When I was still drafting the structure of this story, I had one objective in mind: I wanted to make it as long as a normal episode of Umineko. I didn't really have much confidence that I could pull it off; after all, my previous work (Witches & Woodlands) has barely 75000 words, including tea party and yonkoma. So, in other words, in spite of how long I've been working on it, I only wrote half as much text as what R07 usually writes for one of his releases.
This time I wanted to make it longer. While quality is still what matters the most in writing, quantity is not something that should be completely underestimated, and, as a novelist, I think it's important to improve the word count output. This was a challenge to me, a way to test my skills. In Witches & Woodlands I wanted to see if I could avoid descriptions completely by taking full advantage of the visual novel medium. This time I decided to do the opposite and to be as much descriptive as possible.
So now that I have reached the half-way mark, after a prologue and four chapters, how did I fare? According to my expectations, I should have written at least 75000 words by now. Well... the actual number is quite different. Not counting the repeated names at the start of each dialog, the current word count is: 153347. So, basically... I have already reached my objective, and I'm only half-way through... Translated in characters, that's 846289. You can find the character counts of Umineko episodes here for the sake of comparison.
To be honest, I find it hard to believe this, it doesn't feel like that much happened, at least I don't feel it that way, but you can't argue with numbers. This however brings me to the conclusion that I probably overdid it, I wrote too much! This was supposed to be a mystery novel (sort of), not an epic fantasy!
So well... I wanted to take this chance to hear the impressions of whoever is following this story. I don't even know how many of you there are. I think you must be at least 20, but it's hard to tell. For Witches & Woodlands I can simply look at the exact number of downloads (by the way, it's almost 1200! Thanks to everyone that advertised and reviewed it!), but the pageviews feed of this blog isn't really that reliable.
I consider Witch of Truth in "alpha" stage. Something this complex really shouldn't be published so carelessly, a single error could completely mess up the whole story, but... I'm doing my best, and so far there shouldn't be any relevant problem. And yet there are already so many things that I have changed from my original plan. One of the reasons it took so long for Chapter 4 to be written is that I had to completely rethink the whole confrontation with Kuon. I realized that if I did it according to the plan, I would have abused too much of a certain plot gimmick. It's just too convenient for the detective to be at the right time and place to find a relevant clue. I did it in Chapter 2 and there's still one in Chapter 4, I had to fix that somehow. I think it's acceptable now, but if I did more, I would have pushed it way too far.
So I spent several days studying the appropriate chess moves, but it was even more difficult to come up with the right arguments and counter-arguments. I've been stuck for at least two or three days. I couldn't come up with something that wouldn't make either Kuon or Erika look like a total idiot. In the end I'm glad that I didn't give up, because if I used the first few ideas I had, it would have been quite lame.
So I say, but that's just my perspective, I don't know what you actually think. Maybe some of you still think that was lame... If that's so, I apologize, that's the best I could do, at least know that I really tried.
Changing argument a bit, I think that by now you should have a reached a relatively good grasp of what kind of "mystery" this is. One of the most used tricks to hide relevant hints and therefore give a hard time to the sleuths is to add "noise" to the picture. Witch of Truth makes abundant use of that, but if it was just a series of pointless red herrings it wouldn't be nice. Instead I tried to make it so that even "noise" has a meaning, or rather, it's only "noise" if you care about the murder case and nothing else. Alongside the murder mystery there are a lot of other minor mysteries, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they are pointless. Erika is having as much "fun" at solving them as she has at piecing together the truth about the crime. There is obviously one character that is hiding the fact that he or she is a murderer, but the others are still hiding something. As Erika said, rather than a single puzzle you have several puzzles, and the respective pieces are all mixed together. Almost everything is a hint, but it could be a hint about something completely unrelated to the murder. Anyway my advice, if you want to enjoy this work to the fullest, is to not focus on the murder alone; there is a lot to reason about and solve. If you think something is odd or out of place, there's probably a reason. I say "probably" because I can't be 100% I didn't mess up anything, but really, at the end everything should make perfect sense. Even the idle chat between Dlanor and Erika are not completely devoid of any purpose.
I think I have said it before, but I'll repeat it: every single mystery of this story is meant to be solvable. I won't say that I intend to respect all the 20 Dine rules, though, those are way too limiting. No literary dilly-dallying? I think I have already broken that one. But there shouldn't be anything unfair or lame, and, by the way, there never was any rule that you should be able to understand everything from the first chapter. Don't worry, you'll know when you are supposed to have already understood who is the murderer.
It probably won't be that hard, my main concern is that you will end up thinking that this isn't a particularly exceptional case. Well... objectively it isn't. When you compare this story to the gameboards in Umineko, there's really a huge difference. The murder cases in R07's work are meant to be entertaining challenges, and there are several of them. Truly there isn't a murder mystery with a higher body count. That's certainly outstanding, but there's the problem that it's hard to come up with a good reason for someone to perform such a flamboyant serial murder. Whether R07 actually managed to provide a satisfying reason or not, was certainly the object of quite a lot of debates on animesuki.
For my story I really wanted to show something more "realistic", something that a real person would logically do in our real world, the price is that there isn't really anything as crazy as what you've seen in Umineko. This might be a downer for some, but I intend to compensate with other factors.
In fact, the best part should come now. If you enjoyed the first four chapters, and if I do everything right, you should enjoy the next four a lot more. I still haven't shown you the parts that made me think: "yes, this is really a story that I want to write". So far there wasn't really anything exceptional, at least in my opinion. It makes me wonder even more if I really had to write this much to reach my purpose...
This week I won't be writing anything else, there are a few things that I want to catch up with, and I am preparing a little "surprise". I should be able to finish it by Saturday. Don't worry though, I don't want you to get the wrong idea that I'm abandoning this project or anything, this will still be my main focus.
So, well... let me know your general impressions, that might be useful for me to understand if I'm doing something wrong, or if I need to do some adjustment. However don't make me any questions! I won't answer, he he...