You rarely get a do-over in the submission process, so I spent three months sweating out revisions before I approached the literary agent who offered to read the manuscript a second time.
The suggested revisions weren't highly specific because so much of storytelling is vague. That left me with the task of interpreting phrases designed to improve the flow of the narrative.
So I took some time and read.
How do other authors keep the tension from chapter to chapter? Where did I drop the ball with a particular subplot as compared to books that are already out there, doing what the literary agent wants me to do?
I developed my own interpretation of the suggestions. I says to myself, says I, that the reader needs a little reminder here and there about the issue that's driving the narrative. Sure the main character can go off and do what she does, but as the author I have to insert a sentence or two here and there to remind the reader that she's still got her problem on her mind.
A book on family conflicts doesn't have the siblings fighting on every page, but one or the other of the combatants might have an internal thought about the ongoing feud. By phrasing it the right way, the author plants a seed of curiosity in the reader's mind, to get that reader to keep going because they have to find out how the problem gets solved.
Did I figure it out, or was my study time all in vain? It's possible that I failed to properly analyze other works to see how a novel is constructed in a linear fashion. After the literary agent gets through the reading for the second time around, it will be either more revisions because I'm on the right track, or a rejection because I just don't get it.
Nothing left to be done but wait it out and see if I passed the test.