Product vs. Process


I was at my local bookstore the other day and I was skim-reading Show Your Work by Austin Kleon (I didn’t buy it because I only had enough money for the book that I specifically ordered) and I was interested by a number of things in the books, chief among them the idea of thinking about the process, not the product.

I’ve definitely been guilty of thinking about the final product to the detriment of the process. Not of the purchasable product, because sometimes you make something that isn’t remotely sell-able and it’s not intended to be, but about the thing that I’m going to leave. About the end of the story, and making something that can stand on its own two feet. Something I don’t have to work with and maintain.

There’s a graphic novel that I have been fiddling around with for a while. I am not an artist, and I don’t have the energy or, really, the interest to become one. I can draw but I have no illusions about the quality of what I produce. I’ve a story in my head and no money to hire someone to do the artwork. I have (some of) the necessary software. A friend of mine made me a website a while ago, which currently has nothing on it and which I have been avoiding the way some teenagers avoid looking at their grades for a class.

The idea of been toying with for putting this graphic novel out in the world is to put it up on the site as installments, as many people do. But I don’t want spreads. I hate the page-flip graphic on websites. If you’re going to be web, be web, don’t mimic print. And there’s stuff to play with, artistically, in the sort of space offered by the downward scroll. Reading down, having the images moving downward.

There are other elements that I want to bring in, too, that make this sort of a web-based beast. I want to have background pages, and stuff like that. There is one instance in the story, at least, where I can’t think how to do it without using a gif. Other things.

Anyway, I’m not an artist, and can’t afford to hire an artist, and am not confident that there would be long-term payout if I were to contract with someone (and I kind of don’t want to contract with someone because I enjoy when characters are approached in different ways by different artists, like in The Sandman). So, in the purposes of full disclosure, I was thinking I’d just put up the drafts. Some would be more finished than others, but they would largely be in their bare-bones state. And give people the opportunity to respond as they will. Create their own versions of the rough panels or do something completely different (read: better) than what I envisioned.

There are some logistical problems with this. To do the kind of site I’d like to do, I’d have to have a better handle on web design than I do. And I also don’t want to spend a ton of time on maintenance, which seems inevitable with this kind of thing. I have other things that I want to work on, and I don’t want to be completely absorbed in this one project. I’m also not one-hundred percent sure on how it would/could/should be displayed. Do I put up scenes? Do I put up panels? “Chapters”?

I suspect the best way to do this is to just do it and figure out as I go. I’ve always learned best by just jumping in and figuring things out. But that aggravates my perfectionism. I don’t want to let something unfinished go out into the world. But at the same time, I don’t believe that anything is ever finished. Nothing is ever perfect and no story is ever really done. Manuscripts don’t burn and all that.

I don’t know though. It’s scary to put the process out there. Writing is such an iterative process, it changes so much, so often, and the part of me that’s a reader and likes a book that holds together doesn’t like the idea of giving something that I might change somewhere along the way. I don’t want to be influenced, to feel external pressure.

I’m also crazy busy and I worry that I won’t have the time to do it right.

Which, again, boils down to being afraid. And, deep down, to a fear of doing badly by this story.

I don’t know. I’ll probably languish over the idea before I do anything, but I’ll let you know when there’s something to look at.




P.S. He has a Tumblr on the topic, that I’m now following.


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