Written by Ethan H. Gaines @lastbestpress

The most terrifying and intimidating words to think or write out could be two simple words: Chapter One. Yes, that first writing endeavor you take on when you first commit yourself to write that story that’s been building in your head (and maybe in your outline) is one of the most frightening things. You may be asking yourself why it’s so frightening. It’s just writing, right?

Let me tell you something that I learned about public speaking from my youth pastor at the time (now he’s the lead pastor in Spokane, Washington). A sermon, or in this case a story, is a journey one takes another on. You as the speaker or writer have the responsibility of taking someone on a road trip. Is it fun? Is it exciting? Or is it boring? It really made me think the next time I sat down to get my thoughts in order for a speaking engagement.

Was what I was going to say taking them on a journey to a particular destination? Not only is it a road trip for them, but it’s also a road trip for you. You have to take the trip first to make sure all the bumps can be avoided and all the slip-ups are straightened. That way when you deliver the finished project to the hands/ears of your audience it’s a smooth trip for them. Does this mean there won’t be mistakes along their road trip? No! Nobody is perfect, artists not excluded. You will make mistakes and you will fail. That is a fact of life. What matters is how you react to failure. Go to your current project and look for that mistake. Maybe you need to fix your presentation?

Let’s revisit those two words we were discussing in the beginning: Chapter One. I’ve sat down and typed those two words out numerous times and deleted them probably more times than I can count. Why? Was it because I didn’t like the idea or plot behind it? Most times I absolutely loved it! I had a series planned out with an Indiana Jones-type figure that met Rick O’Connell from The Mummy Trilogy. It was great. What I didn’t want was to go on the trip myself. The sights along weren’t worth the trip.

If you’re traveling somewhere do you want to be looking at a vast area of nothingness for long periods of time? Or do you want to see a landscape rich in color and terrain? It’s the same in writing. Does your story lack something that will pop out for the reader to make them feel something? I’m not even talking about being overly descriptive with the mountains or forests in your story. But the characters and setting (time, place).

I mostly write historical fiction and military fiction, so my settings are sometimes in dangerous areas in the world. I’ve just wrapped up writing the first book in my Fog of War series, Tears of the Saint (October 2019), and that’s set in the early days of the Cold War. I could be very bland about the people and the area in the story, but I strive to research the setting to see how it impacts the characters. By doing that I hope to bring the reader on a colorful road trip.

Write those two words: Chapter One. Write those words and think about your road trip. It might be long and remember you’ve already taken it so you know what’s going to happen. Just remind yourself that your passenger hasn’t seen it. That character you killed off? You know you did it, but your audience doesn’t. That third time of edits gets under your skin, I know. But if you’ve done the research and leg-work, then that trip you’re about to bring somebody with is sure to be memorable.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

-Chinese proverb

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