I just got back from a two and a half hour workshop with Catherine Landis, author of Some Days There’s Pie. It was called “The Joy of Re-writing.” I use The Joy of Cooking pretty often, and it serves me well, so my expectations were high.
Catherine Landis is the perfect teacher for a self-doubting person like me, because she doesn’t have any pretension about her. We (the class) discussed several aspects and levels of re-writing, but I can’t recapture them all here. I want to say, though, that I think the gist of why re-writing is important is summed up in the answer Landis gave to this question: What am I really doing (when I write)? Her answers went something like this:
1. Searching for the truth—writing stories that would really happen in this world or that world (if you’re writing fantasy)
2. Getting the reader as close to the imagined world as possible—making your words as thin, as invisible, a veil as possible
Landis wouldn’t say that her answers are the right answers for everyone, but I know they are my answers too. We talked about the same concepts in the last workshop I took, with Brian Griffin, and they lit me up. Especially the veil part.
Landis also said to read and to pay special attention to what you don’t like in others’ writing. I think this reading sharpens your brain for the honing.