I have this short story I want to submit to a the Austin Chronicle short story contest. It’s not finished. The deadline is SOON!
So, to force myself through to that ending, here’s the exercise I’m going to try:
Writing the ending I want first and then write backwards from there. This exercise makes the writing more like solving a logic problem, or even a maze, but sometimes taking things out of chronological order gives you the freedom to write without thinking about “how am I going to get there?”
Of course, I will need to reorder what I come up with, and I will also probably need to do some severe editing after the fact…the word limit for this contest is 2500 words. I am usually much more verbose in my stories…5000 word limits can be a challenge for me.
Since I know I have this limit, though, I think I am going to try another writing tactic–this one from from high school…writing on index cards. This can help solve the non-chronological problem, too, because not only will the index card put a boundary on what I am writing, it can help with the “moving things around” aspect of reorganizing.
I am looking forward to this puzzle now. I’ll let you know how it goes!
Let me just start by saying that I have been remiss. I will own up to that. And…er…well, it’s obvious, considering my recent lack of posts.
I apologize. So…here is where I left off.
I was going to brainstorm new endings. And I did.
And then I thought maybe there wasn’t anything at all wrong with the ending I had and I marked through all my brainstormings with a big red X.
And then I went ahead and picked my three favorites and wrote them.
This is my list:
1. Max turns himself into the police. Or Shannon talks him out of that.
2. End it at the lake? Max swims away?
3. Bigfoot appears a la Flannery O’Connor!
4. What else could he give her? Less money. The quilt (which has no value to her). A ring (which also has little value to her, although he might intend it for her to sell).
5. Going back to “church?”
6. Stopping by the cemetary?
So, after considering this list, I decided I only really liked 2, 3, or 4. And I made myself write, while hunched over a folding table at my local laundromat, through all of them, with the premise that I might actually include each ending as an option for my readers.
HOWEVER, I then began a debate in my head. If I conclude this story with four different endings, what am I conveying to my readers? Would I be making my own statement about how I couldn’t decide what I wanted for these characters? Maybe I don’t want my readers to think that four endings come from lazy writing. If I give them options, perhaps that is more like a “gift” to my readers so that they will, hopefully, find in one of the endings, something that they find gratifying.
Who am I kidding? I have always had a hard time ending a story without some sort of gimmick. I often circle back to the beginning of the story. I don’t think that is going to work this time. I want a happy ending, for once (since short stories often have terribly miserable endings). I don’t know how to do that without it seeming schmaltzily cheese-topped and sugar-coated. I used to have this rule that if the ending made me cry as I wrote it, then I was there. In my older age, I must be growing even more sentimental, because the cheesy ending got me. One friend liked the cheeseball ending, but the other (a fellow writer), said it was much too much like a brick of cheddar.
I really just don’t want the ending to suck. I think I will blend my “different” endings into one and hope that it works as a unified thing. As NaNoWriMo approaches, I need to be done with this story and these characters. I WILL keep you posted when I ge to that ending.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…if you want to keep up with a different writing project of mine, check out writeunderyournose.com. This is another blog that I hope to someday turn into something more than a blog. I will be posting more and different writing exercises there, as well (I’m keeping this blog, too, as a venue for more personal writing ponderings). Hope to see you there!