What it feels like to finish writing a trilogy

Yesterday I sent the rough draft of my third novel, Uncommon Stock: Exit Strategy, to my editor and first cohort of beta readers. Exit Strategy is the final book in the Uncommon Stock Trilogy which follows a college student who drops out of college to launch a tech startup and gets sucked into an international money laundering conspiracy along the way.

Typing “The End” was a powerful moment of catharsis for me. Obviously there are mountains of work ahead and tides of red ink to wade through before the final version sees the light of day (it will launch in Summer 2015). Nevertheless, getting the rough draft out the the door is a big milestone made more so because it’s the ultimate chapter of a three book narrative arc.

I’ve been living and breathing Mara, James, and all the other characters since I started writing the series in fall of 2012. The themes, settings, and plot twists distilled into an alternate reality in my head. The fabric of the story is always hanging out in the background, skirting the edges of my thoughts and populating my daydreams.

Do you know that feeling when a song gravitates towards its final note? How you intuitively know what the last chord will be even before it’s played? That elusive quality of coming full circle hit me when I finished drafting the final scene.

It was quickly followed by anxiety. What if the ending isn’t good enough? What if readers are left frustrated and wanting more? What if I’m overlooking a gaping hole in the story or not doing the characters justice? Paranoia is the constant companion of any creative act. I work hard to banish it by just trying to get everything out on paper before starting to edit and optimize. But that evil little elf is never far away.

After getting paranoia back on its leash, I discovered this incredible feeling of lightness. Stories have momentum. Narrative arcs demand satisfaction. Creative people are more like art’s slaves than its masters. Ever since 2012, I had been working to complete an unfinished sentence. Having finally hit that last full stop, the Uncommon Stock Trilogy was now an entity in itself, apart from me. It can go off and do whatever it wants now, and so can I. What I want to do is start a new story. I’m not sure about the details yet but I think fans of the trilogy will like it.

Books are slow dances. They’re an intimate journey that the reader and writer take together. Stories don’t happen on paper. The words are just hints and guides. The real action is in the reader’s imagination, that all powerful theater of mind. With help from the many expert hands required to produce the final version, I hope that Exit Strategy will mature into a conclusion that makes fans stay up all night turning pages, think, feel, and reflect.

Now, please excuse me. I’m going to go open a beer…