What Ends Up Working
It never fails to amaze me how what we set out to write surprises us.
I'm not just talking about how a character can blurt out something we didn't think our fingers were typing out. Or when a story goes left, way WAY left when we thought it would go right. Those moments are magical and wonderful in their own right, but what always amazes me is our expectations of what we write. How the pieces turn out compared with what they thought they would be. How what we thought is just an ok story turns out to be one of our better ones. How one of our better ones...maybe isn't that great after all and needs a few extra rounds of revision.
About a year ago, I was on a spree of short stories. Every morning, I would sit down and at least get half of one done, if not a full one. It was highly productive, sure, but not all the stories "turned out."
One of those stories I thought was good, ok, not the best, but nice in its own little ways was called "Old Chocolate." The story is about a woman on a trip to see her mother in a nursing home and the stop she makes along the way to a chocolate shop she knew from kid on, a shop about to see a big transition.
I liked the story. I think every writer would say they like their stories (ok, there are some we hate, but those are buried, deleted, purged with copious amounts of wine). And I thought "Old Chocolate" was a decent story, but maybe nothing spectacular. That's just me being honest. I liked it, but I didn't think it would fly beyond my laptop.
On a whim, I submitted it for the PNWA short story contest (and they hold a great conference, by the way!). Hundreds, maybe more, apply, so I didn't think much of it.
Until it became a finalist. A finalist!
After the joy ebbed, I began to wonder, "How did that happen?" I like the story, but other people did to? Really? I was amazed at how a story I'd almost written off myself had gone above and beyond what I expected.
I realized that is what stories do. Whether we write them or read them, their goal is to amaze us. And sometimes, they amaze us in ways we never would've imagined.
Maybe that's what makes a good story.