Is it worth it to have your computer read your entire novel aloud in a computer voice?

Having your computer read your entire novel aloud in its friendly, robotic computer voice is another one of those editing tips I read online and balked at trying.

Why?

First of all, the computer voice. It’s annoying. And listening to it read more than 65,000 words sounded like some not-yet-described level of writer’s hell. I mean, GPS is one thing. My novel is another.

Second, I thought perhaps the computer voice would kill the flow of my writing if I used it too early in my process. Because it doesn’t sound exactly human. So I read each scene as I wrote it aloud (especially the dialogue) alone in my room like a crazy person. It helped a lot.

Also I tried to have my husband read aloud to me parts of my book as well. He did a fantastic job, and having someone else read parts of the book was especially helpful. He didn’t know where to put inflection as he hadn’t written it, and his reading showed me when things weren’t quite there.

Of course, my husband couldn’t read out loud the entire thing cover to cover for me. That’s a pretty tall request to ask anyone, even your spouse. It takes forever and is pretty tedious for someone who already read the manuscript in all its iterations (even the really rough ones at the beginning; they were really rough, trust me).

Eventually, I didn’t know what else to do with the manuscript. So I put it down and recruited some beta-readers for some feedback.

After some time, I printed the manuscript–the whole thing–and read each sentence as carefully as I could. I wrote notes and implemented the changes.

Then, one of my beta-readers got back to me (Hi mum!). She had a few structural comments, and then she mentioned she had a list of duplicate/misspelled/missing words for me. Would I like this list?

Of course I’d like this list! This list will show me whether my painfully, fine-toothed-comb read through caught the mistakes and was sufficient.

Yep. My read through did not catch the mistakes on her list. My brain, especially, was just too damn good at supplying missing words or omitting duplicates.

I began to get a little scared.

Exactly how many mistakes of this type existed in the document? My beta-reader couldn’t have caught them all. She also is human and her brain must also be great at supplying missing words or omitting duplicates when she reads (Hi mum again!).

So I recruited Alex.

Alex is the name of the voice on my computer who will read any text aloud for me in an American accent. If you use a Mac, you can activate Alex by going to System Preferences, then Accessibility, then speech. You can change it to other accents if you prefer, but Apple doesn’t offer an English Canadian one. Come on Apple! Canadians have accents too.

Anyway, I was pleasantly surprised. Apple speech has come a long way since I used to make the computer read silly messages in Bubbles or Pipe Organ in elementary school.

Alex reads with some inflection, lifting his voice at the end of questions and taking a breath every three sentences or so. Alex doesn’t pause at em-dashes unfortunately. Only about two words in the entire document he pronounced completely wrong. And a few weird slangs and sound effects he spelled out.

It was much less painful than I expected, and in five years I expect Apple speech will be flawless. (Maybe by then they will have a Canadian speaker too?)

Also, he caught a lot of mistakes. Because the computer doesn’t lie. It reads exactly what you wrote. I discovered that instead of “goggles” I wrote “googles,” and instead of “tilted” I wrote “titled.” Thanks Alex. He also revealed all of the missing words and duplicates.

So, yes. I recommend getting your computer to read aloud your entire novel. You’ll be surprised at what it catches, and you’ll be very happy that it did.

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