So I've been thinking about how I challenge myself as I'm writing. Because I definitely do--I think part of the excitement in writing is doing something new, something I'm not entirely sure I can pull off. It's not something I consciously decide to do, though. It's just that, if there isn't enough challenge, if it feels too much like what I've already written, I don't get enough excitement to energize me through that (inevitably) cringe-worthy first draft. So the not challenging ideas get weeded out without my even thinking about it.
(On the other hand, if there is *too* much challenge, I get frustrated because I can see how deeply I am sucking, and the book doesn't get written that way, either. This, I believe, relates to the bit in the article about (my bolding) "continually tackling challenges that lie just beyond one's competence.")
Looking at the novels I've written from GUTG on, it's easy to see the new challenges each has brought.
GIVING UP THE GHOST
-first novel I wrote in first person
-writing an anti-social character in a way that would make her sympathetic to readers
-first really plot-heavy novel I've written; had to set up a mystery that continued to surprise as it unfolded without getting so complicated it collapsed on itself
-fleshing out a major character who has no physical/visual presence (only a voice inside a head)
THE HALFWAY HERO
-building a world that incorporated fantastical elements and RL historical/geographical details; keeping that world consistent
-writing action scenes (which I'd done a little of before, but nowhere near as much as here)
-writing an original story while trying to keep it consistent with an existing (and often contradictory) mythology
-incorporating a new character into that mythology and keeping him active
I find it interesting that I seem to build off the challenges of previous novels. For example, I don't know if I could have written PL's first person narration, as well as dealing with the plotting and odd character issues, if I hadn't gotten the practice in first person while writing GUTG. Similarly, I might have found the mythological difficulties too much of a struggle in LB if I hadn't already had practice at combining fact and fantasy in THH.
Which gives me some hope that eventually I will be able to write those ideas that I've set aside as, wow, that's the coolest idea ever, but I have no frickin' clue how I'd write it. :D
How about the rest of you? How do you find you challenge yourself in your writing? What challenges does your current WIP present?