With one thing and another, I almost forgot to blog again. S has finished a giant fanfic project, so she and I were reading her story aloud together. As we’ve mentioned a number of times on this blog, reading aloud is an important part of our revision process. I’d go so far as to say, in fact, that it’s the most important part. Reading aloud is the best way to catch little typos, awkward phrasing, and inconsistencies of plot and characterization. And, of course, it’s fun if you can do it with someone you like.
But what happens if you don’t have someone to read with? Or what happens if your writing partner happens to be working on her own stuff at the moment, and you want to read something over again for the third or fourth time, and it seems like something of an imposition to ask? Well, as I’ve mentioned before, there’s a way around this. You can make your computer read your story to you.
I’ve actually been doing this myself over the past few weeks. In addition to all the other little revision and reference projects I’ve been working on, I decided to reread all our Myrcia books in chronological order, starting with Keara of Glen Taran and ending with S’s Oleg Omdahl mysteries (a span, in the internal timeline of the Myrciaverse, of more than 2,700 years). Right now, I’m at A Fatal Humor, which is just over halfway through. The point of doing this isn’t just to pat myself on the back for how much I’ve written. It’s to make sure I can remember all those stories and keep everything straight in my head as I write more.
Now, I could just sit in my comfy chair and read them the normal way, off my computer screen. But I’d also like to get some exercise occasionally. So what I do is to connect my Bluetooth headphones and listen to the books, two or three chapters at a time, while walking.
The first step is to save a couple chapters of the book as their own PDF file.
Next, you open the PDF and use the “Read Out Loud” feature (under “View”). Choose “Activate Read Aloud,” then open the same menu again and choose “Read to the End of Document.” (Note the “Pause” option here, too. And once you’ve paused, you’ll see “Resume” in its place to start it up again.) I’m using Acrobat Pro, but Adobe Reader has similar options, as well.
If you’re in a hurry, you can change the speed, as well, under “Edit” > “Preferences.”
I’ve got mine set at 280 words a minute, for example. So if I do three chapters, each of which is, say, 3,000 words long, that will take me a little over half an hour.
Now, obviously it’s always more fun to read with S, but she’s got her fanfic project to work on, as well as—oh, yeah—her job. So the “Read Out Loud” function is a good substitute. And there is at least one benefit to reading aloud with the computer instead of by yourself or with another person. The computer can’t guess what you meant, and can only ever read exactly what’s there. Sometimes, when you read aloud, you can cheat; you can make a clunky phrase work by reading it with a certain intonation. The computer can’t do that, though. It reads what you actually wrote, warts and all, in a flat, utterly pitiless tone.
At my current rate, I figure it’ll take at least the rest of this month to get through all our stories. Maybe a few weeks of March, too. But in March, I’ll have to take a break to start planning my April Camp NaNoWriMo novel. Yes, that’s right—Spring is just around the corner, even if it doesn’t particularly look like it just now.