This is a short blog entry, the victim of too many deadlines and too little time. Plus it’s my birthday.
One of the drawbacks of writing a novel is that it’s time consuming to edit. You can read and read and read some more but I’ve found that when you edit, your “mind” fills in the blanks that aren’t really on the page. Instead we often advise authors:
1. Increase the typefont size.
2. Read it backwards (never did get the hang of that)
3. Play word search (its versus it’s) with search and find functions.
4. Lastly, read it out loud.
I do a lot of the latter. Reading my work out loud. But with a 300+ page manuscript it's a daunting task. Plus my family has begun to talk about having me committed. I also I find I put emotion in where I want it to be. That, my dear friends, is what you call cheating. Readers won’t always guess correctly what inflections you meant if its in your head but not down in black on white. For instance, while reading a passage to several classes yesterday I realized I wrote:
“Do you think they’ll find us?” he whispered.
Only to realize I tell you about the whisper after you’ve read the dialogue in a louder voice. Too late to correct unless you’re scanning as you read. So I found a way to “hear” my words and catch things I had not caught in multiple revisions: missing punctuation, unrealistic dialogue, excess prose that can be cut.
How does one do this you might ask?
By having my computer read my manuscripts to me. And guess what, it’s been on your computer this whole time hiding in plain sight.
Never tried that? Didn’t know you could? That’s why you Mira arm twisted an MIT nerd to write on this blog.
Depending on what system you have it should be straight forward. (warning, I’m" all-in" on Mac computers so PC people will have to use the links I provide for tutorials)
Try these tips (you may have to experiment to get it just right).
1. Use Adobe Acrobat software to read a pdf (not as elegant as I would like but will do in a pinch so I'll list it first).
Read Out Loud
Activate Read Out Loud
Give the software a few seconds to load before you click and it should read. I tested this on a pdf file I created myself for a client (science experiments) and it worked well for reading one paragraph at a time. I tested it on pdf file of my ARC I got from my publisher and within a single paragraph it only read a single line. I realized the ARC had been created by the book designer who was working in InDesign which changed how Adobe interpreted what a paragraph is (in this case a series of individual lines). So caveat emptor. But it’s free and it works.
(note - you can change the voice if you're on a Mac - see the instructions below in section 3)
2. Using PC software to read a MS Word or text file? Use this link to step through the process:
(Caveat: I’m assuming this works. I don’t own a PC so I haven’t tried this one but it looks fairly straightforward.)
3. OKAY APPLE/MAC PEOPLE - IT’S YOUR TIME TO SHINE!
If you’re using a Mac (Yay team!) there are two options depending on what software and operating system you are using. This will read an entire chapter back to you (a whole book if you want but that’s a lot of memory so do it in pages or chapters). It will also read other things like text in articles on the internet. I tell the "mini-me progeny" (aka my college kids) to use it to read long digital texts assigned in class because they are both a visual and auditory learners and somehow "hearing" cements information better. I love this technique because I can make changes and revise while it’s reading without interrupting the cyber narrator.
And no, Apple doesn’t come out and tell you it’s a built in feature. If you’re lucky enough to still own a pre-Intel Mac with OS 9, you got faces if you programmed it to listen to your voice commands. Some brilliant person removed the voice command function. I'm grieving still. It was a great way to keep students quiet and enthralled at rowdy school visits.
First choose a voice.
Go to your Systems Preferences (in your dock or up in the Apple at the top left of the screen)
Select “Speech” or “Dictation and Speech” depending on what operating system you have.
Choose a voice. There are several already loaded but you can use “customize” to find a new voice to download. The older Macs had novelty voices loaded - great for school visits (bubbles, aliens, robots, etc.). But now you have to load them. They are free, by the way, but take up a lot of memory so don't go crazy.
I chose “Lee” who has an Australian accent.
Click on "Customize" to find a voice or you might find interesting:
Next, choose a key sequence you can remember. This will be used to turn the voice on and off.
Lastly (the easy part), highlight the text you want the software to read by dragging the cursor over it. Then use your key sequence and sit back and listen to your brilliant prose or “clunky in need of revision” prose depending on what number draft you’re working on. Honestly, you can get through your entire manuscript in a day or two before you submit if you use this to create your version of an audio book. And although I haven't done it, I suspect you can use Garage Band to record the voice so you can listen to it again as an mp3 in the car or on your phone or iPod/iPad.
Here's an audio sample of the result!
There's a glitch however (isn't there always) to the rule. If you are using the NEWEST version of "Pages" Apple techs changed the game plan a bit and you have to program a keyboard shortcut just to make it work on this software (the methods above work for everything else, including Scrivener and internet reads). I think really young engineers with no customer contact like making enhancements without doing a poll of existing users. Probably because they're aware we carry pitchforks and aren't afraid to use them.
So if you have issues, try the method below for getting speech to work on Apple's Pages latest update. I used Control S and Control Q but you can make your own shortcut.
Otherwise the first method should work on everything else.
So there you have it. A new trick to try. What tricks do you use? Come share with the village.
Happy writing and listening!.....Christine
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First Fridays will feature Bryan Patrick Avery, published writer , man of mystery, and professional magician among other things.
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