When I write a short story, it usually goes like this: write, write, sit down to write, but then have to get up and clean the bathroom, sit down to write, but then remember I wanted to look at something in my room, write some more, write, write, get stuck, go for a walk, get unstuck, finish. Then I edit and maybe ask someone else to read it and edit some more.
Then I log it in Duotrope and consider all the places I might send it.
I have this story. I thought it was good. I even got to the point where I logged it in Duotrope. But I didn’t send it out. I don’t know why. It seemed fine. Really fine. But I didn’t do anything with it.
Then, yesterday, I read this story, “The Cellar Dweller” by Maria Dahvana Headley, which is nothing, really, like my story, except that I felt, once I’d finished it, that the end of the story was the inevitable outcome of the beginning. I just read it and thought, “I could not have predicted this, but that is the end the beginning promises.” And I knew, suddenly, the problem with my story. My ending was the one that tied up all the loose ends in a way I found satisfactory. It was not the end the beginning promised.
And this morning, as I was walking the dog, I realized what ending the beginning of the story made inevitable. So, I cut 200 words from the end of the story. All the wrapping things up and explaining things? Gone.
I added back 100 new ones. And I changed the ending from “here’s what changed in general after the main action of the story” to “here‘s what changed in the protagonist.”
Then I reread it and I threw my hands up in the air. Touchdown.
It’s ready to go out and be rejected! A million times!
Ha ha ha. Good thing stories aren’t sentient beings, because it’s all “Go get kicked in the teeth a bunch and then maybe someone will want to smooch you.” But there is no other way. You do the work. You get rejected. You do the work anyway.