In my last post, I told of the 30 year journey to publication of a short story. In that post, I posed the question: why did I hang on to and keep trying to place this story, when I had discarded so many others over the years as not having legs. It’s easier to answer the second part of the query first. When I periodically go through old work, I’m sometimes appalled at the crap I’ve written. It now seems boring, turgid, didactic, lifeless. I have new sympathy and respect for my long time writing teacher who had to slog through it all, yet always found something positive to say, even if it was just to praise one small phrase. But, each time I make a pass through the old files, some stories still appeal to me, however badly they may have been written in the first place. And that was true of “All Creatures Great and Small.” But why? What was different?
The first thing that strikes me is that I liked the characters. I also liked their struggles and their situation. But I still hadn’t quite nailed down why I thought the story was viable. Then, a few days ago, I read another story to my husband. I write a lot of crime fiction and this story was especially grim and scary. He liked the story, but then he said, “It sounds like you had fun writing it.” Bingo. I think he hit on something important. That no matter how dark a story may be, if the writer has had fun in the writing, that quality will come across to the reader. This doesn’t mean, of course, that every time we write, it’s gonna be a laugh-a-thon. There are many different kinds of fun. I think it just means, your heart is in it. There are many quotes about following your heart that could apply here, e.g. Pascal’s “We know the truth, not only by the reason, but also by the heart.” I’m sure you can supply your own favorite quote.