Finding the Perfect Gift

Plus September 2019 Round-Up

WARNING: This post contains spoilers for a 241-year-old book. 

There was a time when I hated Anna Karenina. Yes, the same novel that is considered one of the greatest—if not the greatest—of all time. 

Back in 2009, I listened to an audio version of the Constance Garnett translation, and for the most part, I enjoyed it. Up until the end of part 7, there was definitely more to like than dislike. And even though it seemed as if Anna was a supporting character in her own story, Tolstoy still managed to make her sparkle despite all her flaws.

After she dies, however, the story continues for quite a while after (if I remember correctly, there were almost two full discs left before the end). Even though she was not the only main character in the novel, I felt so invested in her story that there was no point in going on.

Not to say that the other MC, Konstantin Dmitrievich Levin, was not interesting. He was. But his story drags on long after Tolstoy makes his point.

Eventually, I gave Anna another chance in 2015, when I read a new translation of the novel. While I appreciated it more the second time, I still was not crazy about that last part. After reading over 700 pages about Anna’s and Levin’s spiritual and moral paths, I didn’t get that big payoff. 

A great ending should be like a reward to a reader, a thank you gift for sticking with a story or poem.

My problem lately has been trying to find the right gift for you, dear reader.  

As I mentioned in last month’s blog post, the new story I’m currently working on is longer than what I’ve done in the past (it’s currently around 7,600 words), so the reward for this one has to be greater. 

In general, a good ending should not only resolve the conflict built up over the course of the story, but it should surprise readers, too. And by “surprise,” I don’t mean telling them it was all a dream or saying the butler did it. You have to surprise in a way that fits with the logic of the overall story. If the main character turned out to be the killer all the time, you have to (as Nabokov once said) leave little “plums” for readers to find. (For the record, there’s no killer in my story.)

I’ll be honest: Trying to come up with a resolution that also surprises have never come easy to me. I have at least a couple of stories stuck in the purgatory known as Google Docs because the beginnings and middles are good but the endings don’t deliver that thank you gift. For this new story, I’ve been struggling to find the right ending, but I think I’m finally getting close. At this point, it may be a matter of making a few tweaks, but we’ll see. 

Regardless, I’m determined to get this story right. After all, when a whole story is great, the reader is not the only one who gets rewarded, but the writer does, too—with a publication. 


I only managed to send out two submissions in September. I received one form rejection last month, but I’m still waiting for several markets to respond to works I submitted during the summer. Two of the journals just closed their submission windows, so I’m sure I’ll be hearing from them soon.

How was your September? Please let me know in the comments.

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