Ever take a road trip? Was it memorable? I bet I can guess why. You anticipated your arrival. You shared a camaraderie with your friends or family. You felt like a pioneer.
Once you got there, you realized the Grand Canyon was just a giant hole in the ground. But those hours crammed in the back of the station wagon with your siblings remain carved into your memory on a geological timescale. It's because of the journey, not the destination.
Whenever someone asks me how fast I can solve the Rubik's Cube, I think of those road trips. It was never meant to be a race. A road trip is meant to meander. Besides, I never set out to solve the cube in record times. It was more important that I learned how to solve the cube, not simply memorize hundreds of algorithms and finger tricks. (By the way, an algorithm in cube-speak is a predetermined pattern of turns that has a desired effect on a group of little cubies.) No, my ultimate journey was to be able to solve the Rubik's Cube with my eyes closed. Would I learn how the Rubik's Cube works at a deeper level? Would I learn more about myself during this journey?
When I write, it's easy to think the goal is just completing the story. That's not enough. It's the journey, not the destination. Sure, I want to create a finished story. But, I want my readers to remember, and maybe even discuss, the importance of my story in their lives. (That's my dream anyway.)
I recently read the novel, Some of Your Blood, by Theodore Sturgeon. It is a deconstructed vampire story. Okay, that isn't quite accurate enough. Some of Your Blood is a deconstructed story. It is non-traditional in every way. Yet it is fascinating to read because it is more than the story itself, but how the story is told. Once you finish it, you'll want to read it again. Think: the movie The Sixth Sense (but this novel was published about forty years earlier). Another thing about the story that will get you wanting to go back for more is the "unreliable narrator" aspects of the novel. It reminded me of Kevin Spacey's character in the movie The Usual Suspects.
If you can create a journey for your readers, then you can tap into something deeper and your story will have a lasting effect on them. It's not just the story, but it's how you tell it.