It's taken a few days, but I have once again worked out some plot issues with Guilt by Association. I wouldn't say this is the most difficult book I've ever written - Reconstructing Meredith holds that honor - but from a technical, getting-all-the-facts-straight, plugging-all-the-plot-holes angle? God, yes. This one even tops Cover Me. I have no doubt there will be more problems that crop up between now and the end, but I think it'll be smoother going from here on out than it has been for the last few days.
So, what makes a story difficult? That's going to vary from writer to writer. For me, every book has its own challenges, and some are definitely going to be harder than others.
Sometimes a book is challenging because it's a first. Rules of Engagement was my first time dipping my toes into the world of gay romance. Light Switch was my first foray into BDSM (besides the odd handcuffs-and-blindfold scene in previous books) and polyamoury. Out of Focus was my first time writing from multiple first person POVs. Nothing impossible, just new.
Other books are challenging because of the technical aspects. With Cover Me, there were police procedurals, medical procedures, crime scene protocols, and things of that nature. Guilt by Association has most of that (minus the medical procedures), plus a lot of cloak and dagger, people who aren't who they say they are, etc. I would say books like that are difficult in the same sense as a challenging math problem: it's down to the facts, the cold hard numbers, the calculated cause-and-effect relationships between events.
Then there is the occasional book that practically sucks the life out of me. I say "occasional", I mean so far there has only been one. As most of my loyal blog minions are probably well aware, and as I mentioned earlier in this blog entry, that book is Reconstructing Meredith. There was some unusually dark emotional territory explored in that book, and it permeated every chapter. Even writing the sex scenes was emotionally taxing like I have never experienced before. There's a reason I threw back a few drinks when I was finished with that book. Once it was finished, and I'd put a little distance between myself and the story, I read it again, and it was worth it. Completely worth it.
Now, sometimes a book is a lost cause. For all my outlining and pre-planning, I've fucked up a few plots in my day. Sometimes I just need to step away for a few weeks and work on something else. Sometimes it's truly a lost cause and will never see the light of day again. In at least one case, a book needed to be rewritten, then rewritten again as a gay romance instead of a hetero romance, from a male first person POV instead of alternating third person male and female POVs, because I finally got it right. (That was With the Band, incidentally, which will be available this spring from Loose Id, LLC)
So, every book has its challenges. I think every one of them has driven me at some point to consider throwing in the towel, even if that consideration is just the result of ten-minute bout of frustration that's ultimately cured by taking a walk around the block or playing a video game for a few minutes. And those moments, whether they last ten minutes or a few days, just make the finished product more worthwhile. The uphill climbs make the downhill sprints that much more fun, and they make crossing the finish line that much more satisfying.
Now, back to Guilt by Association, which will hopefully have more downhill sprints than uphill climbs from here on out...but somehow I doubt it...