I think I finally got it all right.
Last Friday I finished off the new draft and shipped it out to three of my test-readers (my wife one of them). I got this (abridged) response today from one of them:
You nailed it.Just about every concern I had last time has been thoroughly addressed. I think you’ve got a much tighter story arc, the important character moments are all still there and if anything they resonate more than they did before, and the way the underlying tension of their shadowy opponents continues building keeps the energy moving forward.Any criticism I might offer now would be minor fine-tuning, and once your agent starts shopping this around, a professional editor will take care of that. I think you’re ready. Go forth!
That was happy-making.
That was from my buddy Rob, nit-picker extraordinaire (and I say that as a compliment, believe me), whose “meh” opinion of my previous draft was what finally forced me to accept my own gnawing doubts about how well that version worked (or, more accurately, didn’t).
The goal now, and it’s not a distant goal, is to go through the new section again to weed out the typos and punch up any lingering weak text and ship it out to the agent. This will happen by next weekend at the latest.
Then I get to play the waiting game — which, as we all know, sucks, ergo we should all play Hungry Hungry Hippos instead.