Fraught question! If the research is going well (big if), sometimes I have trouble determining a story’s “throughline.” I know what story I need to tell, but I’m less sure what scenes are required to tell it best.
The plot can give me fits, especially what’s called the external conflict. This is the real, interesting, substantial factor that’s driving the protagonists apart, or that pits them against an antagonist. Occasionally, I find I’m writing a character whose wounds and ways I don’t grasp as well as I’d like to, or I’ve assembled all the required parts–plot, conflict, characters–and the prose just isn’t singing to me.
So a manuscript presents many opportunities to become frustrated. If one of my books upsets or disappoints a reader, that’s difficult too.
But I’d have to say the hardest part about being a published author is that I didn’t foresee that I’d have to grow a new kind of thick skin. As an attorney, I’ve developed a certain kind of thick skin. Opposing counsel can be bratty, the judge cranky, and clients very demanding. My area of expertise is child welfare law, and that requires a special subset of thick-skin skills, because the cases are often break-your-heart tragic. None of the options before the judge will put Humpty together again, ever.
I expected all of that real life experience would stand me in good stead as a published author. Downright ugly reviews (as opposed to honestly negative ones, which I have no problem with), the occasional snippy author, sales anxiety, deadline pressure… I didn’t expect any of that to get to me because I’m supposed to be tough.
I’m about as tough as a fresh marshmallow when it comes to the writing. Over time, I’m less easily knocked off my horse, but the process is gradual, and bad days still take me by surprise. I expected that learning the craft and the business would be ongoing challenges, but I didn’t expect to have to also be vigilant about developing resilience and perspective.