8 Writing Truths I Learned from the Berenstain Bears

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Apartment Therapy wrote this great blog post about home organization using the Berenstain Bears, which inspired me to write a similar post, but about writing. First off, the Berenstain Bears was a favorite of mine. I loved that the little sister got to do everything the little brother did, and listening to my mother read about the spooky old tree. Let’s take a look at the eight things Apartment Therapy mentioned and see how they apply to writing.

  1. “You really can’t have fun or relax in a room that’s such a terrible mess.” No one likes a messy story. No one can understand a messy story. Take time to put your ducks in a row; know who the characters are, their motivations, and how these motivations conflict against each other to create the plot. Make sure to tie up those loose ends at the end (something I need to work on), and your readers will walk away feeling at peace with your work.
  2. Sometimes, it’s good to get rid of things. Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck had a good thing going for them: they believed in “less is more.” Now, as a historical fiction writer, I do need to go into detail about clothing, furniture, food, etc, to help my reader lose themselves in the era. What’s important about this is knowing which detail is important enough to capture. And when capturing, I need to make certain I’m using the exact descriptive word, rather than relying on weak adverbs.
  3. A place for everything… Don’t throw out a coincidental event simply because the writing is excellent and so you want to keep it in the work. This works in conjunction with #2… it might be a lovely paragraph, but if it’s a deus ex machina, or just doesn’t fit in, then make the tough call and get rid of it. Or save it for another piece.
  4. Make it pretty. This is in regards to self-publishing. Make that interior layout look like the Big-6-published books. Hire a cover designer who takes your work seriously and gives you something that markets your work properly.
  5. Label everything. It drives me nuts when people don’t label who is speaking, and if they do, use descriptors every time. Sometimes, people just say things. “Blah blah blah,” my character said. The word “said” is practically invisible to readers, just like the word “the.” It is appropriate to use and should be used unless it is necessary to point out the character is whispering, crying, or something else.
  6. Pegboards are totally boss. Well, pegboards, pin boards, folders, binders, whatever you use to collect your inspiration. The point is to keep an inspiration file so when you get burned out, or are lost in the weeds, you have something to refresh you and get you back on track.
  7. Have a ‘stuff’ box. I like to keep a file of paragraph snippets that have been cut across my different works. Sometimes I’ll read through it and realize a particular paragraph can be repurposed in a different story. I’ve just cut my work in half!
  8. “A little organization, and a few rules.” When you write a story, you are creating a microcosm that has rules. Stick to them! Don’t let your reader stop and wonder what century they are in by using a modern word when your story is set in 1867 (also guilty of this at times).

That is what I learned from the Berenstain Bears. Do you have any children’s books that inspire you to think again about your writing and publishing process?

Best, Belinda

P.S. Don’t forget about the Belinda’s Birthday Giveaway! 27 free ebooks and audio books as prizes to celebrate my 27th birthday. Not interested? That’s all right, we here at Worderella would appreciate you spreading the word for us. Deadline is midnight on my birthday, August 10.