One of the most important things any writer can do is be open to learning new tricks. Continuing education of all types keeps your tool box stocked and your edges sharp. Because Craft Thursday is all about helping provide tools, I thought I’d share a new trick I recently discovered.
I just finished a book yesterday. Yes, it’s the book I waxed poetical about in my last Craft Thursday post–the one that helped me find my song again. The thing is, even though this book represents a lot of personal triumph for me and is probably the closest thing to a book of my heart as I’ve written, it still needed lots of technical craft to pull off. Enter: Revisions.
I did a rewrite of the draft last fall and have, since then, been working on edits. Once I’d dealt with beta readers’ feedback and my MFA mentor’s copious notes, it was time to do my final read-through.
For years, I have extolled the virtues of reading work out loud. I’d read several portions of this book to myself throughout the revision process, but I planned to read it all the way through for the final pass. I mentioned this on Facebook the other day, and it started an interesting conversation with author P. T. Michelle. She claimed that having the book read to her via text-to-speech was a crucial step in her own revision process.
I’ll be honest. At first, I was a bit skeptical. The mechanical quality of TTS was off -putting. Besides, I’d been doing my read-aloud trick for years and it worked just fine, thank you very much.
But then, just because I wanted to prove I was right, I tried it on a chapter. This was the first chapter of the novel–the one that had been read and reread dozens of times. It had been edited and run through Grammarly and vetted by betas. I’d read it out loud, myself, probably ten times. So you can imagine my surprise when the TTS voice found some things I’d missed throughout all those other passes.
I was sold.
It took me about five days to get through the entire book. I used the TTS on my Mac. Patrice said she used her Kindle but I wanted to have a little more flexibility so the computer worked better for me. Here’s what I did: With the printed manuscript in front of me, I’d highlight the chapter I was working on and set the TTS to go. As the voice read out loud, I read along on the printed version. If I caught an error, I’d mark it with a highlighter or pen. Making extensive edits wasn’t possible if I wanted to keep up with The Voice. At the end of each chapter, I’d go back through the draft and make the appropriate changes. Doing them that fast meant I didn’t forget why I marked a word or passage. It also meant that by the time I was done going through all the chapters, my edits were pretty much done.
I can not tell you how helpful this strategy was in accomplishing a lot of fine editing work. It’s tedious work, but so crucial. I will say that this is not for rough drafts. It’s for that moment when you’ve done all your rewrites and layering work and wordsmithing passes. It’s for that final pass, where you want to catch those typos, rhythmic stumbles, or continuity issues. The continuity thing was a huge surprise, actually. I caught a ton of them with this method–way more than I’ve ever caught reading the book myself. I also realized that both listening to the book and reading it allowed me to catch more missing words, which I tended to fill in when I only read it out loud.
Yes, the monotonous voice of the TTS guy took some getting used to (my Mac had an option of six voices–three female and three male), but I think the lack of inflection actually made it easier for me catch mistakes. I also appreciated the ability to adjust the reading speed. I think the Kindle has a better-sounding TTS, but, like I said, I preferred being able to spread out on my desk and mark up the printed file.
So what have we learned here? First, if you haven’t tried this method, I’d definitely recomend it. Second, I personally learned that even though I tend to be someone who is always trying to learn new things, I still can get stuck in my ways. Lesson learned.
What new tricks have surprised you lately?