I’m working hard on the next story for Rymellan Fiction and hope to send it to my editor in about two weeks. Before I declare a story ready for her eyes, I always curl up with a cup of tea and have the story read to me—by my computer. When I reach this point, I’ve already gone over the story several times. But the impartial computer with its mechanical, monotone voice will always have me cringing over a line of dialogue, a clunky passage, or a blatant error like a missing word.
It’s amazing how our brains fill in the blanks when we read. I sometimes haven’t picked up on a missing word after reading a passage three or four times because my brain “helpfully” filled it in for me. But when the computer reads that passage, my ear immediately notices that something is wrong.
Having the computer read to me also alerts me to clunky dialogue. When I write, I hear the characters’ voices in my head; I hear their tone and the inflection of each word. So a poor line of dialogue might sound great to me when I first write it down. Dialogue means that someone is speaking—sounds like a great time to get the ear involved. Sure enough, there are usually a few lines of dialogue that make me cringe when I hear them. They sound unnatural or just plain stupid. On the other hand, if I chuckle at or feel moved by a line of dialogue when I hear it with no inflection and tone, I know it’s good.
The same goes for prose. Sometimes I only notice that a paragraph could use more work when it’s read back to me. If, when I’m listening to a passage, I think “Huh?” and have to replay it (or worse, read it) to understand it, it’s back to the drawing board.
For these reasons, having the computer read my work to me has proven valuable. I never skip this step when editing a story. In fact, I do it twice, since I do it again after I’ve revised the story based on my editor’s feedback.
There are a variety of text-to-speech applications out there. I use ReadPlease (which is no longer available). I like it because I can alter how the program pronounces specific words. One of my characters is named Mo. Most text-to-speech software will read that back as “Missouri.” Fortunately I can tell ReadPlease how I want it pronounced. If you google for similar applications, you might find another product that better suits your needs, so look around.
I’ll leave it at that. My computer is waiting to read to me, so I have some cringing to do.