Finally finished editing.
Having finally completed such an important task after such a long time, I should’ve screamed my message across three times with one exclamation mark after each word. Still, I said it this plainly.
The first version had 520k words in its main story, and the edited version 570k. To me, it was a huge undertaking. Both the writing and the editing took a couple of months. I can’t say which one was harder or which one I struggled with more, but with both there was bliss amidst the pain.
During the serialization, because of reality’s pressure on top of the rush in one update per day, I had to hurry across many places I originally wanted to expand upon. There were also many details and problems with logic I didn’t have time to go through. Now, I’ve finally written to my contentment, having added the plot and rivalry scene I wanted. For example: the uncontrollable kiss that happened at the hunt competition in WWX’s past life was one I skipped because during the serialization I didn’t have the energy to slowly think through how such a large-scale competition/recruitment fair would work; the path of how NMJ and JGY turned from friends to enemies; LWJ following WWX to Burial Mound and the battle of the blood corpses at Burial Mound in WWX’s present life were ones I skipped because I didn’t have the patience to write fight scenes; acknowledging SiZhui’s background was simply one I forgot…
The areas where I got lazy were filled up one by one during the editing process. In summary, the new version that came the edits is in my heart closer to this story’s original form. In other words, to me, this one right now is the ‘original’ MDZS.
I know too many people have read the old version and that some impressions were too deeply rooted for all of its effects to be removed without difficulty, as well as that there’d definitely be many voices of doubt. But I’ve heard my fair share of voices of doubt back when MDZS was serializing. They were there the whole way. I know there are lots of things that can’t satisfy everyone, so I chose to satisfy myself. When I look back at this story, at least I’ve written everything I wanted to write, and there wouldn’t be too many regrets.
Apparently when writing summaries and postscripts one has to reminisce the past times, so I’ll be reminiscing a bit as well. When I started to work out the outline of this story was the last year of university. Every night over at the field, I’d take a stroll listening to music, worrying about the goddamn graduation thesis as I uncontrollably made things up in my head.
What first drove me to write such a story seemed to be a blurry scene that appeared in my head: in a forest surrounded by rain and darkness, a person in black with a pale complexion and blood on his face snapped in half something in his hand, his expression cold. It was either a flute or an arrow.
I don’t remember how this scene appeared either. There was no logic to support it. I neither knew whom the person was nor why he had such an expression on his face, but I was indeed touched by an inexplicable feeling. And then I suddenly grew interested. I began to think what kind of person he’d be, what kind of journeys he would’ve come through, trying hard to create detailed, logically-complete plots for him, transform everything into words, and then attempt to touch others.
First there was an emotion, then a character, and at last a story. In the process of transformation, expression, and conveyance, the energy would naturally be shifted and lost. But with my current self, I’ve tried my best.
Anyways, there are many things I’d need to fumble and learn.
Thinking and writing about scenes with chemistry or conflict (also known as flirting and fighting) were beyond wonderful experiences. The former were like smuggling Emperor’s Smile, copying scriptures sitting across each other when they were young, Caiyi Town (yes I adore every single scene from when they were students), getting all touchy-bitey in the Xuanwu cave, as well as scenes of Forceful President HanGuang-Jun and His Mad Yet Passionate Runaway Wife (???), and so on. The latter were like Madam Yu against Wang LingJiao, Yi City’s candidates doing the you-stab-me-and-I-stab-him, Jiang Cheng attacking WangXian at the ancestral hall in Lotus Pier for being shameless gays (hey!), and so on…
All these were the biggest joys the MDZS story has brought me. They’re joys no other thing could ever compare to.
To me, MDZS was definitely an especially important story. At first, I had no idea that so many people would come across this story. Because of it, I experienced many unthinkable things and got to know many great people. It was a rollercoaster of emotions both inside and outside the story. There was a time when I seemed like I came right out of an asylum. Because it was an experimental work, it had too many immature sections. In some places, no matter how hard I try to change things, the framework was already set and it was very difficult for me to edit it until I was completely satisfied. But looking back on it now, it was another footprint of my growth.
But I really don’t want to write or edit it again. Not only does it not correspond with how online novels are read, it also brings me a second round of torture… So from now on, I’ll complete the draft and publish it after all edits.
During the first period of serialization when I tried to get used to things, I wrote with quite a lot of choppiness and caution, but the more I wrote, the deeper connections I felt with the characters of the story. While serializing and editing I felt tired to death, wondering why haven’t I finished yet, but after I really finished, typing the Enter key a couple of times at the end of the Word document and writing ‘The End’, I instead felt rather unwilling to part.
Even though I knew it was only the end of the main story and there’d be extras to come, I still didn’t want to part with it.
The day the main story was completed, in feigned culture, I originally decided to end with a line from a poem. The line was “the melody ceases and none is to be seen; the river streams beneath columns of mountains green”*. But in the end, I never ended up using it, probably because even though the poem was beautiful, sophisticated, and very meaningful, it wasn’t the ending I hoped for. It was too lonely, too melancholy.
*TN: Translated with reference to unknown translation “The song is ended, no one is to be seen. On the river the mountain peaks are so blue!” from dict.cn.
And what I hoped for was “on and on the WangXian melody drifts; the song ceases yet the figures persist”.
The clamour will take its exit, while you and I will persist.
—Mo Xiang Tong Xiu 2016.08.12
Finally finished writing…
This is my second long series as well as my second original danmei. During the serialization process, there have been many ups and downs. After the last chapter, I do feel a sense of being freed from suffering, but when I saw the page that recorded my outline finally be blank after deleting it bit by bit, I also feel somewhat unwilling to part with it.
After I finished Scum Villain, I’d been mulling over this story for half a year. This is the first time I challenged a story with a greater number of characters and more complex relationships. I spent a long time writing the outline, always feeling unsatisfied with it and changing things here and there. In the end, I really couldn’t drag things on anymore, and grit my teeth and published it. The first few chapters were fairly rushed, and my drafts were intermittent as well. The longest draft was the part where they killed that turtle, with seven thousand words. The rest were mainly raw updates without any drafts. It was all thanks to Mr. Outline that I could keep up with daily updates for a while. But after all, the outline wasn’t detailed enough. There were still times when I felt so stuck I could ram my head and hands into the wall.
Nice details and interactions need to be perfected by time and energy, and time and energy were exactly what frequent updates lacked. During the serialization, it wasn’t that I couldn’t see the many problems, but rather that I knew, yet I couldn’t pay attention to them and could only force my way forward. And so… after a period of rest, I’ll make heavy edits on the entire story, enriching the details, adding plot elements, changing places that didn’t logically make sense, editing sentences. At around May or June, I’ll replace the old version on JJWXC altogether. If any readers would like to come back and revisit it, they’d probably find many Easter eggs in the edited version XD.
The following includes some of my thoughts during the writing process.
First, on the fantasy setting:
One good thing about fantasy stories is that you don’t have to be too historically correct and you can make changes to certain customs however you want. The conventions in this story are mainly from the Wei, Jin, Southern and Northern Dynasties as well as the Tang Dynasty. Chairs were rare. To ‘sit’ usually means to sit on one’s knees. The ceremonial clothes were mostly the Tang cap and the round-collar robe. However, chilli peppers and apples appeared even though they only happened in the Ming Dynasty. The hip-and-gable roof on the buildings were named in the Qing Dynasty. The vocabulary and poem allusions were even more examples of time-travelling. And the age at which one was given a courtesy name was lowered to fifteen. Anyhow, the author pretty much massaged together all of the Ancient China elements she liked and brewed them in a pot. There’s no accuracy at all. So whatever. Just read about the characters and the story.
But there’s just one thing. People from the past really did call their mothers ‘Mom’.
Second, on character:
Both WWX and LWJ are highly ideal characters, so there wouldn’t be too much dispute on their moral standing. They’re perfect as the protagonists. Of course, I do like WWX a lot, but if I’m looking for a boyfriend, sorry, I’ll only have LWJ please.
All of their character elements were created in binary opposition. The bold and the principled, the concealed yearning and the flaunting coquetry, the red rose and the white rose, the cold, dignified one and the devilish, untamed one… The more different they were, the better. Still, their core was the same. Which usually means their outlook on life is the same? In any case, this isn’t the point. The point is that I love the chemistry between them!
The characters Xiao XingChen and Xue Yang are pretty much old friends of mine. In high school, every evening self-studying session* I’d pay no attention to studying, sneakily writing things down on a notebook. That was when I settled on their names and overall personalities. But back then, there wasn’t a full plot or any context. There were only a few fragments of their interactions, some of which I directly put into the story, such as drawing sticks to determine who to purchase the vegetables. To have characters and pieces of dialogue that previously only existed in my head be seen by everyone and discussed so fervently is a curious feeling indeed.
*TN: In China, a day in class may last for quite a long time. Apart from class, there are also morning and evening self-studying sessions where you have to remain at school. The evening ones can last until nine or ten.
When writing paragraphs about Xue Yang, I had to adjust my mentality to be in the darkest, cruellest state, while it was the exact opposite for Xiao XingChen, from whom I felt holy light every time I wrote about him. Switching between the angel and the devil brought quite some satisfaction. But ever since XY officially walked onstage, the comments section suddenly exploded. He’s indeed the owner of Jiangzai*.
TN: Jiangzai, XY’s sword, means to release catastrophe.
There was only one key word in A-Qing’s original character setting: ‘bouncy’. Apart from this, there was almost nothing. I only came up with her name they day before she appeared. After the details were fleshed out, I sometimes even feel that she’s kind of cute. But writing about her really felt so noisy… almost as if there was really a girl chirping around in a high pitch.
Before I finished coming up with anything else about Wen Ning, what I first decided on was, “He has to die!” “I’m going to make him die!” The original plan was to make him turn into ash on the boat leaving Lotus Pier, but when I wrote up to that point, I turned around and found that there wasn’t enough foreshadowing. And there wasn’t a reason he had to die, was there? Killing him off would be very abrupt, almost as if I was angsting for the sake of angst. So even though I really wanted him to die, I could do nothing but give up. It was the same with our little princess Jin Ling. He was also supposed to die. In order to defeat the big villain, he turned himself into a fierce corpse to replace Wen Ning. But since Wen Ning didn’t die, he wouldn’t have to replace him either.
Everyone should know what Jiang Cheng’s keyword is without me saying it. In the beginning, I thought with with XY’s existence, Jiang Cheng’s negative energy would definitely seem skimpy. Who knew he became the ultimate superstar of the comment section? Compared to him, XY was almost a poor, has-been idol. Only now and then would someone decide to drag him out again. Of course, in the end, under the combined PDA attacks of WWX and LWJ, the past and present superstars were obliterated.
LXC. I have no idea why some readers think he’s someone who ‘hides his wit deep inside. In truth… I’ve never shown any traits of his that could be interpreted this way. To be able to see through his brother’s little thoughts doesn’t mean it’s the same with others, and to become sect leader didn’t require deep thoughts and acute perception. Perhaps it was only because he had a high birth, nice personality and excellent performance… Maybe it was because I accidentally made him too favourable in the beginning that in the end everyone was like ‘WTF you’re actually just sweet, pure, and oblivious?!’ I feel so bad for him with how much fans he lost on his way. Pat pat, LXC.
JGY. Fine. Sometimes I do feel a bit bad for you but sorry please return to your glorious state of death.
NHS. Ugh… I really feel sorry for him. I deleted so much of his part and I even got rid of a good partner for him… Let me see if I could fix things up in the edited version… Anyways, NHS, I’m sorry.
Those who caused the most debate were mostly round characters, and so there is of course flat characters to foil them, like Wen Chao, JiaoJiao, and the people who only follow the herd. Flat characters actually have an important responsibility. Their standpoint is clear. Everyone could curse at them to let off some steam unlike the former, whom some hated and some loved, creating endless dispute. And thus, this was the type of character that SQH* likes to write about. If all of the characters in a book are complex and round, I don’t know if the readers would feel tired. Anyways, with my current abilities, it’d definitely tire me out when writing them…
TN: Here the author refers to Shang QingHua, one of the characters in her previous novel The Scum Villain’s Self-Saving System who is an author himself. His pen name has been translated differently by different translators and the pun’s kind of hard to deal with, but just generally it means “fapping towards the sky”. Yep. For more on Scum Villain check out BC Novels at http://bcnovels.com/the-scum-villains-self-saving-system/.
Third, on practice:
I’ve said in the ‘Author’s Notes’* of the first few chapters that this is a work of self-fulfilment written to improve my abilities.
*TN: Most of these haven’t been translated because they either only pertain to the drama of the Chinese fandom (false plagiarism accusations, problems with copyright, attempts to regulate the actions of toxic fans, etc.) or just simple comments that don’t matter all that much. You’re not missing out on anything, trust me.
When I was stuck at the outline, I’ve already anticipated many negative comments that I’d soon receive, preparing myself for what was to come. For example: the main character is too forgiving; too much holding back and not enough lashing out; the flashbacks are just too annoying; why do the side characters get so many scenes; too easy to forget about what happened before after reading what happened next… A lot of these did indeed happen.
What I was most worried about was that she might not be good.
Scum Villain had the advantage of including popular elements, such as parody, tsukkomi*, and transmigrating into a novel. But, after all, parody and tsukkomi aren’t intrinsic things. So this story was an attempt to see if without these things, what I write would still be readable.
*TN: The Japanese term for a comedian in a double-act who plays the ‘straight man’ who berates and comments on the acts of the boke, or the ‘funny man’. This has a Chinese alternative which is called tucao. The two are similar in many ways, and tucao humor is quite popular in net-novels.
During the practicing process, more and more questions were dug up.
Like Empathy. The goal of Empathy is simple—to insert the stories of side characters. I was using it like a variation of the point-of-view switch, but the technique is so simple that it’s almost a shortcut.
And also like the agonizingly long flashbacks that so many criticized. It’s not a favored writing method. Ever since the first section, readers have abandoned the story because of it. More and more happened as time went on, and the controversy got bigger and bigger as well, but I still followed the outline and insert three uber-long flashbacks.
When I was writing the outline, I’d also considered if I should disassemble the plot of WWX’s past life and the pieces bit by bit inside the story. My conclusion was that if it were disassembled, the structure and timeline would be even messier and it’d be even harder to read. The completeness of the plot would be destroyed, and the emotions wouldn’t flow smoothly either. Strictly speaking, this story consists of two parallel stories of the past and present lives, of two segments of life. A few minor memories could be fragmented, but the important phases and the transitional events couldn’t be summarized. And in the end, I still decided to use a method I thought could express things the best. When writing, on some things one should take suggestions, but on others it’s best to persist. No matter if others think it was ‘the best’ or ‘the worst’, it was still my attempt.
There were also a few plot elements that I blurred over because I wasn’t in the best state, and a few characters didn’t end up as strong as they could’ve been… I hope I could fix all these things during the editing process.
Fourth, on gratitude:
The perception of the author and the reader are often poles apart. It’s rather difficult for the author to predict what comments they’d receive after the story is published or whether or not it’d be liked and acknowledged by the reader. The author might feel great, but the reader might not get it at all; a plot element on which the author spent tons of effort might not be received well in the eyes of the reader. Situations where the author scribbled around and the reader enthusiastically chased after it were very common.
I wrote this story with the determination that it’d fail and that’d be alright. Inserting so many flashbacks into a net-novel was an absolute indicator that it was going to fail. On top of that, even though the hot element of rebirth was tagged, it unfortunately had none of the pleasure-points that most rebirth novels include. This was why ever since the first few chapters I’d been emphasizing over and over again that this would be different from the last book, worried that readers who liked Scum Villain might not find this one palatable. I wouldn’t want you to be disappointed after you come all the way here to support me.
But I never expected that even though the last book was completed more than a year ago, the readers on JJWXC are still as passionate as ever. It’s just like what I said. You really give me an utmost surprise every single time.
There are too many subjects, too many characters, and too many stories I want to write about. There’s a whole pile in my notes, of which I don’t know which one to begin first. I’m currently still searching around, writing and learning at the same time. I hope every story is different, so I can’t guarantee every book I write the readers will love. I can only guarantee that I’ll pour my heart in every one of them. If you just so happen to find it decent, I’m happy to inform you that we’ll be able to walk yet another path together :).
Short Note From K
But wait! Don’t leave yet! The main story is complete, but there’s a total of 14 extras, along with some other funsies like a few more author’s notes, an incomplete collection of the Lan Sect’s rules, and, uh, anything else you want translated? Here are a few useful links that you might want to check out:
The Scum Villain’s Self Saving System (BC Novels) (MXTX first book): http://bcnovels.com/the-scum-villains-self-saving-system/
Heaven Official’s Blessing (Sakhyulations) (MXTX third book):
Novel Updates thread for Grim Reapers Have No Days Off (MXTX fourth book, unpublished):
Directory of GDC Novel Updates thread (just the most useful thing you’ll ever come across):
Cloud Recesses Translations (lots of cool tutorials, amazing translations of everything MXTX-related, fanart-repost heaven, and just generally a really nice group that deserves more appreciation):
As a last note, I have to reiterate once more that the raws on JJWXC do cost money to read, which means translating the paid chapters and posting them here is theoretically not a great idea. However, it should also be acknowledged that we translation groups are gaining the franchise an audience it wouldn’t have been able to reach in the first place, doing no harm to the novel’s profit and taking no profit for ourselves. Still, a few other translators I know are making it a requirement for readers to pay in order to access the paid chapters. While this wasn’t something I found necessary, I nonetheless urge you to contribute to the author on the JJWXC platform as a means of thanking her for such a wonderful story.
There are two methods to do this. One is to simply buy all of the paid chapters from JJWXC. However, while this is usually an easy process, the problem with this right now is that the GDC novel page on JJWXC is locked and inaccessible due to an incident that happened a while ago. Another method is to ‘throw bombs’, which is more like directly donating to the author. This can be done on MXTX’s author page, so even while the novel is locked, readers can contribute here. A handy guide on how to register for a JJWXC account and how to purchase novel chapters can be found here (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1ikGyfFiI4SQe2NmrNsJ3sgV71Iv6e5tGqN9i8SZbuSA/edit). While there’s not yet a guide on how to throw bombs/other methods of supporting the author, by the end of the extras, I’ll either have made one myself or have
bribed asked someone nicely to make one.