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.

Love or Lack Thereof Progresses

Dear Reader,

And so I write my second check-in for Round of Words in 80 Days. I know this is supposed to be the writing exercise that remembers you have a life, but goodness, it’s still tough because I expect so much of myself.

Love or Lack Thereof goals

  • Weeks 1+2: Edit short stories 3, 4, and 5

Over the weekend I completed the edits for another short story for Love or Lack Thereof, the anthology of poems and short stories I will be releasing in February. I’ve determined the book will be in two sections: Sweet and Savory. I determined the order of the stories that are ready for professional editing, etc.

I am starting to kind of freak out because I want the anthology in my editor’s hand by this weekend. I’m participating in a startup weekend event beginning Friday evening which lasts until Sunday afternoon. Which means writing this upcoming weekend is out. Argh! It’s frustrating how my professional life conflicts with my writing life. I have to change my goals for this week yet again.

Fingers crossed I don’t stress myself out trying to get this anthology to Cindy (my editor). She’s already booked for late January and all of February. Gah!

Catching the Rose goals

  • Week 2: Finalize updated blurb, tightened outline

I have completed the blurb, I’m fairly pleased with it. However, I think I’ll have to drop the other goal of writing 750+ words a day until I complete work on Love or Lack Thereof. No outline work will be done until LOLT is done. The new blurb is available below for your enjoyment, however.

CATCHING THE ROSE

Accustomed to getting her way as a privileged southern belle, Veronica Vernon is outraged when her step-father arranges a marriage to her childhood bully. Desperate for a way out, Veronica runs north in search of her childhood love, Jonathan, to convince him to marry her instead.

Intrigued by similarities between her memory of Jonathan and the description of her friend’s cousin, Veronica ventures into Yankee territory only to find Brad Williams is nothing like Jonathan. But that won’t stop Veronica from trying to convince her step-father otherwise!

Refusing to let others run her life for her, Veronica embarks on a headstrong quest to find her Prince Charming before war takes him from her forever.

Belinda Kroll crafts a tale of lost love and determination during the exciting first year of the American Civil War.

Thoughts?

Check out how the other Round of Words in 80 Days writers are doing this week.