"Beautiful" News / by Josh Guess

I had intended this post to be the first in a series of analyses on Brandon Sanderson and Patrick Rothfuss. I've been playing with the idea of comparing these guys, two of my favorite authors, for quite a while. I'm going to get to that soon, likely next week. There's a good reason for the delay, as well as delaying my post about Amanda Hocking.

That reason: I've finished "Beautiful", and I want to talk about it.

First, when I say I've finished it, I mean that I've gotten the body of the text done and I'm midway through an edit and revision. I know a lot of authors edit and edit and editediteditedit until their brains start to cook inside their own heads. I also know that other authors will do huge revisions that add this or that, and for them that works. Not me. I have a pretty clear idea of what I want the story to be, and tinkering with anything too large changes the tone of my work for the worse. I function and write best when I can streamline and make better what I have, and add or alter small things as I go.

That being said, "Beautiful" is essentially done. I've got to finish the edit I'm on and send it out to the Beta readers, after which I will spend a few days working on the issues they find, correcting and further smoothing as I go.

Part of why I don't think this book is going to take a lot more work is because of the strange metamorphosis it went through even as I was writing it. I want to talk about it, since I'm proud as a new father but lacking the requisite vomit stains all over me, so sit down, buckle up, and bask in the stupid happiness that was the six month process of writing "Beautiful".


ORIGIN (all caps makes it neat-o)

I started writing this book as a joke. My boss on the weekend shift where I work as a nurse aide found out I was a writer and pestered me to write something for her. Well, I say pestered but it was all in good fun, really. Gabrielle told me that I should write a story about her, and I (being the classy man that I am) told her that if I did, it would have to be erotica. She laughed and dared me to do it, so I started to write.

I didn't get very far, because I'm not an erotica reader. I had no idea where to go, so I put it to the side. At the same time, I'd been working on an idea for a vampire novel, or at least a modern fantasy that heavily featured them. Somewhere down the line, I combined the two ideas, dropped the genre "erotica" as it was too confining for what I wanted to do, and "Beautiful" was born.

A SLOW START

January was supposed to be when I buckled down and did the majority of the writing for this book. I thought I could do it, since I'd consistently put in 1,000 words or better a day on my first novel. Again, this didn't work out, since most of that month I was really, really sick. I got a little down and soured a little on the project. Gabrielle started asking me about it repeatedly, and slowly I began pecking away at my laptop. A hundred words here, five hundred there. Slow but steady.

THE BLOOM

I guess this part is the most important. Where "Beautiful" had begun as a simple idea, over the first few months of writing it I discovered that I had way too many ideas to fit into the 100,000 word novel I'd planned. As time wore on and I really got into writing the characters, I created more and more canon to eventually draw on. I don't want to give anything away, so I won't be specific here. I will only say that what began as an idea for a novel of 100k words bloomed into enough material for a series of six books. I've actually got ideas that can go past that, but I have solid outlines for the second and third books in the series, and rough outlines for books four through six.

I felt like a lot of pressure had been lifted from me when I decided to expand the series, so I cut a lot of the material I'd wanted to put at the end of book 1, taking it down to a respectable 80,000 words. That's where I am right now.

SO...WHAT IS IT ABOUT?!

"Beautiful" started out as erotica, then added vampire and other supernatural elements, then...I don't know how to explain this very well, because in some ways I don't really understand what happened. Somewhere along the way, as I was writing the main character, Dan, who is based very closely on me, his wife, Anna, who is basically my own wife, and Gabrielle, who is based on my boss, "Beautiful" became something else. Something different.

The original tone and direction of the novel changed. I didn't focus on sex or action as much as I thought I was going to, opting instead to take a more relaxed and informal tone. The story is told in Dan's voice, with his snarky remarks and observations about the world around him thrown in. Imagine if your best friend who was kind of a smartass suddenly found out that there was this whole amazing world of magic hidden just below the surface. Imagine he's telling you the story first hand.

The thing that I really enjoyed about writing this book was just letting go and writing for the sheer enjoyment of it. I didn't worry about sentence structure or timing, nor the other hundred little things I usually fret about. I wrote for fun and to tell a rousing tale of love, sex, violence and hope. Like life itself, this story has all of them, plus a HUGE dose of humor as the narrator alternately makes fun of and celebrates the magical world around him.

I don't know if this makes sense to you, but I hope so. This book was written from my heart in a way that I've never managed before. The style, very personal and honest, is something like my zombie blog, Living With the Dead. It's funnier, and faster paced, and....

I'll stop here. I don't know what the recipe for success as an author is. As time goes by, I think that the only sure way to succeed at first is just pure luck. I don't know that my love for this book means that I'm insanely egotistical, though I fully admit to the possibility.

I'm not saying it's a masterpiece of prose and technical skill. It isn't. It's good, really good, from what I can tell, but I don't love this book for that reason. Painters can have all the technical skill in the world and in the end without creativity and talent, they will never be famous or renowned. Certainly not loved.

No, the reason I love this book is very simple, and maybe only something that other writers might get. I love "Beautiful" so much because whether or not anyone else ever reads it, I enjoyed it immensely. I had fun writing it, and I had fun reading it. I don't know if one word of it will say anything profound or important to anyone else, but I'm satisfied with my creation because it speaks to me. It says many things that have long been in my heart.

"Beautiful" is fun. It's really funny. It's sweet in places, nerve-wracking in others. It has moments of sex and awkwardness, with everything in between. I tried so hard to put the little things in there, the hundred tiny bits that make life interesting and real to us. I wanted to honestly portray what I thought Dan, the main character, would be going through. I think I succeeded. For me, anyway, it works.

This book is lighthearted and fun, but hopefully with a bit more depth than this post leads you to believe. I'm really not an egomaniac, I swear. I'm just thrilled to be finished with the first leg of this journey, and excited to move on to the next step.

Hey, who knows: other people might like it too.