One step forward, two steps back

I’m definitely going through a one step forward, two steps back period with my efforts. Making the most of some fine spring weather I spent a few days in the garden reading my latest manuscript, pen in hand, pouring over the second draft’s opening scenes for the first time in a couple of months.
Uh oh. Not good. Chapters and dialogue I had considered snappy and witty now feel laboured and flat, characters I thought I’d clearly defined seem confused and even shallow. Even my main man Barclay isn’t sparkling like I’d hoped, and Claire’s fascination with him doesn’t feel natural - she’s telling the reader how intriguing Barclay is but I’m not showing it. And after my prologue there’s little action to drive the story forward, which made me feel impatient (as a reader) for something to happen; the pacing is still a considerable distance from what I need to keep the pages turning.
I’m not sure how I’ll fix it. I know (hope? My confidence is taking a hammering at the moment with every page I read) that the rest of the story is told more consistently and at some speed, but this all-important opening needs a lot more work.
I may look to introduce Barclay’s sister earlier to add more life to these pages. I may have to add another ‘event’ to spark things along. I’m even considering changing the whole opening gambit of Claire finding Barclay’s bag, or at least make it a more exciting event. That would mean losing much of the work I’ve incorporated from my Random House Creative Writing course, but I’m starting to think that is a big part of the problem with the book’s opening - patching the course work into this story has resulted in the opening reading like an ill-fitting jigsaw. There’s some of my more accomplished writing there, but if it doesn’t fit it needs to be cut out.
I think that I need to attempt a rewrite of the first part of the book with the third draft, much like I rewrote the later chapters in my second draft. That may just work. Fingers crossed.
I will continue with my current review - let’s call it draft “2.5”- and then do more work on the Third Draft which I’ll share with a few First Readers. I’ll keep you posted.

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