The Anime Pulse #22 – I’ll Just Do It Myself

Hello everyone and welcome to another edition of The Anime Pulse. It has been a while since I wrote a column, but I had the Summer Anime Season’s reviews, the Fall Anime Season’s First Reactions, and other little projects to keep me busy. Now that it has all settled down, it’s time to get back into the swing of things with writing columns.

So there was one thing I wanted to discuss in this week’s column and it may actually help some people who are looking to creating their own material. Let’s face it… you’ve read a manga, watched an anime, played a visual novel, etc and said “I could totally do better!” or “This is something I want to try my hand at.” At some moment in time, you muttered those words or had those thoughts.

Some people are passive about it and choose not to act, but there are others who do choose to do so for varying reasons, including the ones up above. I should know because I am one of those people. I don’t believe I can “do it better” necessarily, but I have had an idea floating in my head for YEARS that I’ve wanted to get out there into the world. While this has been something that i’ve wanted to do for a while, that drive and passion to try and get this idea out there only became heightened after watching Steins;Gate because my idea, too, involves the notion of time travel as it is my favorite science fiction genre. I kept saying to myself “I really need to do this!” and I have either procrastinated or have found several distractions and this whole project ended up on the back burner.

Not to go off on a complete tangent here, but I did want to emphasize that while Steins;Gate is not perfect, it does a wonderful job depicting the consequences of changing events in different time periods. It brings the whole notion of “You step on a bug and then your grandparents don’t ever exist” into a well thought out front. It was after seeing this that my idea could actually work and it even opened my eyes to how complex I could make it. Had I not seen that anime, my story would have been really generic. I’m almost glad I didn’t start this venture sooner because of that.

So what am I doing about it? Well, I am a creative person on several different levels. My biggest and strongest point lies within my creative writing. I don’t have any published works, but I have written many short stories in my time here on this planet and I keep improving with each and every one. I’ve even received a lot of great feedback from peers who have read a couple of my stories and that boosted my confidence in my writing ability. Then that confidence was even magnified when my professors in college praised me for my ability to create characters, worlds, and stories in such a way where my words were very “visual.”

So I tried to obtain the artistic skills to compliment my written skills. I didn’t know how to draw five or six years ago, but I started watching YouTube videos of people like Cartoon Block, Sophie-chan, and Mark Crilley. I’ve even purchased some how to draw books as well to try and self study. I’m not ashamed to admit that in order to learn how to form lines, I did a lot of tracing in the beginning. Once I got the hang of tracing, I began trying my hand at reproducing images just by looking at them. That was the hard part of the journey, but I got better and better at it, but then…

I hit a wall.

Even though I still draw to this day… heck, I tried drawing a concept of my main character before writing this column… I still can’t get to the level I want to be at. I know that art doesn’t necessarily make a hit (look at the origins of One Punch Man for example), but when you want to make a manga, you’d want it to look as pleasing as possible. Keep in mind, though, I didn’t just draw for a few months and give up… I’ve been trying to get better for years, but no matter how hard I practiced, I could only seem to achieve a certain level.

During this, I also learned digital art. Creating logos, textures, 3D models, etc. While I have never attempted anything like modeling a human being or creature, but I have created lots of logos (including the one for this very column), and textures to be used in 3D environments. I figured if I could make some backgrounds, I could transition my idea of making a manga into a Visual Novel!

I then began to do research into different (free) engines to make a Visual Novel because I never took a single programming class in my life and the one time that I did try to learn programming on my own, I failed to make Hello World using a step by step guide… yes.. I’m THAT bad at programming.

When I looked into the different types of Visual Novel engines, a lot of them allowed you to import backgrounds or use stock images that they already had loaded into the engine, but the problem still came up over the characters. I didn’t want to use stock characters… I wanted the characters that were in my head and not something generic and pre-made. Call it ego, I suppose, but I truly wanted the characters as I pictured them, otherwise I felt that something would be lost. So now we’re back to my initial problem of not being able to draw very well.

So I did some thinking and decided to play to my strongest point: writing. Instead of going for a Manga or a Visual Novel, I decided to do something that I’ve been doing very well almost my whole life… and that’s write a story. Yes, I won’t be able to visually represent anything, but I had to look at what I was good at and come to a compromise. So I settled on writing a Light Novel and I already have my first chapter drafted. I just need to find the time to sit down, proofread it, and make some edits to it.

So what does my personal story have to do with this column?

Well, I wanted to use it as an example for anyone out there who wants to do the same thing because there are a lot of people who love anime and love manga and want to create something of their own. Maybe they’ve read a Doujinshi or saw people have their own booths at conventions and thought that they could do the same thing.

The first piece of advice I could give is play to your biggest strength. If drawing is your biggest strength, but you can’t write a story to save your life, then ask someone who can. Some amazing works are created by a two-man team. Just look at Bakuman and Death Note as an example. If you’re like me and can’t draw at the level you’d expect, but can write, the same advice applies. If you’re wondering, I have asked around, but all of my friends who can draw couldn’t devote the necessary time to help me with such a project.

Realize that there are other avenues. Writing a Light Novel isn’t my ideal end game for my story, but it doesn’t mean I hate the idea of going that direction. In fact, I love it simply because it is a way that’s easy for me to tell the story I want to tell. It’s actually taught me that dreaming big is all fine and well, but there is also the reality that sometimes dreams are a bit too ambitious and while they are certainly still achievable they may, in fact, just not be feasible for the time being, as in my case.

So once you sort that out, have the game plan set to go, and are ready to create your work, the question that comes up all the time is “What do I do with it once it’s done?” That question is often answered with “How much money do you have?”

If you truly desire a physical copy of your work, then prepare to pay for it. You need to find a printer that will print it, bind it, etc. You need to purchase an ISBN for every version of it that you plan on distributing and that adds up. This is if you decide to self publish. If you go through a company, be prepared to fork over thousands to hire them, have it proofread, edited, finalized, printed, shipped, copyrighted, and all of that wonderful stuff and on top of all of that, you may end up losing a lot of rights to your work in the process, not to mention that if you sell it for money, the publisher is also going to take a chunk of it despite the fact that you’ve already paid for their services. There’s also the rolling of the dice when finding a publisher because a lot of them are out for money and not your best interests. So if you go that route, do your homework and be careful!

If you’re strapped for cash, like I am, then the best way is to go digital. You could list your finished work on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc and pay a small fee or no fee at all. If you sell copies, you typically get a larger chunk of the proceeds and you retain all of your rights to the work. If you want to go the almost completely free route, you could always set up your own website, but you would be responsible for all of your marketing. You’d have to get your website set up for SEO, lock your product behind a paywall so people just don’t right click -> Save As on your work, etc. Basically, if you plan to sell your story then you need to think about your ROI (Return on Investment) and how you can make your money back and profit from it. It’s all based on individual scenarios.

But like the path to creating the work, you have many options to introduce that work to the world. You just need to find the one that works for you. Hopefully my process and journey to find the path that works for me gives you a good idea of how and where to start.

If you are working on something, let me know about it! I’d love to hear about the stories you want to create! Also, if you wish to drop me a line about anything in general, you can do so by submitting it to joshpiedra@theouterhaven.net. If you feel inclined to do so, you can also follow me on Twitter @Pulsein.

Until next time,

Ja ne!

About The Author

Josh Piedra

Josh (or J.J. as some have come to call him), is a long-time geek culture enthusiast with a deep passion for anime, manga and Japanese culture. Josh also has a Bachelor of Arts in Game Design and is a creative writer who has created original content for over 20 years! He is also the author of the original English light novel Final Hope.

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