After an intense discussion at last week's crit group, the beginning of my first book has turned around. I got a great suggestion, which I needed because of all FIVE AND A HALF BOOKS I've written, the beginning half of this book was the weakest (and it starts a series of books, so without it, the others are fairly well unsellable). So, in just a week of agonizing slash-and-burn and redrafting, my characters are aligned to the same goal (if not for the same reasons). It took them a good two hundred pages to do this in old versions; in this redux by page 70 they are already embracing their future and best of all, they have credible motivations for doing so.
I realize this means very little to most of you, but it's a breakthrough about four years in the making for me. Tackling a first (trunk) novel is a difficult thing--it's like trying to have a guiltless conversation with your mother.