Had a IM chat with my current beta reader today, who lives on the opposite coast from me.
She's found a spot in the story that, with some poking and prodding and turning on its head, should help me shave off quite a few thousand words.
It involves taking what happens to one of my main characters in a certain scene, and causing it to happen to a secondary character instead, with much of the same needed plot turns resulting but far less word baggage cluttering up the aftermath.
At least, that's the theory. In practice, it means a LOT of work for me, rewriting a fairly substantial section.
That's hard to hear at this stage.
But once I thought it through, and brainstormed a bit with her--what a blessing, I don't get to do that anywhere near enough with other writers--on how several small story beats could be achieved in slightly different ways, I feel this revision idea has real potential. The overall story structure remains intact, and the ripple effect of changes needing to be made from that point to The End should be reasonably minimal.
I may wind up liking the result better than what I've got now. If its leaner and faster paced, but still hits all the emotional and plot points I feel are necessary, then what's not to like?
Huzzah for insightful beta readers!
Huzzah for answered prayer!