J.H. Moncrieff: Five Things I Learned Writing The Bear That Wouldn’t Leave

Sometimes evil looks like a fuzzy teddy bear.

Still grieving the untimely death of his dad, ten-year-old Josh Leary is reluctant to accept a well-worn teddy bear from his new stepfather.

He soon learns he was right to be wary. Edgar is no ordinary toy, and he doesn’t like being rejected. When Josh banishes him to the closet, terrible things happen.

Desperate to be rid of the bear, Josh engages the help of a friend. As the boys’ efforts rebound on them with horrifying results, Josh is forced to accept the truth — Edgar will always get even.

* * *

Find Out What Publishers Want

It’s a lot easier to sell a story that publishers actually want (as long as you’re passionate about the genre or subject) than to write the novel you want and then try to find someone who’s looking for it. If you’re having difficulty getting published, give it a try.

In my case, Samhain Horror wanted stories about childhood fears for a new anthology series, and I knew that was something I could sink my teeth into, so to speak.

Tell Your Inner Critic to Suck It

I’ve written seven novels now, and none of them had outlines. Still, every time I’m about to settle in for a writing session, it happens…

What if you can’t figure out what happens next?

What if it’s not good enough?

What if no one wants to publish this, and it’s just a waste of time?

Most writers have an inner critic. If you listen to it, it’ll keep you from writing. Or it will make you rewrite your novel so many times you never finish it.

Don’t give it that power. Ignore it, keep writing, and eventually it will be drowned out by a torrent of words.

Don’t Fall In Love With Your Own Brilliance

Don D’Auria, my editor at Samhain, made very few changes to this book. But the one change he did want was BIG—he didn’t like my title.

One the other hand, I loved it. What better title for a story about a bear that keeps coming back than It Bears Repeating? I thought it was so clever.

“No one will know what the book’s about,” said Don.

So don’t fall in love with your own brilliance. Once it’s sold, anything can be changed. (And you may discover it wasn’t so brilliant after all.)

When Opportunity Knocks, Answer the Damn Door

I was busy writing a series when a friend told me about the Samhain call.

“Should I do it?” I asked. “I’ll lose momentum with my current book.”

Of course my smart friend told me to go for it, and thankfully I listened. The rest is history.

The timing is never perfect for anything, whether it’s answering a publisher’s call, writing a book, having kids, or going back to school. If you want something, go for it. You’ll only regret the stuff you haven’t done.

Keep Breaking the Rules

When it comes to writing, I break every rule in the book. I don’t outline. I don’t write at the same time every day. I don’t know the end of my novels before I start—and yet, they always work out the way they should. Whenever someone tells me I should change my way of doing things, I smile sweetly and keep on writing. (If I’m in a good mood—if I’m not, my response is a little on the blunt side.)


With The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave, I broke another rule. Following Dean Wesley Smith’s advice, I didn’t give it to a million beta readers and critics. After writing the first draft, I polished it and gave it to just my copy editor before submitting. And it’s the first book I’ve gotten published. Go figure.



* * *

J.H. Moncrieff loves scaring the crap out of people with her books—when she’s not busy being a journalist, editor, book doctor, and publicist. In her “spare” time, J.H. loves to travel to exotic locales, advocate for animal rights, and muay thai kickbox.


J.H. Moncrieff: Website | Twitter | Facebook

The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave: Amazon | Samhain | Kobo | B&N | Trailer


54 responses to “J.H. Moncrieff: Five Things I Learned Writing The Bear That Wouldn’t Leave”

  1. I like your original title! But it probably was too subtle and not creepy enough. 🙂

    And I need to start telling my inner critic to “suck it” more often than I do. It’s really starting to hold me back. Again.

    • If you ever need me to tell your inner critic to suck it, shoot me an email. Sometimes inner critics listen to outside voices.

      And yeah, Samhain isn’t much for subtlety. 🙂

    • I don’t get to choose the cover, Jim. The publisher does. I will say that it’s light years better than the first one that was designed!

      I’ve had lots of people tell me they love it…mostly in reviews. It really is subjective.

  2. Great post! I reallllly envy your ability not to outline, but good point about telling the inner critic to suck it. I’m glad you decided to take that chance and that leap of faith and that your efforts paid off with Samhain.
    I really got a kick out of “The Bear Who Wouldn’t Leave” and hope it does big things for you 🙂

    • Thanks so much, A.E.! I’m glad too. Sometimes it’s the crazy chances we take that work out the best. Not that this was crazy, but it was definitely unplanned!

      I’m so glad you liked the book.

    • Pretty much. We’re all just wandering around in the dark anyways, right? Who knows why something hits and something else doesn’t? We have to keep trying until we find what works for us.

  3. I really like what you’ve star-ted here, J.H. Others might think the novel sounds a bit grizzly, or that you baloo it, but if they would just paws and think, they would realize it’s a boo boo to pooh-pooh it. It doesn’t take a yogi to see that this release is a real Kodiak moment in your career, and ursine that good things are to come.

    • Thanks so much, Alan! It’s so subjective, whether someone likes a cover or not. Can’t please everyone, that’s for sure.

  4. Very good and sound advice J.H., and it’s obviously working for you! I think the cover captures the essence of childhood fears perfectly!

  5. i’ll try again. the cover works for me. also I don’t outline either, though I do map out major points in the story. and those always seem to change. good luck with sales.

    • Chuck is at a conference, so I think all the comments were just in moderation for a while.

      I’ll jot down notes if I get an idea for a book but can’t start writing it right away, and I write down what’s going to come next when I finish a writing session, but that’s only so I don’t forget.

      The one thing that matters is to do what works for you. Every writer is different.

  6. I think your cover is fine. You can’t have a pink teddy-weddy bear on this topic. Besides, the author really doesn’t have a say. You gave me an idea, though. As a little girl someone gave me a doll with a painted face. First of all, I hated dolls. Secondly, this doll scared the Winnie-the-Poop out of me. So, I threw it in the garbage and went out to play. When I came home the possessed doll was back on my bed. Holding a knife. I didn’t realize at the time my brother was behind this. Still am seeing a therapist. Maybe I could write a best seller out of this?

    • Hmm…I’m not sure. It sounds like a great premise, though. If I get a best seller out of the bear (ha!), I’ll let you know. 😉

      Thanks for commenting and defending my poor, beleaguered cover.

    • 🙂 Your brother sounds wonderful! Sorry, he caused therapy. The best horror stories are the ones focused on things that really scar us. Dolls and little kids are always winners. And of course, a demonic teddy bear could work.

    • Thanks, Tana! I’m glad you liked the post. I used to silence my inner critic with carbs…lots and lots of tasty carbs…but there’s only so long you can do that without risking your health. 🙂

  7. jmh, The cover looks fine to me, and as you say you don’t get much of a choice. Isn’t funny, this has happened to me, the publisher gives you this awful version as your first choice, then when you kick and scream they give you one more, but you have to take this one. It always makes the second one look so much better. Is this a process most publishers go for, I wonder.

    • Sorry you went through the same thing, Cher. They probably would have done a third cover, but as it was my first time publishing with them, I didn’t want to come across as a diva or difficult to work with. I don’t mind this cover. Is it Rembrandt? No, but this is a horror novella, and Samhain was going for a unified look for the series. I also assume they know their audience better than I do.

      I hope you ended up with a cover that you liked. Thanks for commenting!

  8. These are five things that every new writer should read. When it comes to a creative process the only rule should be, ‘do what works for you’. Like you, I don’t work from an outline. I don’t write at the same time or in the same place. I don’t know the end before I start. I do use beta readers. As for your cover, for every person who doesn’t like it, there will be others who do.

    • Thanks, Mick. I agree! There is so much advice out there for writers, but it all means nothing if it doesn’t work for you.

      It’s taking me some time to find good beta readers. I’m still looking for someone who won’t be afraid to get tough with me. The ones I have now love everything I write, which is a nice ego boost, but it won’t help me grow as an author.

  9. Well, cover comments aside (I like it, BTW, it fits the theme well) , the important thing is the story. And this one is a winner. I’ve had the opportunity to read an advance copy and it’s got more than its fair share of chills.

    • Thanks so much, JG. Your support as I’ve gone through this process has meant the world to me, especially since we didn’t know each other before I joined the Samhain family!

      Samhain horror authors ROCK! They’re seriously among the nicest people on the planet.

  10. Eigth written, first published? Hey… That sounds somewhat familiar. But I have been indie for nearly five years now. Every book is better than the last. I don’t regret my choice.
    But your editor or publisher was right about the title and the current RL Stine-esque cover. I think both are good choices. My first cover had a tombstone on the front, but people thought it must be a memoir or a cookbook. I said “why would the pickiest person on earth write a cookbook?” Who knows whether the “customer is always right,” right? (The book was a cross genre action/dystopian fiction. I hope not a memoir. Definitely not a cookbook.)
    Anyway… You are writing. You are clearly doing what you love. Major props to you. Congratulations on your successes, and may you learn from your failures. I enjoy following you on FB.

    • Thanks, Phyl. And no worries about the typo! I even have one in the post. It happens. Damn those Typo Gremlins!

      The reason I have eight books but one published is a long, long story that involves a unsuccessful agent-client relationship and a fear of marketing my own work again. I’ve only just started to send my work out on submission once more.

      Basically, it’s my own fault it took me this long, but things are definitely happening now.

  11. I love this piece! I tend to write the same way-no outlines, no set time, multiple stories going constantly. I use a beta reader for my novels, but with the novellas and short stories, I’ve found myself just giving ’em to my copy editor to clean up my spills.
    I’m looking forward to reading your novella tis month.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad you enjoyed the post, and it’s always great to hear from a fellow pantser. I know there are more of us out there…we just tend to be quieter than the “OUTLINE!!” folks.

  12. I love your cover, J.H. That’s one creepy panda! As for the book – I couldn’t put it down. Scary, great characterizations and plot, and a worthy winner in the anthology competition. Well done!

  13. Smart idea to find out what the publisher wants rather than pitching them in something you already have. How did you find what they were looking for?

    • Thanks for commenting, Drew. In this case, the publisher was doing an anthology call, so they requested stories about childhood fears, but I’ve also asked epubs what they’re looking for. Some will say, “Send us your best book,” but others have been more specific, which helps.

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