“Endings are another matter. When I’ve shaped the story in my head, before starting to put it on paper, it has, of course, an ending. Often this ending will stay in place right through the first draft. Sometimes it stays in place for good. Sometimes not. The story, in the first draft, has put on rough but adequate clothes, it is “finished” and might be thought to need no more than a lot of technical adjustments, some tightening here and expanding there, and the slipping in of some telling dialogue and chopping away of flabby modifiers. It’s then, in fact, that the story is in the greatest danger of losing its life, of appearing so hopelessly misbegotten that my only relief comes from abandoning it. It doesn’t do enough. It does what I intended, but it turns out that my intention was all wrong. Quite often I decide to give up on it. (This was the point at which, in my early days as a writer, I did just chuck everything out and get started on something absolutely new.) And now that the story is free from my controlling hand a change in direction may occur. I can’t ever be sure this will happen, and there are bad times, though I should be used to them. I’m no good at letting go, I am thrifty and tenacious now, no spendthrift and addict of fresh starts as in my youth. I go around glum and preoccupied, trying to think of ways to fix the problem. Usually the right way pops up in the middle of this. A big relief, then. Renewed energy. Resurrection. Except that it isn’t the right way. Maybe a way to the right way. Now I write pages and pages I’ll have to discard. New angles are introduced, minor characters brought center stage, lively and satisfying scenes are written, and it’s all a mistake. Out they go. But by this time I’m on the track, there’s no backing out. I know so much more than I did, I know what I want to happen and where I want to end up and I just have to keep trying till I find the best way of getting there.”
From the Introduction to Selected Stories.