There are two types of knitters. Product knitters love the finished product. That’s their reason for knitting: a beautiful object to wear or give away. Process knitters prefer the act to the end result. They knit for the stitches, not for the resulting scarf.
I’m a product knitter. I enjoy knitting, but the tangible result is more important to me than the act of construction. Shawls and hats and sweaters and scarves make me happy, and I’d likely get the same kind of lift from sewing or quilting or another creative pastime.
With novels, there’s often such a long haul between the original idea and the finished product. The creative journey really has to be at least partly about the process, especially if you don’t have an audience waiting. A novel–the product–only becomes fully realized when you have readers to respond to it. Otherwise, it’s a computer file or a stack of handwritten pages.
Many people begin their writing career with stars in their eyes about what might happen to the product. The big-name agent. The publishing contract. The bestseller. Or the idea that a stranger in another city might read your words and feel moved by them. But then some of us, or perhaps all of us, fall in love with the process of putting words down on a page and shaping the story like a carefully pruned topiary.
It took me seven years to write my last novel, BODY COPY, and the finished product is sitting in a file on my computer. I don’t even have a printed copy. Soon after I finished, I threw myself into imagining a new fictional world, and that effort has become my primary focus. I’m definitely a process writer.
Certainly it’s much easier to give your work a public showing these days with the rise of ebooks and indie publishing–especially compared to the struggling traditional publishing houses. Writers can get their work into the hands of eager readers without waiting for a gatekeeper’s nod of approval. Anthony Lee Collins, the serial fiction author, is a great example of creating a strong product and getting it directly to readers by publishing installments on the Internet. And of course there are myriad outlets for short stories and essays, in print and online.
Even though I’m a process writer, I do think about dusting off BODY COPY and trying to get it out in the world, whether that’s through approaching traditional channels or publishing it myself. It does seem sad to have spent seven years working on a product only to keep in a quiet Word file.
Are you a process writer or a product writer? If you’re a product writer, I’d love to hear what you do with your books or stories when they’re finished. Have you published them or shared them with friends or a critique group? If you’re a process writer, how often do you finish a novel? Have you done anything with your finished manuscript(s)?