Word One is the one you dread.

It’s the place where nothing—or anything—might happen. The place where work sees the light of its directions or fades into a worrisome dark.

It might be the first word on the blank page; the space that looks, to your overwhelmed eye, to be the size of a football field. It might be the word that attends the last chapters; the first word of critique from a friend who has read every chapter, every step of the way, and is about to tell you her reactions to the  ending.

That latter is the tougher one, I think. It’s the ultimate test. The proof that your characters have arrived at the place you meant to take them.

I’ve had my first reader reactions. And I can report (with a sigh of relief of hurricane proportions) that those reactions were exactly what I’d dreamed they would be.

Strange thing, to stand outside the book and comment on another person’s response to it. A reader’s reactions are, at once, necessary, desired, artificial, and unreal. Those living souls-on-paper still breathe in me. Commenting on them is an awkward artifice, like offering a critique on a real person. I know these written-people are not real. And I believe—thoroughly and with a whole heart—that they are utterly alive.

Did the ending surprise? Yep. Was it expected? Nope. Did it turn out to be a spiritual, as transcendent, as fulfilling as I’d wanted it to be? Apparently so. The level of response was wonderful. Gratifying. Extraordinary. But the quest isn’t over.

Now the next high hurdles come: the final go-over that I’ve been working at for the past couple of days…the reading by the folks into whose hands I’ll next place the results of this treasured labor…and, with luck, the final word from you, those for whom this thing was intended all along.

Now, all that’s left is to find the next Word One. And walk with it as far as it will go. Because, soon, the journey starts all over again.