviewer points out a kanji similar in meaning, but I don't know which one's appropriate.
In that situation, I won't make a decision for the time being, place a sticky there, and first crumple up the edges of the review manuscript.
Once all the checks are done, “About this—” I'll ask the editor-in-charge, and leave it to him to decide.
And at this point, I remember there's something I forgot to mention.
“Ah, about the location where the first review check is done—”
“It's not at the editorial branch?”
“Hm, it's basically there the prior year. I typically head to Tokyo for meetings, so I'll make time to do the author checks. During 10th grade however, I couldn't head to Tokyo because of this work, so I could only do this through mail. Once the first checks are done and sent to me, I'll send it back along with the author checks.”
“And if there are parts the editor-in-charge can't get, he'll give me a call, and I'll tell him directly on the phone. Over there, the first review will be done, and another step before publication is completed.”
“ But there's still a need for another review, right?”
“Yeah, there's still a second review.”
In the second review, I'll have to repeat the process.
Once the parts pointed out by the first review are edited, it'll become the second review.
The reviewers get the second review, and I'll get the duplicate.
In the second duplicate, I'll have to check if the edited parts are completely okay. This will be called the second author check.
And to check the second review manuscript the reviewers checked, as an author, I'll head to the editorial branch (or contact through mail again).
In the second check, there's a high chance of new issues pointed out. This includes the parts missed the first time, parts I chose to maintain from the first review, and so on.
I'll again use the mechanical pencil to mark circles or crosses.
“The two review jobs all collectively called Galley checks.”
“Hearing you say that, it sounds really troublesome.”
“In fact, it is.” I grumbled.
“I had to widen my eyes and look for mistakes. It's very tiring.”
“But...such work's unavoidable if I want to publish a book without errors.”
“I see. Good work.”
“Is it finally over?”
“No, there's still something the author has to do.”
“There's still more? Erm, what is it?”
“What's left for the author is to write the afterword, put a recent photo of the author, write an author introduction, and check the illustrations.”
Writing the afterword.
The afterword's basically a necessity in any light novel. It's imperative to write it.
In terms of content, typically, it's about 2 to 4 pages. Some have it at 1.
Basically, the author's free to write whatever he wants in the afterword, anything as long as it doesn't taunt society or the masses.
In this world, there are authors who get the stage to show off their talents, and they'll work hard on writing it—
But to be honest, I'm bad at writing afterword.
At first, I was still decent. I debuted, and was grateful to everyone, really grateful.
With that emotion, I wrote out all my emotions, spending 2 pages of it.
After that, I ended up not knowing what I should write.
Even if I wanted to write about myself like other authors, I couldn't be saying that I'm a high school kid, or that I'm taking a break from school.
To be honest, I really found it difficult writing afterword, “This isn't good! That isn't good!” always groaning and writing. If I'm past 20, and there's a bill passed stating 'afterword are forbidden', I might give it a vote.
“I see...I never thought it would be that difficult...”
“It's so difficult it's annoying. It's said that an essay allows room to showcase an author's personality, so I'm rather curious as to how the readers will view it...”
“Looking at it, I'll guess you're a college student...”
“That's not too bad, I guess. On a side note, the 10th volume's to be published at the same time the anime's air—the afterword for that volume contains thanksgiving to all those involved in the anime production.”
“So when's the deadline for the afterword?”
“Actually, the ideal is that it's sent to the publisher along with the finalized manuscript, and that it can be checked together...if I can't make it, I'll send it during the first review, and at latest, the second review.”
“I did hear from senior authors that there's another way to submit it later, after the second review.”
“I can't imagine it...how?”
“First off, leave a few spaces for the parts meant for the afterword. It's said that the afterword finished later won't be deemed an essay, but an illustration, a picture, and it'll be inserted. Those authors that want to change, play with the playout and add some flavor will use this method.”
“So...in other words, it's fine even if you're either using pictures or written manuscript?”
“Sorta, I guess...?”
“How? As in?”
“Don't you want to try writing your afterword handwritten?”
“Erm...nobody will be able to decipher it, you know?”
Once the afterword's done, there's a need for the author's recent photo and introduction.
For Dengeki Bunko, such content will be contained at the flap under the cover (reverse side).
The author photo is to follow a 30 x 32 format, and any photo or illustration can be put there.
Actually, the author's actual photo should be there, as it's called the author's recent photo.
But in Dengeki Bunko, or rather, in the world of light novels—
Few authors will actually put their own photos, for obvious reasons.
There are all kinds of patterns, and most of them are basically photos of pet, things, or illustrations.
For illustrations, some might get the novel illustrator to do one for the author, or that the author may ask an acquaintance to chip in.
There are those who have artistic ability, and draw their own illustration.
“But sensei, aren't you using a photo of a 'keyboard'?”
In the author's recent photo from the 1st to 9th volume, I've been using the photo of the keyboard I first bought. Some authors will do the same thing, so I think this is rather overdone.
These photos were taken from the smart phone I bought back then, and the photo for the 1st to 3rd volumes are all the same. After that, I wanted to make some changes, so starting from the 4th volume, there were some minor changes every time. Even so, the keyboard's the only thing I took photos of.
Nitadori then reached her hand into her handbag.
She took out a light novel.
And once she did, I could tell what it was. Unmistakably, it's the first volume of 'Vice Versa'.
I could see many little stickies inside the book. Nitadori probably read through it thoroughly for the After Record, and it's really delightful.
She looked at the first volume's photo, and stared at me, saying,
“To be honest, you don't look alike.”
“I'm older now.”
It's really delightful to humor someone.
And publishing a book that moved a reader will certainly elevate this happiness.
Placing the first volume on her thighs, Nitadori asked,
“Leaving aside whether it's the author closeup or not, what about the introduction at the bottom?”
“That too is for the author to do whatever he wants.”
Dengeki Bunko's column is to have the large author name right below the closeup, and below that one's the author introduction.
This part uses the horizontal format, and (typically) ends in 5 lines, 24 letters per line.
It's an author's introduction, and I'm supposed to write some age (or year I was born in), a brief summary, and so on—
Amongst the works in Dengeki Bunko, this column is where authors get to do whatever they want.
Most authors will report on recent events over here, so the content will change in every volume.
“It's really tough having to write this...why do I have to change the content for every volume...no, it's not that there's a need to change, but everyone just seem to do this...”
And I ended up in full grumbling mode.
I really don't want anyone else seeing this 'author complaining to a girl younger than he is'.
“Tough, isn't it? Okay, okay.”
Argh, now she's actually comforting me. This is embarrassing. Good thing she didn't pat my head.
“But I have to keep my personal particulars a secret. There's nothing recent I can report on.”
The forest outside really is filled with autumn, or,
I really love snow, because the world becomes peaceful, or,
The cherry blossoms have bloomed. I really want some dango, or,
I'll write these thoughts based on the seasons, but I'm running out of ideas.
“And so I thought, I might as well wing it.”
“'The 3rd child's born, and it's a girl'. Or, 'it's been a week since I moved to Germany. The beer's nice'. Or stuff like that.”
I guess I struck a laughter chord in her, as she's laughing out loud.
“Sensei, sensei. What about this? A girl younger than me caught my secret, and is blackmailing me.”
“Alright, using that for the 10th volume.”
After laughing for quite a while, Nitadori then said,
“The next part...is to check on the illustrations.”
“This part isn't that difficult, or rather, I'll say it's a delight.”
The illustrator did his best to draw pictures for me.
No matter whether it's CG or hand-made, the editor-in-charge will send it to me in a compressed folder, or get me a download link.
In terms of order, the illustrator will first finish the colored cover illustration, since it can't be published without a cover. Next, the opening color illustrations, followed by the black and white illustrations in the text.
After checking through the illustrations, I'll immediately approve it if there aren't any mistakes.
“Are there situations where it's NG?”
“Yes. Just a little.”
The rare situation refers to,
Mistakes on the specific character in the color illustration.
Where the position of the name tag is incorrect.
Where the text has it as right side, but it appears as left side on the text.
It's this kind of mistakes.
I get to enjoy the illustrations earlier than others, so I'm always looking forward to it.
“Wait, sensei! You say it like it's nothing, but if that's a mistake, isn't that serious? If the right and left side are reversed...”
“It's not that bad.”
“Wh-what do you intend to do? What did you do back then?”
“Change the text.”
“I didn't explain this part before. After sending out the second manuscript, I'll print out a 'white copy' to compare it to the manuscript. The illustrations will be done before the electronic preview's done, so I can fix the parts where the sides are reversed.
“...Really can't imagine that. But if you can't fix it in any way, what will you do?”
“In that situation, I'll let it slip. It's common for illustrations to differ from the text in novels.”
“The illustration check's done...I guess this should be over.”
I said a lot on this day.
I've been explaining for more than 2 and a half hours.
The train entered the city, headed straight down the straight. Many have got off the train midway through, and the carriage's empty now.
The woman, whom Nitadori cast the spell on, managed to successfully get off the train through the anti-magic installation called the 'cellphone alarm'.
“Thanks for today...no, it's interesting today too.”
She said as she placed the first volume into her bag, nodded to thank me. She'll hit me if she nodded towards me, so she nodded forward.
“No need, no need.”
I too nodded forward towards the seat in front of me.
But even so, there's still another 20 minutes until we reach the terminal.
I'm finding it unbearable not talking out of a sudden.
I can't do idle chat, let alone be bad at it.
And so, I said,
“Well, I guess you'll have to wait till next week for the more complicated questions. I still have time to answer some simple stuff, so is there anything?”
“Really? Then, I want to ask something that's unrelated to today!”
“What is it?”
“Do you receive a lot of fan letters?”
“I do receive a few, but I'm not sure if that's a lot.”
I state my honest thoughts.
What can be considered more? I never discussed this with other authors, so I don't know.
But I'll accept most of them gratefully.
“Then, what do you think.”
“Hm...I got more female fan letters.”
It's said that the main demographic for light novels is men. Leaving aside books targeted at women, that is definitely the case for Dengeki Bunko.
But even so, there are works that are very popular with girls.
Based on the fan letters, the readers for 'Vice Versa' is basically 50:50 between male and female.
I originally wrote what I wanted to see, so I never actually wrote anything that would pander to either side.
But I typically won't write erotic scenes that are obviously targeted at boys, and this obviously doesn't have anything to do with me being unable to do it.
As for why it's popular with females, I suppose it's due to the two protagonists, Shin and Sin.
“This party story's brimming with passion!”
Another editor-in-charge, not mine, used to say that to me.
Leaving that aside, I analyzed,
“I guess it's because, girls really aren't bashful writing letters to me?”
“Then, what's written on the letters...?”
Nitadori asked courteously, but I still can't answer it honestly.
I do think that letters are something the recipient should personally receive, and only the sender and I can know of its contents.
But even if I do say so, in fact...others would have already read the fan letters.
Because the editorial branch will check through them.
At the end of the pocket book, there'll be a line 'you're welcome to provide your valuable feedback and thoughts on this book'. The readers will then see the official homepage, and the lines 'please click on the 'reader questionnaire'.
Right below it are the columns 'Please send the letter to', which is the editorial branch location. As for the 'for OOOO', there's a need to fill in either 'my name', or the 'illustrator's'.
The readers will send letters to the editorial branch, so the editors will first check through.
And so, by the time the letters reach me, the letters are all open.
Why, you ask?
The editors are to check if there's anything dangerous inside, but the main aim is to remove any letters that'll obviously demotivate the author or the illustrator.
There are all kinds of people in the world, so I guess this is something that had to be done.
While wondering how I'm supposed to answer Nitadori's question—
I ended up with the conclusion that, 'I can only tell her'.
“I won't tell anyone about the content of the letter. It's a secret between the sender and me'.”
“Is that so? I see. Sorry.”
Nitadori easily gave me leeway.
To be honest, it's great that she's saying this. After heaving a sigh of relief, I guess it's fine for me to talk about some trivial stuff.
“But the readers are sending me letters, so the contents are basically cheering me on. As an author, I really feel gracious and delighted. Before I read each letter, I'll put my palms together, and then I'll open it.”
It's true. I treat every single letter as a small household altar.
“I suppose the senders are happy that you're doing that.”
Nitadori giggled. She's not looking down on me, but actually delighted for me.
There are fan letters that left quite an impression of me within these two years.
And there were two of these that shocked me so much, I'll never forget about them. (Of course, I can't tell Nitadori this)
The first letter's the one I received soon after I took leave from school, last April.
However, I didn't know if I could call this a fan letter.
"Actually, I'm wondering if I should be sending this letter to you...looking at your personality however, I suppose you'll like this one."
The editor-in-charge said this to me, and handed me the letter in the editorial branch.
Feeling tentative, I was wondering 'what kind of letter is it' as I kept reading, and I found it to be rather shocking.
There were several pieces of paper in it. The words are very neat and pretty, and it started off,
“Hello for the first time. I am Shin. I don't know how you knew that I was in Reputation when I was young...I'm shocked.”
In other words, that's a letter from Shin.
And then, there's a lot of these stuff continued on.
At first, he said about how shocked he was when he first read 'Vice Versa'—
And then he said that he's very old now, but he really did miss the times back then—
Many of his classmates had already departed for the afterlife—
Till this day, he would continue to talk on the phone with Shin, who conquered the entire Reputation.
That he understood very well some parts were different from his memories, because the author respected the privacy of him and his friends, and he really thanked them earnestly, and so on—
Anyway, this letter's pretty interesting from top to bottom.
The sender's a 74 year old male from Hokkaido.
Till now, I don't know if that man actually wrote that letter for real, or was he writing such a massive prank to make the author laugh.
But I guess the letter's so interesting it doesn't matter, and I read it again a few times.
Till this day, I'm wondering if he'll send a 'continuation', but it never came.
“Now that I'm advanced in age, I can see the end of my life. I'm going to head to Reputation and live an immortal life there.'
Based on what was written there, I supposed he's already over there.
The other letter,
Was rather grim in content.
This letter was earlier than the one aforementioned.
It was during October, 2 years ago, 2 months after I debuted.
Back then, I received some fan letters about the first volume. I was delighted, and read through it a few times.
A certain day, the editor-in-charge contacted me.
"I sent a few fan letters to you, and one of them has a sticky on it; it's fine for you not to read if if you're scared of being uncomfortable. I do think you'll be happy to read it until the very end however, so I'm sending it to you."
That was what he informed me on the phone.
Soon after, I received those fan letters.
One of them had a sticky attached to them.
I was surprised that it was a letter sent through air mail.
The sender's in a foreign country, and the name's completely Western.
There's a katakana name attached to the letter, and I learned that the sender's a woman called 'Stella Hamilton'.
The letter's completely in Japanese, and I was completely stunned. It's not as nice as the real Mr Shin afterwards, but her words are rather pretty.
Really was grim.
I feel, that amongst all the fan letters I received, this one's the heaviest.
In the letter, this girl called Stella's studying in 11th grade.
And she got bullied at school.
Her appearance naturally attracted the attention of many, and she was bullied since Elementary school.
She did live in Japan before because of her parents' work. In Japan, she was bullied for 'being a foreigner'. Even though she currently resides in her parents' native country, she still remained bullied.
Her parents never thought that this daughter of theirs would end up like this, and she did not dare discuss this with her parents, so she was anguished within.
She had several instances of wanting to commit suicide.
She wondered, since life was so full of pain, what's the point of continuing to live.
That was the content of the letter.
Having read this, I felt my gut sink.
"Why's such a person sending such a letter to me?"
I was skeptical.
Back then, I was still in my first year of high school. I wanted to say 'what hopes does she have for a 16 year old boy wearing a school uniform?' At the same time however, I thought 'ah, but this Miss Stella doesn't know about it', and so, I flipped the letter over.
And then, I found it to be a fan letter after all.
Starting from the 4th page, the text became lively, and it recorded the situation as to how she bought the first volume of 'Vice Versa', and her personal book review of it.
She came to Japan in the summer, and bought 'Vice Versa' and other mangas at an anime shop in Akihabara.
She really liked Japanese manga and anime, but it was the first time she tried reading light novels. It really was a coincidence that she would reach out for 'Vice Versa'.
And then, she really enjoyed herself. She was able to forget all the time and pain everyday.
She was really able to find some semblance of joy in her arduous life.
Thank goodness I didn't die. As long as I live, I'll be able to find happiness, so I'll continue to work hard from now on.
I'm really looking forward to your exciting works. I'll definitely buy it when there's any continuation. I'll ask for acquaintances in Japan to purchase this for me.
That was the content of the latter.
And added in the postscript was,
Shin and Sin are cool, but I prefer the strong, suave Pluto and the courageous Meek.
I hope that they'll be more active.
I'm a guy who won't cry even after reading a book or watching a movie, and till now, I've yet to cry.
But once I read this fan letter, I nearly broke into tears.
I was touched.
"After seeing your book, I'm glad that I've yet to die."
There's a foreign woman, older than me, actually saying such things to me.
I once decided never to respond to any reader fan mail.
At first, I was wondering if I should reply to all the readers, or not at all, and I chose the latter.
2 months later, I broke the oath. I sent an illustration to this Stella Hamilton.
To promote sales, Dengeki Bunko will create postcards every month and put them in the shops for sale.
Back then, the 2nd volume was being sold, and luckily, 'Vice Versa' was nominated as one of the works with postcards made.
I received a sample from the editorial branch, and there's the cover illustration of the 2nd volume on it.
The cover back then was a scene of Shin in his school uniform and Sin in his battle armor, glaring at each other. There's two volumes of 'Vice Versa' then, but only these two appeared on the cover. In Dengeki Bunko, it's rare to see the covers with only male characters on them.
Well, it's to be expected that the cover isn't Pluto or Meek, but I did sign on that postcard. It's the signature the editor-in-charge asked me to practice, and this was the first time I did it in a non-practice situation, the first time for a reader.
To avoid making a mistake, I cautiously wrote down the name Miss Stella Hamilton in English, and checked it a few times.
I didn't know what to say at all, and there wasn't much space, so I just wrote the words 'thanks on it!'. I suppose these are the prettiest words I've ever written in my entire life.
It was the first time I actually sent a mail by air, but since the postcard wasn't returned to the sender address, the editorial branch, I suppose this Miss Stella Hamilton did receive it.
And then, she never sent me a letter again.
However, to me, this one reply to a fan letter was unforgettable to me.
At the very least, there's another letter in the 'fan letter security case'.
"Now then, can i ask you something? Have you responded to a fan letter till this day?"
I was thinking about those things, so when Nitadori suddenly asked me, I was taken aback.
I remained speechless, and after a while, I realized I had no need to tell the truth.
I only did reply to Miss Stella Hamilton.
But even the editorial branch didn't know about it.
I'm not good at lying,
And neither am I good at acting.
"N-no, not at all."
I showcased my worst act at this moment.
Clearly, I looked like I was acting no matter how it seemed.
Nitadori seemed a little startled upon hearing this reply, and then, she beamed in delight,
"Really~? You never replied to anyone else? Like for example...a young girl?"
Is this girl an esper!? A magician!?
I do think this should be a coincidence, but my heart still raced with Nitadori stating that.
"No no no...not at all…? Because, I decided, not to reply to any letters. If there's any reply to the letters, I'll be very, very troubled, I guess."
I felt that the response I gave before was already so terrible, but this was worse. The records for the worst just kept getting broken.
But I could only pass this through with lies.
No matter how bad my acting was, Nitadori had no proof.
"Anyway, I guess I probably won't be sending any replies. It'll affect my work anyway."
Finally, I was able to speak Japanese. It sounded really haughty however. What kind of person do I think I am?
Having finally stopped Nitadori's interrogation, I was soaked in cold sweat, leaning my entire body on the back rest, and I heaved a deep sigh.
I really couldn't act.
And I'll never act again.
I decided that if I have to act again,
I'll flee the scene immediately.
I'm a High School Boy and a Bestselling Light Novel author, strangled by my female classmate who is my junior and a voice actress.
This is my current predicament.
Eri Nitadori continued to strangle my carotid pulses with her icy hands.
Her hands were really cold, and I could feel it from both sides of my head.
I laid on the ground, and she was sitting on me. The only thing appearing in my eyes was her upper body.
That would be the arms outstretched for my neck, her face, and the black hair reaching down the sides like curtains.
Her sobbing face was facing away from the light, and it looked a little dim, very tragic.
The tears, excessive as they piled within the inside of the glasses, continued to slowly fall and drip on my cheeks.
She slowly spoke up, probably to say something. After gasping, she said,
It sounded really long.
But it probably was very fast, in fact.
I guess It was extremely slow after all.
Why did it end up like this?
The final lights before death continued to flicker by my eyes.
To be continued…
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