Sometimes an emergency reboot IS in order. I went back and did it all over again. But this time I changed it from first person to third, took just a little more time to describe the opening scene, and hit exactly the right note with the soldier’s advice. The same scene grew from 500 words the first time round to about 750 the second, and most importantly it feels right. The shift from first to third POV felt natural, and it seems to have unlocked the gates.
Which means I may well and truly be off. This is my last day in the office, and then starting next week I am full time freelance. Which means the timing is perfect. 4th novel, here I come.