HALLIE EPHRON: There's a new blog out there, especially for writers, and the brains behind it belong to writer/editor Lorrie Bodger. It's called THE BOOK UNDER HER BED.
When I was first coming out from under the bed as a writer I entrusted my work to Lorrie to help me see in what ways it wasn't good enough and how to make it better.
I learned from Lorrie that I write lean. That I had to layer in character, deepen it through multiple revisions. I learned what it really means to "show don't tell," and how to visualize a setting and bring it to the page.
On the way to getting published (and through a fair number of rejections), I left more than a few of my early efforts under the bed, so it seems so perfect to me that she calls her new blog THE BOOK UNDER HER BED.
The blog is a kind of water cooler for talking about writers & writing, and it's a serious business, one in which you need all the friends and collective wisdom you can gather.
Lorrie, I know what the term "the book under her bed" evokes for me -- but what is it for you?
LORRIE BODGER: The “book under her bed” is a metaphor for a writer’s anxiety about coming out—as a real writer. It does, in fact, refer to an actual manuscript: One of the women in the writers’ group I lead and teach had a huge stack of manuscript pages stashed under her bed for a decade. Her goal in joining what I lovingly call the Girl Group was to unpack those old short stories and rewrite them. Which she’s doing, with great success.
HALLIE: Some manuscripts should just be left under the bed and the writer should move on... but how can you tell which ones?
LORRIE: Sometimes you can’t tell until the manuscript has marinated for a year or two (or ten) in the sauce under the bed. Sometimes you have to put as much courage into leaving a manuscript alone for a while as you may eventually need for pulling it out again. Objectivity is what you require, and you don’t get that without getting a little distance.
HALLIE: What do you do while you’re waiting for objectivity?
LORRIE: Write another novel. Write a memoir, a mystery, a book of poems. Write a short story. Write ten short stories. Keep writing. Nothing you write is wasted, everything you write is a step toward becoming a better writer.
HALLIE: That’s what I do—I keep writing (those are just a few of my great unpublished works). And over time I've cannibalized many of my under-the-bed books and used bits and pieces in new works in progress. Is that something you see often?
LORRIE: Your trove of under-bed manuscripts and oddbits is your stock-in-trade. You own it, you get to use it however you like, wherever you like, whenever you like. Let’s face it: all writers are word-consuming cannibals. And most of us do, on occasion, use our old darlings to feed our new darlings.
HALLIE: Lorrie, you have published 30-plus books. Looking back, what has been the biggest help for you in becoming a better writer, and do you have any books left under the bed?
LORRIE: There are two answers to your first question, Hallie: I become a better writer by writing all the time—even e-mails count, if you write them like letters and use real words. And I read as much as possible. You cannot become a better writer without doing both.
The answer to your second question is, of course, a resounding YES. I have oceans of boxed-up manuscript pages that have been waiting patiently for my attention while I’ve written several more oceans of pages. Wouldn’t have it any other way.
HALLIE: So keep writing. Check. Keep reading. Check. Don't throw away the books under the bed. Check check check check check...
Do you have one, two, more books under your bed? (Please, tell me you've backed them up because, well, you just never know.)
Confess: Do you cannibalize them?