Well, it’s finally over. A week ago, I submitted the manuscript for the final Auburn novel to Amazon, clicked that lovely ‘Publish’ button, and completed the trilogy. I wanted to use this post to reflect on the journey that brought me here, if I may.
When I first started writing Auburn, the idea was simple: I wanted to write a story about underdogs and outcasts so wounded by the torments of society that—even when they were no longer underdogs or outcasts—they never forgot where they came from. I wanted it to be a story of a girl who found her place through art, but still remembered what it felt like to be virtually friendless. When I started I didn’t even believe I would be writing about a band at all.
The band came about as a mechanism for Ashley, Joey, and Charlie’s success. It was one of the few ways that their position in the high school culture could change seemingly overnight. Originally, my plan was to use the initial chapters to show them as outcasts, have them form a band, then explain the reversal of fortune and depict the ways that their past was still affecting them. Hardly enough for one novel, let alone a trilogy. But as I started writing, it became larger with each pass.
The first part—showing them as outcasts—proved more nuanced than I’d imagined. It wasn’t enough to say ‘look, these kids didn’t have any friends.’ I wanted to allow readers to see what that was like, to feel how Ashley felt. As I progressed in the initial parts of the story, it grew until the first two years of high school for the main characters was more than long enough to be its own novel.
Once I finished the first novel, I set it aside for a bit (as I always do) to work on what I then planned to be a single sequel. A duology sounded good to me; it hasn’t been tried very often, at any rate, and I’m all about attempting new things. I finished the second novel, put it aside while I worked on editing the first, and for the most part felt very happy about the direction of the series.
Unfortunately, once I started sending out copies of the second novel to my beta readers I received the same message in almost all cases: the story was good, but it felt rushed. My first thought was to flesh out each individual chapter and resign myself to a long novel, but once I started in on it I realized it wasn’t simply the chapters that were rushed; the story itself seemed to flit from point to point, as if I was trying to get to the end as soon as possible.
So I cut the second book in half. The first fifteen chapters formed the backbone for what would become Lost Causes and Bad Investments, and I used the final ten as a starting point for Midnight Suns and Farewell Lovers.
These past few months have been the longest period of editing in my life. Normally, I finish a novel, edit it a few times, and move on. With these final two Auburn novels, there was so much more work to be done; I had to effectively write a whole new novel’s worth of scenes and chapters, change the old chapters to make them fit, and then edit the final product several times to smooth out the remaining wrinkles. The final product is better for it, in my opinion, but I won’t pretend that it was easy.
The reviews helped me on my way. Whenever I received a positive—or even negative review—it helped me realize that what I was doing could affect people so much more than a simple tale of overcoming the odds. Somewhere along the way, Auburn stopped being a tale of teenage angst and became a story of real worth; the story of underdogs using their pain to help others, of rising above the daily torments and becoming someone of worth.
The journey of writing and editing Auburn was longer than I intended. I left for a short stroll but ended up running a marathon. But what a marathon it’s been.
* * *
As many of you have probably noticed, I’ve updated the blog a little. One of the newest updates is an offer for a free copy of the entire series. All I ask of anyone who receives it is that you give the novels a try, and if you like them please tell someone. Share Auburn on your Facebook, Twitter, or even in person; I’ll be eternally grateful.