The story came to him in a dream. He found himself compelled to put it on paper. When finished, it came out to barely 4,000 words. He polished it for years afterward.
In the golden age of magazine fiction, he sent his story off to more than one hundred of them and got no takers.
Finding no place that would publish it, he decided to send the 200 copies he had printed out himself as a Christmas card to all his friends.
Then, in a twist that all us aspiring writers secretly hope for, it somehow ends up on the desk of a famous film director looking for a new project. After reading the story, he knew he'd found it.
The writer was paid $10,000 for the film rights (and yes, I too wonder exactly what 10,000 1940s dollars translate to today. $100,000 maybe?)
The film is made and lands with a thud. Hardly anybody goes to see it. But over time, with the advent of television, more and more people see the film. It becomes the must see holiday movie, and eventually becomes the most popular Christmas movie ever made.
For those of you who already know this story, the name Philip Van Doren Stern is probably recognizable too. I thank you for your indulgence.
But for those of you who haven't read the story, you can find it here.
[Update: The entire story used to be available at the link, however and alas, no more. Bet you can still find it out there though, and it's a bet I'd win.]