As a writer, when you snuggle into the corner of your sofa or favorite chair to read, do you read aloud or to yourself? When you write a scene, do you think it, hear it in your head or speak it, dictate it? What about revisions? When you sit with your story, red pen and highlighter in hand, do you read those pages to yourself or do you let yourself hear the words, the flow of a scene, the rhythm of the sentences?
For many of us, the most enjoyable way to read a book is silently. I have found, however that the best way for me to determine whether a scene or a chapter I’ve written is working, is to have it read to me. But, of course, since what I’m working on is probably only a draft, not a polished piece, I shy away from handing it to someone. Instead, I use a great tool called, TextAloud.
I’m not a spokesperson for this software, I just like it and want to tell you about it. You might know of other text-to-speech programs, but this one works for me for a variety of reasons.
1. It’s affordable. 🙂
2. You can set the pace of playback so you can edit as it goes.
3. You can modify the voices depending on the lines being read.
4. It drones.
Reasons 1 and 2, I believe, are self explanatory. Reason 3? The program comes with standard voices but I bought extra that are slightly more realistic. I regularly use three female voices and two male voices during playback of my scenes. I mix them up so one narrates the story while the others take turns with the dialogue, adding personality – as it were – to each character. It’s easy but time consuming to set up voice changes so I don’t do it all the time. I usually save the variety of that for when I’m getting closer to that polished work. If you’re looking for ways to procrastinate, then adding a variety of voices does make for a more enjoyable listen.
I, of course, never procrastinate. I’m sure you never do, either.
Reason #4 might sound like a negative but, for me, it’s a definite positive. The voices are much better than computer voices of days (thankfully) gone by. Still, they come through with a mechanical rhythm. Emotion and inflection are, of course, absent.
I find that helpful. Hearing prose recited in this way highlights long-winded sentences, boring phrases, clumps of description or verbose dialogue. It also makes the snappy prose more obvious – if it sounds good while droning on, then chances are, you’ve hit the right balance in that bit of story. If it sounds monotonous, dull, never ending, you know changes need to be made… the change can be as great as slicing an entire scene out of the book or as simple as modifying a word or varying sentence length.
This particular text-to-speech program is my non-judgmental partner, my otherwise-silent alter-ego. No inner editor there. I can never take offense by something it says because its words are mine and if I’m unhappy with them, it’s up to me to make them better. And if I am happy with them? Then I know I’m getting close to ‘there’.
What is your revision process? Do you wait until you’ve reached the end then go back to the beginning to edit or do you edit as you go? Do you hand off your first draft work to critique partners for feedback or polish before passing it on? Have you ever used a text-to-speech program to help you hear the story? If not, would you? Do you have your own go-to tools?
There is no question most writers enjoy writing but not editing or revising. It’s a simple fact that the creation of a story is more enjoyable than the repairs of that story. I see it as having and raising a child.
Pregnancy, labor and delivery are not exactly easy but through your sweat and determination you have this beautiful creation. Perfect in its newness, its innocence. It is love at first sight.
Then comes the hard part. The guiding, the lectures, the tantrums and frustrations. The times you want to throw up your hands and give up, go running from the house. But you don’t. Because this is your baby and you want it to be all it can be. It’s love. It’s dedication. It’s a total reflection on YOU.
As is the story you write… and must revise.
Revising, to me, is like dealing with a child’s troubling teenage years. It’s a test of patience and of love. A time when all the beauty and innocence you saw and felt at that first stage, comes back at you as if your input was a vile, unappreciated thing and must all be undone. It’s a battle of wills and understanding. Emotional standoffs grounded by love you know is there but cannot hold quite as closely as before.
And then, suddenly, there’s peace. A sort of understanding and middle-ground-met. A balance of your vision for your child and your child’s vision for her or himself. It’s that respect which allows your child go into the world armed with the ability to stand alone and make you proud.
The difference between all that and revisions is time. You have nearly two decades to work with your child and while revisions may seem as long, they, in all honestly, should not be. 😉
Mine however, have gone on longer than the writing itself. To be fair to the writer in me, I will acknowledge that the editing process has gone well throughout the story. It’s simply the opening which stumps me. And after several revisions of that opening, I’m still not happy.
I have now set a deadline. By this Friday my opening will be good or it won’t be. Either way, I will be sending queries. It’s up to me – and my muse, of course – to decide whether those queries will be for work I’m proud to call my own or work I’m embarrassed to put my name to.
So, for much of this week, I intend to read. Oh, how hard that work will be. You can imagine a dramatic sigh here. I will read openings from some of my favorite authors – like Nora Roberts, Lisa Jackson, Jude Deveraux, Linda Ford, Kate Pearce and more. And I will see how and why their opening pages work. And then, filled with the wisdom and motivation of those I admire, I will revise my opening pages and send them off into the world to, hopefully, stand on their own and make me proud.