30 Days of Your Stories: Your Worst Fear

worst fear writing prompt


We conquered some pretty big fears around my house this week. My oldest son started swim lessons. Before I took him on Monday he said, “I get scared around water and I don’t want to get scared in front of all those other people. They will laugh at me.” But he went. And he got scared. And he said people laughed at him for being scared. But he got in the pool. And even though he had a stomach ache about fifteen minutes before it was time to go each day, he still went. He still got wet. He’s not only learning to swim, but to conquer his fear.

Day 30 of your stores: Your worst fear.

What is your worst fear? Or, what used to be a fear that you conquered?

5 Options for Background Noise When Writing

Sometimes I write in silence, but most of the time I like a little background noise. Here are my five go-to options:

  • 5 Options for Background Noise When Writing - nextstepediting.comInstrumental music. My favorite is a station I created on Pandora of movie scores. Classical music is fine, but I like to feel like there’s action happening, which is why movie scores work well.
  • Movies I’ve seen over and over. For me it’s Twilight or the Harry Potter movies. I can have them on and not pay much attention to them. Except for this scene. I always look up for it. (Don’t click if you haven’t read the Harry Potter books or seen the movies!)
  • Sports. My husband loves to come in the room when I’m watching a game on TV and ask me what the score it. “I don’t know,” I say. Or even better, he asks me who is playing, “Um, I don’t know.” (Basketball is the best because the rhythm of the game is so consistent.)
  • Coffee shop noise. Even if you don’t write in a coffee shop, you can download apps that play coffee shop noises, like Coffitivity (which is free). How fun is that?
  • Rain. Rain may be my absolute favorite. It rained most of today and I could hear the water drops hitting the leaves and ground outside while I hit the keyboard inside. Rain is my favorite smell to write to also.

What background noise do you like best when writing?


Five Writing Mistakes I See Every Day on Social Media


Every time I tap the Facebook icon on my phone, I know I’m going to see some grammar and punctuation mistakes. About 5% of them can probably be blamed on that darn auto-correct, but 95% is user error. Here are the top five mistakes I see:

  1. Putting two spaces between sentences. When we started typing on computers instead of typewriters, the rule changed to just one space. Of course, it took typing teachers a while to make the switch, which is why you may have learned to “space space” after every period, but it’s wrong (and has been for twenty years).
  2. Confusing “then” and “than.” Then relates to time; than makes a comparison. “We went to the store, then the park.” “I’d rather go to the park than the store.” Usually people pronounce these words correctly, but don’t write them correctly.  This mistake, more than any other, makes me want to comment with a correction. But I hold back. (Maybe next time I see it I’ll just innocently share this post.)
  3. Using the wrong pronoun, especially I/me. Here’s the trick I learned–take the other person out and see which sounds correct, I or me. So if you type “Jake and me went to the store,” and take Jake out, you have  “Me went the store.” That’s not right so you know it’s I. Or, “She wanted to go to the store with Jake and I,” take out Jake again and you have “She wanted to go to the store with I.” That doesn’t sound right so you know it’s me.
  4. Using random capitalization. Proper nouns are capitalized. Proper nouns are names of people and places. Specific names, not general names. So your son may go to Columbus High School, but he just goes to high school if you aren’t using the proper name. You may type “Heading to the store with Mom” because you’re using it as her name, but you would also type “Heading to the store with my mom” because you’re not using “mom” as her name, but rather her general title. We should never capitalize words for emphasis.
  5. Putting periods and commas outside the quotation marks. Questions marks and exclamation marks sometimes go outside the quotation marks (depending on the sentence structure), but periods and commas always go inside. Remember, they are little and need  protection.

What other writing mistakes do you see people make on social media?


Five Habits that Set Great Writers apart from the Rest

Great writers read a lot. They know what they take in will influence their writing.

“If we’re free from the burden of trying to be completely original, we can stop trying to make something out of nothing, and we can embrace influence instead of running away from it.” Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon

Great writers study writing by reading. They read books with strong characters to learn how to write strong characters. They read books of poetry to write poetically. They read books on grammar and punctuation so they get better at honing these skills.

“Art stands on the shoulders of craft, which means that to get to the art, you must master the craft.” The Getaway Car: A Practical Memoir About Writing and Life by Ann Patchett

Great writers don’t wait for inspiration. They sit down and write no matter what.

“[Writing is] something you choose to do on a regular basis with no vision of an outcome; the aim is not improvement, not getting somewhere. You do it because you do it. You show up whether you want to or not.” The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg

Great writers don’t stop when rejected. They keep writing. They get better. They try again.

“But I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach so many surprises. That thing you had to force yourself to do—the actual act of writing—turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed the tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.” – Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott

Great writers are still scared to publish.

“Remember our rule of thumb: The more scared we are of a work or calling, the more sure we can be that we have to do it.” –War of Art by Steven Pressfield

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2014: The Year You Write a Book

I’m going to give it to you straight–you are out of excuses for not writing and publishing your own book. Let me see if I can talk you out of relying on your two favorite reasons it hasn’t happened yet:

Reason #1, you don’t have time. You can find more time. I know you don’t think it’s that simple, but it can be. You can write a book in 15 minutes a day. Or one month.  Cut out evening TV or wake up an hour earlier. Write on your lunch break. Get the words out of your head and onto paper or screen.

Reason #2, you don’t have money to invest in it. If money is the biggest issues holding you back, you can check out books on grammarpublishing, and marketing from your library and write the very best book you can on your own. You can convert your Word document into a PDF, sell it on your website, and start making money immediately. You can invest what you make back into your book and hire an editor, formatter, and cover designer to get it ready for e-publishing formats like the Kindle. Then take those profits and publish it in paperback using CreateSpace or a print-on-demand service. Use those profits to publish your second book.

It has never been easier. The only thing stopping you right now is yourself.

Ignore the small voice in your head that’s supplying all the excuses. Make 2014 the year you write a book. Or even two.