The Creative Process

Just a warning here; I’ll probably be spoiling Zemlya, Katawa Shoujo or anything else here. I’ll put a break in shortly so that if you’re looking forward to those things that you won’t see anything that might turn your temper.

Then again, I think I’ve mentioned that I might spoil something only to not mention anything of note. So it’s up to you. Before you proceed, this is mostly a discussion about the tools I use when trying to write, and how I’m trying new things. That’s not really a spoiler unless you’re really into twist ending in blog posts. tl;dr I bought Scrivener and I’ll let you know how it goes.

I write in a pretty linear fashion. It’s more out of necessity than any particular methodology.

I once said to the 4LS team that “I create the characters in detail in my head, put them in an environment, and then see what happens.”

But that’s not entirely true. For example, I knew that I wanted Hanako and Hisao to get together in the end of the original Hanako path, so I threw things in there to make sure that the plot moved along. For example, there is the scene “Waterfall,” which I thought that I had posted here, but I didn’t. It’s what we referred to as a “Basball” in 4LS. The term comes from a scene in an early Lilly path, where there was a rut in the writing, so Suriko made Lilly get hit with a baseball, meaning that Hisao had to help her to her room.

“Baseball” became our term for “a plot device that exists only to drive the characters in a direction they normally wouldn’t go.” So, the Lilly Baseball means that Lilly was reduced to requiring help from Hisao; something that had been avoided up until that point. “Waterfall” was similar; Hanako had started becoming more social, so the trio went to a cafe. At the same time, a whole soccer team came into the cafe, causing Hanako to freak out. It’s kind of similar to the mental breakdown in her current path, but at least that is something that is believable, and, in some ways, inevitable.


Anyway, I rebelled against “planning” too much of my story, as I wanted the flexibility to go where the characters took me.  That ended up in the incredibly long Hanako/Hanako True paths, which were longer than I remember, and, to be honest, went nowhere. The final version of the Hanako path basically gutted those paths and left only what was necessary. It was at this time that I learned that wordcount means nothing if your words are worthless.

But planning was required; the artists needed to know what to draw, both for sprites and CGs, and we also needed to be able to comment on the paths before we all put in hundreds of hours of writing. So I ended up doing little scene outlines, but I’ll admit that I wasn’t really a fan.


Anyway, KS rolled on, and was eventually released. I have to give credit to Losstarot and Silentcook credit; when I read the Hanako path today I honestly can’t tell where my parts end and Suriko’s begin.Same with Act 1; which had the most work done to it.

Shortly after, I jumped back into Zemlya/Arctic Gale. Of all the little snippets that were left on the site it was the most advanced, so I figured it would be a good thing to continue. I had most of the characters in mind, and some idea of a rough plot, so I thought I could go for it. I knew that I’d be going for the conspiracy, double-agent turns sympathizer kind of story from the outset, so I thought it was easy. I raced ahead and then found myself painted into a corner (if you’re interested, I had no way to get them out of the subway hideout – they were being hunted and I couldn’t think of anything that would make them not feel that way…). So I introduced some new characters and went along for a little bit, before realising that I needed to know where I was going. So I got out a pen and paper and sketched out the last two acts of the book.

My “plan” from mid 2014. I think I stuck to it… mostly


So, plan in hand, I wrote it out and celebrated by buying myself a nice pen and printing out the book. I was so confident in my story that I figured that I’d already start getting proof readers onto it. In my head, the story hung together and was a thing of beauty.


How wrong I was.When I re-read the story I realised that some of the basic “rules” of the world of Zemlya actually changed throughout the story. The characters were mostly being “baseballed” from one point to the next, and then suddenly everything started getting good. It just so happened that this “change” occurred just after they moved to the Country House; which you’ll note is the start of the image above.



There were a lot of changes between the version of the script I printed out at a a Kinko’s in Shibuya and the version that you can buy here. I think the final count was a changelog of over 1600 changes and about 20% of the text was altered. For comparison, Act 1 of Katawa Shoujo only has 1452 revisions, ad you can see in Silentcook’s KS Forums signature.



Initially, I sued Open Office to write with. I thought that all word processors were the same, so I figured that it would be good enough. Then I got Word. I know that a lot of people are down on Microsoft in general, but I can’t say I agree with you. Office has some really powerful tools. I use a lot of them for work and for hobbies. Here’s a free tip as well for those of you that are job-hunting. Unless you are a PivotChart wizard and you know how to split a document into sections and give them unique numbering in Word, don’t put “Microsoft Office” on your resume. I see this quite often; usually at the top of the “Skills” list. If you say that, then I will test you in your interview. If you can’t really wow someone with your Office skills, then don’t put it on there. Everyone can type a letter and do a Sum() formula…


Anyway, Word is great. I love the referencing tools there and the proofing tools are great as well. I use Track Changes on pretty much everything I do these days.


But since I’m trolling writing blogs and twitter accounts now, I keep seeing one name popping up all over the place: Scrivener. It’s a writing tool that lets you keep all sorts of scraps in one location, as well as being able to “corkboard” scenes before writing the meat of them.

So for Zemlya 2, I ‘m going to give it a try. I had originally wanted to have a kind of Prequel with Oscar and Wingett, but now that I think about it there is a really cool forward story that I can think of. I’m going to throw in a whole swag of new characters and also try to have three threads (instead of one) in the book. So hopefully this will help me out.

I’ll let you know how it goes and if it is worth the US$40. It looks like you can run it on two machines without any issues, but they don’t have an android app (only PC, Mac and iOS). Anyway, I think that it might be fun to do something “properly” from the outset.


Now I just need to find the time… (he says, sitting in an airport lounge and racing the clock before check-in…)



5 thoughts on “The Creative Process

  1. Hur-hur, this entry needs a lot of edits. Fascinating, though. One other thing: ‘Zemlya’ has a lot of use of names rather than pronouns, gets repetitive after a while.

    1. Ha. Yeah my blog writing is usually pretty fire-and-forget. It’s bad practice now that I think about it.

      I’m not really a fan of using too many pronouns to be honest. It can get really confusing if you aren’t careful. I often find that in pronoun heavy scenes you have to do a double read… Maybe that’s just me.

      On the flip side I did also think that I was using names and speech markers a little too much…

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