I’ve been using a text-to-voice app for a few months now. When I load the dishwasher, dust, fold laundry, all the pesky little tasks of everyday life, tasks one can’t do while reading a story, I can now do while listening to one. It’s marvelous!
Lately, though, I’ve started to use a text-to-voice app for editing my first drafts and it has made me orders of magnitude more efficient. Why? Because I have a problem: I find it impossible to read my manuscript without diving in and changing it before I finish a complete read-through.
If you’re anything like me, that’s a mistake of mammoth proportions.
I give myself (at least) a few months between completing a first draft and picking it up again for editing. That means—and this is the point of letting so much time pass—that I no longer hold the story in my head. Now I get to come back and, as much as possible, see it through the eyes of a stranger.
But it’s crucial for me to read the entire manuscript through before I begin making changes. Because, that’s right, chances are I’ve forgotten what exactly a particular scene is leading up to and if I cut it then I might very well just have to put it back in down the line. Which means I’ve wasted time and made the entire, painful, experience of editing that much more tedious.
The thing I love most about text-to-voice apps are that they let me listen to my story (I catch all manner of ticks and typos that way) and, at the same time, prevent me from changing the file. Because I can’t! The program I use doesn’t have that capability. Yes, I can take notes and highlight to my heart’s content, but I can’t edit the words.
That has been invaluable to me.
I thought I would mention my discovery here in case anyone else out there is like me and could benefit from 1) having their story read back to them while 2) being unable to change it.
Which is not to say that I don’t take copious pen and paper notes. I do! And that’s okay. After I finish listening to my first draft I’ll go through all my notes and type up the suggestions for changes I’m going to keep.
And then the whole painful, wonderful, process of editing begins. But that’s a whole other post (I’ve written about editing here and here).
The Apps I Use
I’m sure there are many excellent text-to-voice programs out there. Here are a few I’ve used.
I used to use NaturalReader, and would recommend it. But I needed an app that read ePub files and, the last time I checked, NaturalReader didn’t.
VoiceOver (Mac Only)
Have you ever heard a computer generated voice breathe? If not, give Alex a listen. It makes him seem much more real, more human-like. Also, depending where a sentence is in a paragraph, Alex will read it differently. Very cool. You can give him a listen here. I use VoiceOver every day and love it.
Voice Dream Reader
This is the app I use most often. A while ago the company came out with Voice Dream Writer, but I haven’t tried it yet, though it looks as though it could come in handy.
Well, that’s it! If you have a text-to-voice program or app you’d like to recommend, please leave a comment!