While I continue to slave away at the second draft (proving slightly more intensive than the first, strangely), I have taken this story on its first critical step away from the jumble in my head and into the real world. The fifty page extract is now in the hands of an agent who, I know, will be brutally honest about its content. Brutality is good. Brutality is what it needs.
While I value the feedback from my first reader, she's not someone from the industry. A negative reaction from the first reader is significant, but a positive reaction, while undoubtedly encouraging, is not enough to dispel the pervasive sense of unworthiness that remains this writer's burden.
Do I hear you say "external locus of control"? Of course! Any writer wanting to get published must submit to, and ultimately be driven by, external forces. It's a delicate balance. Any number of people can influence and even contribute to a manuscripts development, but when that thing goes to press there's only one name on the cover and you have to live with what's between those covers.
Did I mention how much I love this process?