I had a very productive session last night and was able to work my way through most of what had been troubling me about Chapters 8 and 9. I'm still finishing Chapter 9, but the key transition points that I had been missing are now in place. I'll be able to borrow a key scene from my "Outtakes" file and reuse it, then I'll only need to add the conclusion to Chapter 9 and I'm finished.
Chapter 8 runs long and will need to be pared down later, but it's not long in a bad or loose way, but in a good way. It all reads well and fits together, I simply have too much of it and so I'll have to edit simply for length. I'll save that for another time, so that I can continue making forward progress at this time. I want to build momentum!
It feels good to finally have the right pieces for these two chapters. I had played with various versions, ways of handling the plot issues, but none of them "rang true". What I have now does. The key to solving the riddle was to go back to how I set this sequence of chapters into motion: a key event back in Chapter 6 that leads directly to the events of Chapters 7, 8 and 9. It is only by focusing on that event, and what it means, that I was able to see a more direct through-line for the MC. There is now "harmony" between the various issues and events, something that was lacking before.
I love it when I stick with it and get the results I've been seeking! It's nice to have Chapter 9 focus on a more serious dramatic moment, bringing this sequence to an end, where this same moment is directly in line with and the result of other events that began back in Chapter 6 at the start of this sequence. Previously I was off course, starting with one event and ending with an event that looked right on the surface, but which was not really in keeping with the real issues here. Like a new vase on your table that seems to belong there, but something tells you it just doesn't quite fit in the room. You finally realize it clashes with other items in some way that was not obvious at first.
Tonight I'll finish Chapter 9. I'll look before I leap, then start moving forward with the next sequence of chapters. I know the main intent, but there is still much to discover along the way. The adventure continues!