Of all the questions I could ask myself about this book, this is the most fundamental: what is it about? And the fact that I am still asking the question after all this time is telling. Of course, it's possible to write a book without knowing what it's about, at least at the beginning. Put characters in a situation and see what happens. It works for John le Carre. In the case of this book, however, I definitely want it to be about something specific.
Back when the book was just a twinkle in its father's eye, I wanted to write about the plight of innocent people suffering at the hands of organisations that should be looking after them. I wanted a crusading character (let me introduce Stephen Fiske) who could deliver justice in a satisfying way. The real world doesn't deliver that justice, and what better way than fiction to make it happen? All very worthy.
There's more to a good story than that, though. It's all solution, end-product, left-brain. Where's the empathy, the inner world? Why do we care? I've had to face facts and accept that I've been altogether too male about this story. Instead of artificially introducing emotion-inducing plot points, I need to dig for the buried treasure of my protagonist's motivations - why does he care? I've done quite a lot of this (Fiske's wife is a big part of his story) but crucially it isn't core to the story I've written. It's a wash of colour in the background.
If I've learned anything while staring into the abyss of this rewrite, it's that the story isn't about justice for the innocent. It's about why Stephen Fiske picks up that particular sword and whether he is the man for the job. That's the human story.
Now I'm interested.