Don't worry. I'm not throwing the towel in already. I just wanted to write those two words down next to each other, because they're one of the most satiating pairs of words in the English language.
I just finished the second draft of my latest story, which means I'm very close to sending it out into the cruel, cruel world to see if it's grown a pair of legs to stand on. This particular story wasn't quite the battle I've had with a few others, partly because it's on the shorter side. In fact, as far as the writing process goes, this may be my favorite story to date. It was smooth sailing all the way through, and one of the only times a story has come out close to perfect on the first draft. It's pretty much ready to go, but I always force myself to walk away from a story for a while when I think it's done. After it stews for a few days, I'll come back with a fresh mind for one final run through. It's an invigorating feeling to know that the finish line for a project is in sight, for good or bad. Whether it's destined for publication or the garbage heap, at least it will be DONE.
In this case, the two magic words were particularly satisfying to write because I knew I had a solid ending. Leaving a story with a strong finish is like walking away from a meal with a great taste in your mouth, for both the writer and the reader. At the beginning of a story--whether it's a novel, a short, or flash fiction--you're entering into an unspoken agreement with the reader. The first line on the page makes a promise that every subsequent word must strive to fulfill. If THE END comes along and you've left the reader unsated, that promise has been broken. This doesn't mean you need to wrap things up under a neat little bow. I love endings that leave room for mulling and interpretation. "Leave them wanting more," is a fine maxim to work under, as long as it's for the right reasons.
Of course, THE END doesn't really mean it's the end. It just means on to the next story. Laurels, how do they work?