Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Wonderful Tech: READERS

Note: This month my next post will be on the 4th Wednesday rather than the 3rd.

Reading Your Manuscript
It's always helpful when finishing up a manuscript to read it aloud. Not silently--aloud. It's amazing how many mistakes you can catch. Typos, odd flow, strange rhythms, repeated words. I try to read aloud through a manuscript when revising, before querying, or handing off a final manuscript to my critique partner or agent. It takes a good part of a day or two to read through a novel, but it's worth it. The trouble is, my throat gets quite sore and raspy by the time I'm done.

On Facebook, Terri Tiffany (thanks, Terri!!!) posted this weekend about using a voice reader application called NaturalReader for checking/editing a manuscript. I'd thought about using a voice reader before, but since I'm a diehard technophobe, I hadn't ever tried anything. But I followed Terri's link and scouted around the site. It looked pretty easy. They even had a FREE version with only one (female) voice, so I downloaded it to my desktop and installed it. It's easy to use! Just paste in a paragraph or chapter, and click Play. Even I can handle that.

The free version stops every so often and asks if you want to upgrade, but you can just click Later and continue on your merry (and FREE) way. The lowest paid version is $49, and has a choice of voices as well as other options like converting to MP3. Even with the free version, you can set the speed of the voice. I bumped mine slower than the default, to -2 or -3. The general flow isn't perfect, and it sounds quite electronic in places, but on the whole it works great and I'm happy to save my voice! I can even get up from my desk and stretch while I listen, or close my eyes to rest them. (Oddly, it actually sounds better and more natural when I close my eyes.)

I have to laugh when the app reads words like wind and object. Usually the voice says the wrong pronunciation for the meaning I want. It's amusing.

Voice Readers and Links
Some of these readers can even be put on your mobile, iPad, or other devices.
1. NaturalReader: HERE. Bottom of the page lists diffs between free & paid versions.
[Also available free for Mac; click on Free Version for Mac words on left margin: HERE]
2. Voice Dream: HERE  I haven't tried this one, but others use it.
3. Dragon: HERE (Highly accurate dictation; has a moderate learning curve.)
4. Microsoft Office--has a text to voice program available. If you're techy and adventurous, you can find directions how to access it by visiting youtube or the Microsoft Office site for the version you have. I tried to follow some youtube directions, but the speech program wasn't listed on my options menu and I gave up. *shrug*

I've also heard Kindle Fires read things aloud to you. Aren't we writers lucky to live in today's advanced tech world?

Do you usually read your manuscript aloud to yourself to check for flow and errors?
Have you ever tried a voice reader? What's been your experience?
If you have a Kindle Fire, does it read to you, and do you use that feature?


  1. I definitely read mine aloud, and have used readers on several occasions. The voices can be a little distracting (I've heard the non-free ones are a little more natural sounding), but it usually only takes my ears a couple of minutes to adjust. :)

    I use one on my Mac called 'Say It' btw.

  2. Reading the manuscript aloud is such a great reminder, Carol! I don't always, but I should, because when I do, indeed I find word omissions, repeats, and the like. I'm in the middle of a rewrite now, so, when I finish it, thanks to your post reminder, that's exactly what I will do before I send it to my agent.

    Meanwhile, thanks for the tips about voice readers. I'm bookmarking this for later, because I don't think I'm ready for that. Right now all my energy is on figuring out scene changes; I'm afraid trying to learn something technical will sidetrack me. :-)

  3. Thanks for another great post, Carol! I'm sharing this with two of my writing groups. So helpful!!

  4. I read out load, but like you say, it can make you hoarse. I have a Kindle Fire and have used the voice reader, if I've got to a good part of a book, and I have to go and cook dinner.

    I wonder if it works if I email my MS on it? I think hearing your MS read out my someone else or something else is useful.

    Thanks for the links. Will check them out.

  5. Thanks for the info. Right now I have my Kindle read to me. It mispronounces many proper nouns. Also, it sounds robotic.

  6. I always read my manuscripts out loud. You're right. You can hear when things don't flow quite right.

  7. I definitely do! It's shocking how many things you catch that you didn't by other means of editing. Especially odd for me since I'm so visually focused and not so much auditory, and it still works wonders.

  8. I read aloud in my head... if that makes sense. I can't scan when I read anyway (thus why I'm such a slow reader). Even so, reading aloud DOES make a huge difference to catching those mistakes.

  9. I used to read aloud... then I discovered natural reader... and then I found I missed rhythm and several other typos by just listening rather than reading aloud myself.. so I think I should do a natural reader and a read aloud... so much time!!

  10. I do read my manuscripts aloud. I haven't tried a voice reader app, but I suspect that I'd zone out by just listening. Reading my writing while listening to myself help me to catch those sneaky mistakes that slipped through all the revisions.

  11. Thank you for this great list of resources. I was seriously depressed when I learned Kindle hadn't continued the "reading" option on the Fire. I tried another app, but it didn't really work out. *sigh* Guess if you fail, try, try again, eh?

  12. I have an account on YAKitome--it offers different voices, though it doesn't sound terrifically natural. I have yet to put a short story or novel into it, though.

  13. great links!! I'll have to check these out. The writing software I use--Ywriter, comes with a natural voice reader so I use it sometimes to read my work aloud:)


  14. I can just about handle reading my MS aloud myself - I can't stand hearing someone else read it! I'm way too self conscious for that!

  15. I usually read my pages out loud. It's amazing what you hear versus what you read. Thanks for the voice application resources. I'll definitely give them a try to see if I can edit while listening. Thanks, Carol!

  16. The current best text to speech software is Text Speaker. It has customizable pronunciation, reads anything on your screen, and it even has talking reminders. The bundled voices are well priced and sound very human. Voices are available in English, French, Italian, Spanish, German, and more. Easily converts blogs, email, e-books, and more to MP3 or for listening instantly. Also perfect for proofreading.


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