Thursday, May 10, 2012

Music to my ears

I have often said that I “write by ear.” Well, this week, I found a tool that I find exceptionally helpful, one that I will share with you here.

I attended an educator’s iPad conference a week ago and learned, among other things, that I know about 10 percent of what my iPad can actually do. I discovered many free apps—there are at least two free audio book sites—and found one tool that I find extremely helpful when editing.

I have long told students to read their works aloud when revising. This, I tell them, is how “you hear what you really wrote.” I must have said this thousands of times since I began teaching. Well, reading a three-page essay aloud is one thing, reading a 100,000-word manuscript aloud is a whole different ball game. The thought of it alone is daunting.

But now I have found something to help me heed my own advice. Text-to-Speech is an option on Mac and PC computers that takes a highlighted text and reads it aloud. The voice is mechanical, but you can select a speed. (On a Mac: Go to System Preferences, then Speech, activate Text to Speech, and finally click Speak Selected Text.)

Many writers I know begin the day by reading their previous day’s work. (One recently told me that each day, until he hits page 100, he rereads the whole manuscript). Perhaps this option will make the revision process easier for you. I know it is helping me. (I found two typos before posting this.)


Charlotte Hinger said...

I'm not sure I could bear to hear anything I write. Re-reading it is bad enough

Hannah Dennison said...

What a great idea! I love that ... I am definitely going to give it a go. I also like the idea of re-reading until 100 pages. Great post!

aaron said...

I agree that this is a great idea! Of course, as Charlotte astutely noted, re-reading is often an odious chore, but it is also a necessary evil. The mechanized voice may just offer enough distance to make it seem less terrifying, especially knowing that its not a voice that will offer all sorts of judgement and criticism...the voices in my head offer enough of that already!