My book's opening continues to be an incredible challenge. This week I got new feedback on it at the Pikes Peak Writers Open Critique, which was great in that there were a good variety of people to critique, and help point out a number of remaining flaws in the opening, whille also noticing some of the good points.
I got props for one of the characters, for the well-intersperced humor, and for raising some intriguing story questions. Over time I've tried to make sure there are plenty of questions raised in the opening, because earlier feedback had suggested people didn't "get" the stakes. Now I think that the questions and action in the first chapter make it such that this concern is gone.
On the downside, I've got to work on some character issues, particularly with my protagonist. As far as I know the issues they cited are handled better in later chapters, but the opening is a special kind of hell, er, challenge. As I said above. Only through amazing persistence have I even gotten it this far, because I've spent more time than any non-writer would believe on it. I haven't had (to my knowledge) near the issues with the rest of the story.
In any case, at least I have a better idea of the issues now. I spent quite awhile editing it this week, and I think I'll have another pass before letting anyone else see it again.
On the other end of the book, my wife has now read it all the way through, and given me lots of wonderful comments. I now have hundreds of pages of red inked manuscript, which I've been re-editing after her read. Now I have a handful more people who are about 2/3 through and they'll get to read and comment on more refined work.
I also analyzed my story structure a little to see how it fits into the traditional 3 Act structure. I've been reading books and listening to my conference recordings on the topic, though I found The Magnificent 7 Plot Points and Plotting a Novel in 3 Acts very concise and helpful here. To my relief, it looks like my story fits well into the 3 Act story structure, though it has a couple slight deviations from the basic structure.