Anyone Can Write A Light Novel!
The first step I take into Kariya’s office shakes the very foundations of the thirty-storey building. The reception situated at the very entrance sandwiches itself between wooden structures, both ceiling and flooring, inviting a calming experience not unlike a library. The walls are plastered with posters of various published works like accolades to their name. But I see them as nothing more than the grime beneath my boots. At the end of today, they’ll all be worthy sacrifices to lift my name over the clouds.
The receptionist, in a casual blouse tilts her head upwards as I drop my elbow over the counter. Fingers still on the keyboard, she asks,
“Do you have an appointment?”
I scoff, giving my collar a light tug. “Ito Ryuji, 3 o’clock.” I flash her my pearly whites, and I can her a loud ting in my head.
She runs a quick search on the computer, then follows up with a nod. “Oh yes, your meeting is on the 14th floor. I’ll contact the editor. He’ll arrive shortly.”
This receptionist girl better get used to my face, because by the end of today, she’ll be seeing it daily. I pull on my sleeves and spin ninety degrees, sliding my shoes against the shiny, smooth surface. There wasn’t a queue to the elevator, the people of this company instinctively stayed back to make way for their uncrowned king. The moment the metal doors part, I witness a large poster promoting Blade Reincarnation Phantasia –The Movie-.
Normally, this fills me with rage. But today, I can look upon it with a sneer. It was nothing more than the last enemy to be trounced. Once I’ve built my throne upon the pile of corpses, the spiteful existence of this franchise will be buried beneath my superior capabilities.
Counting ten seconds for anyone else to join me, soon as I was met with nothing, I let the doors shut and press the button for the floor that marks my destiny. The piercing ding that comes after half a minute is followed by a luminance of light pouring from the outside.
To my left is the hustle and bustle of an office, muted by an array of glass windows, a single door marked ‘personnel only’ as filtration. And to my right is the meeting room, hidden away in a similar manner, which I believe is to be mine for the taking. I throw myself upon a leather chair, bathed in the cold air of vents that duels the heat of summer. With high spirits, balance the chair on its two legs, hands on the table as safety precaution.
Five minutes turns to ten, the little sways I make upon this chair help me calm my nerves. While I know I’ve written a masterpiece anyone would want to publish, time itself is the greatest breeder of doubt. No matter how much I proofread through my own piece, I find a new mistake or a phrasing that I feel I should change. Perhaps I see a character say something and think that I could make the reader see him in another breath if I have him act differently. Or maybe…
No, there is no need for that. I’m already here. This is the point where changes can’t be made. I just need confidence. I shouldn’t doubt myself. I know I’ve got this in the bag.
A scraggly, aged man steps toward the door, a brow raised at me from behind the transparent wall dividing us. His clothes consist of a disheveled shirt with an unironed blazer over it. His overgrown curled hair falls in every direction, like an afro, albeit with a modern touch. He gives off the vibe of a man with too much to do, too little time work with. With a scratch at his stubble, he pushes the door open and greets me with a question.
“That’s me, alright.” I declare with utmost confidence. “I’ll take it that you’re my editor.”
“Yes, no, maybe. My name’s Mikado Fuyuki, address me however you want.”
He scratches at his neck with tightened eyes as he slides a business card across the table. His hand reaches for the seat opposite mine and then he drops his weight on it. He places a sling bag on the table and takes out a large pile of papers from it, one I’m all too familiar with.
With a raised chin and fingers through the pages, he begins talking business in his gravelly voice which sounded like ten years’ worth of smoking. “These days, people send their manuscripts by e-mail. I’m a little behind on the times, so imagine my surprise to have a whole book sent to us in the mail. But…” His weary eyes shift from the manuscript to my face. “You do know that we only want the first chapter, right?”
“I thought that I’d want to deliver the whole experience. I’m a solid believer in finishing a book before passing judgment.”
“Guys in my line have to read hundreds of amateur work every day, so we have to be able to deliver that judgment from the first chapter alone. No, by the summary alone. If not that, we’d scout around for anything making the waves.” His finger taps against the tabletop in two fluid motions. “Web novels are how we usually do it, but I’m no fan of this new digital age. Call me a traditionalist if you will.”
I feel my nerves tensing up. Even if I have this in the bag, there’s an underlying fear of failure the closer you get to the finish line.
“Regarding your book. Rosaria, was it? Yes, I read the first chapter, then skimmed the rest of it. From a cursory glance, I can say your control of language is impressive. From how you control the flow of the action through you words and descriptions, you paint a vivid image of this world. It’s got a polish to it that you wouldn’t find from an amateur…” His lower lip covers his upper lip as an eyebrow is raised. “You’ve published before, no?”
Hah. Seems my worries are for nothing. An editor’s naturally looking for a rising star to add to their resume, so they could say that they were the ones who discovered that talent. In this negotiation, I have the advantage because the truth of the matter is one no editor could resist.
“Not even once.”
Mikado stiffens up, clearly not expecting that answer. With a tilt of the head, he continues. “Interesting. How long have you been writing for?”
“As long as I remember.”
“It shows. The content of your work has parallels with Chinese history, and the worldbuilding and political structures are intricately designed. The battle you wrote in the first chapter is tactically sounds yet also very intense. You’re well-read.”
I knew I could believe in an editor over some dumb, tasteless otaku. He knows good storytelling when he sees one. It comes with the experience. After wading through a swamp of crock, the treasure I so graciously bestowed upon him shone like a light leading him out of his horrid occupation. With me at his side, he knows he’ll change the very face of this trite industry. Now that he acknowledges my superiority, all that’s left for him is to beg for a contract from me.
“Unfortunately, I can’t publish Rosaria in its current state.”
“To begin with… The prose is too thick in many areas. It’s better suited for older audiences, not the ones we target. If you were more renowned, you can get away with it. But as a brand new author, heavy prose like this is sure to dissuade readers who don’t know what they’re getting into.”
He’s spouting the same crap like Tsukishima. All this nonsense about writing something deplete of your own creativity and inspirations. All to capture a certain audience…
“As for the plot… Straight fantasies without any crossing of worlds aren’t exactly unpopular, but there’s a reason we publish less of it. Audiences these days aren’t attracted to an ordinary fantasy since they would rather relate to a protagonist similar to them. That’s why parallel worlds have become our bread and butter. But if you want to do a straight fantasy, you’ll have to put in some shocking elements to grasp readers. Even if it bumps the age rating up some notches.”
“Shocking elements as in…?”
He reels back against his chair with gritted teeth. “How should I put it… Let’s use an example. Orc Slaughterer. Do you know that title?”
“See, we publish that book alongside every other title. From the first chapter alone, it depicts the violence of the orcs in their world and details the gruesome things they do to the humans they take captive. Especially the women.”
“Uhm… What do they do to the women?”
He bites his lip and sheepishly rolls his eyes away. “What do you think is the worst thing a villain can do to a heroine?”
The answer to that question becomes clear to me immediately. “Right…”
“You get it. Shying away from extreme content like that will be a loss for you. So if you want to write fantasy without such elements, I highly recommend you do parallel worlds or reincarnation as a theme. Moving away from that discussion, there is a major flaw in Rosaria that I believe would be its undoing.”
A sweat rolls down my cheek. “And that is…?”
He drops it on the table with a loud thud. “You didn’t write a single female character in this. I don’t know if you noticed, but we hire artists to draw the covers and illustrations to draw readers to the book. Attractive women are the main draw, and it shows in our sales that popular artists boost the sales of the publication.”
“Wait. That doesn’t make sense.” My hand grips at the armrest as my body rises from the chair. “You’re selling novels, aren’t you? The contents and the story are the main draw. Why would it share the spotlight with drawings that make up five pages at best?”
His mouth opens as if he was about to answer that before it clamped up. He then strokes at his stubble with a raised brow. “Ito, you’re not exactly familiar with this industry, are you? I realized from your writing style that it has no ties to Light Novel stylings at all, but now I’m deftly sure. Is there any reason you submitted Rosaria to our company?”
Saying something about how I want to get back at their main moneymaker and dethrone him out of a grudge is a surefire way to get rejected. That’s why the only way I can answer him would be…
“I thought it was prospective.”
“Prospective, huh…? I suppose that’s one way to see it. Still, I’d think you’d have a brighter future at another company given your inclinations. So, unless you’re willing to make changes—”
My mouth spoke before my brain processed anything. My whole body resents the very thought of trotting behind Sawamura Aki. I have to scrape at everything I can if it means I can take him down. That’s why, even if it’s for an editor who wants to water down my masterpiece to become some bile garbage, I have to accept these terms.
He scoffs. The balance of powers has tipped to his favor and he’s relishing in it. “Straightforward and to the point. I like that in a writer.” He points at the manuscript and gives it another tap. “The problems lie all over this book, so you’d have to rewrite every paragraph to get it into a publishable state. At that point, you might as well write a whole other book, no?”
“That’s a long-winded way to say you’re completely rejecting Rosaria.”
“Oh, no, I just believe it’s too much effort. Your time is better served making a friendlier debut work. Who knows, if it sells well, we could justify publishing Rosaria while marketing your name.” He slouches back, a dry grin plastered from cheek to cheek. “It goes without saying, but you’ll need more girls in your story. The main cast should consist of one male and multiple females. That would make for an attractive cover.”
My mouth gapes just from listening to things he’s spouting.
“Don’t forget to write those characters around certain archetypes. Our audience is drawn toward familiarity. Put your own spin on it to keep it fresh, but don’t stray too far or they won’t be able to grasp it. I’ve worked in this industry for twenty years, and you can’t believe the number of haughty schoolgirls I’ve read. It’s a trend that never dies.”
Everything… Everything that comes out of his mouth is corporate bile. This man enticed me with compliments at the beginning to draw me into his company, only to swerve all my creative directions towards the marketability. Why are all editors like this…? They don’t care about the author’s vision, they just want to pocket some cash.
“You seem dissatisfied.” He utters as his smile turns upside down. “Are you not willing to make those changes?”
“No, I mean… I am.”
He clasps his hands together as the edge of his lip tightened to his cheek. “Good. Keep my card. Then contact me when you’re done. I’m a busy man, so I’ve got to go now.” He pushes his chair back and heads for the door, not even bothering with my manuscript. With a wave of the hand and his back turned, he leaves with a half-hearted, “Later.”
Five whole minutes passes before the anger boiling within me dissipates. I quietly take the manuscript into my hand and make my way out the building. The ride back felt twice as long as the journey going there, even though I’m going the same route. All I could think of was how badly I wanted to rip off the obnoxious posters that’s plastered all over their walls.
That company’s built on an endless loop that creates consumers from their products, then has those very consumers create the same product and sell it to even more consumers. And if Mikado was telling the truth, they’ve been at it for almost twenty years! This industry’s crazy! It keeps feeding itself everything that it excretes! Any form of creativity would get ripped apart by this loop.
It disgusts me. I hate it. And yet, if I want to take down Sawamura Aki, that place is my best shot at it. And the price I have to pay for that is… My dignity. Is that price something I’m willing to pay? I keep hearing that question echo in my head over and over.
Arriving home with a sullen face, I’m sure I’d be met with Tsukishima’s catty smirk as she asks how my meeting went. I can see it in my head already, the way she will pour salt on my wounds. How she would laugh at me till I proclaim that she’s right. But I won’t let her get the leg up on me. Slapping both cheeks my palms, I throw on a good poker face. With a twist of the keys, the door unlocks, and the sight that greets me beyond the creaking door is…
An unconscious Tsukishima.