Gae Polisner

How often do you go back and closely read what you have written?

A lot. But I’ll often do so in chunks. For example, I’ll print up a hardcopy of the ms I’m working on to do an entire line by line read through and by the time I get to page 30, I have so many marked up revisions, I feel overwhelmed and start inputting them, and then I’ll start revising straight on the screen.

After a rough draft of the manuscript is finished, I’ll sometimes make a timeline, so I’m reading through again. Certainly, when “first pass pages” come in I’m reading word for word like it’s a real book, and same with “second pass pages.”

Do you ever rehearse what you think it should sound like before you write something, especially dialogue?

Not rehearse before I write it, but will read it aloud after I’ve written it to see if it sounds right to my ear spoken.

When you read your writing do you do it in your head or aloud? Both!
What are you listening for? I’m listening for a lot of things: for flow and the words to make sense out loud the way they did in my head, for cadence — a certain rhythm or poetry that works to my brain (though I can’t count on other readers to need that same cadence) and, I guess, mostly authenticity.

What tips would you offer students for reading their own writing?

Reading aloud to another person (or into a webcam and playing back) really gives you an opportunity to hear the words in a different way – maybe more objectively somehow. Also, getting distance from our work and then doing that read aloud is really ideal and will often permit me to hear a manuscript in a whole different way.