Openings of short stories are actually my favourite parts to write. That’s when I am most inspired to capture a potentially great idea and create the story I envision. But this writer cannot resist spending way too much time honing the first few paragraphs, thereby losing focus and enthusiasm to complete what I’ve started.
Thus, a stack of ‘beginnings’ has been growing considerably over several years, but endings? Not so much. Recently a short story writing contest inspired me to sift through the files and choose a story to finish and submit.
Having a solid start to the story meant that good progress was made over several days leading up to the deadline but, as per usual, I began to second guess what I’d written. This is a familiar cycle for me, resulting in repetitive re-writing and side-tracking only to return to the original content. It’s similar to the way I shop; I must examine everything available before making a decision, even though chances are I’ll purchase the item that caught my eye in the first place. Both scenarios can feel like a waste of time but can also result in finding the perfect item or, in the case of writing, the turn of phrase that feels just right. The lesson for me is to recognize this process and write through it instead of giving up.
The day before the deadline, I received extremely helpful feedback on my draft from an enthusiastic writer friend and I’d anticipated dedicating the whole of the following day to leisurely finishing and submitting the story. It will be no surprise that the last day did not work out as planned; the writing gods do enjoy a good prank at our expense. I had several hours in the evening to finish off the story and although it was a hectic, it was fun and exhilarating as well. The midnight deadline was met with thirteen minutes to spare. Relief and satisfaction flooded over me upon receiving confirmation that the story had indeed been received.
Buoyed and energized by having completed and submitted the first story, I chose a second one from the beginnings stack and finished it in time to submit to another contest five days later. Again, it was a close call submitting the story as the envelope was postmarked five minutes before the post office closed. With both stories, I was making changes at the very last minute with no chance to review or second guess. Reading them the first time after submitting, I was still tweaking and that’s okay; there’s always room for improvement. But the rewarding part for me was advancing the stories, creating endings and meeting a deadline.
It feels like I’ve turned a corner. Some of the writing theory has turned into practise; just keep writing, edit later, it doesn’t have to be written linearly etc. And continue a bit beyond where you’d like to stop even if it’s a just few words. They may bring inspiration later.
I’m looking forward to creating many more endings.