A few readers have contacted me recently, to ask about the second Difficult Dukes book. Those who subscribe to this blog may remember a plaintive post last spring, wherein I lamented the book’s refusal to cooperate with its author.
Matters did not improve.The Duke of Ashmont’s story did not proceed smoothly during the summer and early fall. Oh, I managed to write the first quarter of the book, and there were some good scenes, but something was off. I had no idea what it was, only that every new scene, instead of bubbling up naturally as a result of the scene before, had to be dug out in bits and pieces. And then it still looked ... off.
Here is the thing you learn after 30+ years’ writing professionally: When this kind of creative slowdown goes on for so long, something essential is wrong.
In my case, since what’s essential in my stories is character, it’s always the protagonists who are displeased with my take on their behavior. Unfortunately, they do not offer helpful suggestions or even clues. Instead, they sulk like the immature things they are (thanks to me) until I figure them out.
If I’d written them correctly in the first place, they would be mature and therefore would not sulk and everything would move along at a reasonable speed, always allowing for the periodic, “OK, what happens now?” And as to that, I do have a story arc in mind, but each scene needs to evolve naturally from what went on before. This means the specifics aren’t clear until I get there. And scenes don’t ring true if I don’t truly understand the characters, because the lack of understanding causes them to behave in ways that are not true to them.
Finally, after a series of consultations with my professional team—no, we couldn’t pinpoint the problem immediately; it took some work—we narrowed things down to the heroine. It finally became clear that she had two different personalities going at the same time, and one was wrong. No wonder she was furious with me.
I gave myself a dope slap, went back and revised all the scenes (yes, from page one) ... and lo and behold, the story came alive. At last. At any rate, the hero and heroine seem to have stopped hating me.
Behold me now, chastened, but with confidence restored. I shall do my very best to get this book finished in time for a 2019 publication date. Can’t promise that will happen, but it won’t be for lack of trying.