26 June 2007

REPOST 12/17/2006 Auditory edits...

People ask me how I turn in work that's so clean. I'd like to claim it's all the self-editing techniques I've tried to teach you all. Well, it is, in part, but it goes beyond that.

Let's start by examining the human brain for a moment. No, we don't need a cadaver to do it, thankfully.

The human brain has the amazing capacity to complete and correct broken patterns. It's one of our greatest gifts...and our greatest downfalls.

Why would such a thing be a downfall? Because authors need to SEE our mistakes, not have our over-helpful minds correct them in our perception of the written word. We know what the sentence SHOULD say, and so our brains make us think those precise words are on the page.

An editor can catch more of them, but again... The editor's brain is doing the same thing, correcting and completing patterns of words, though they try to force their minds to acknowledge the mistakes instead of correcting for them. After all, if their minds weren't doing the same thing, we'd have perfect books on sale, and we don't. That means they miss things too...and they miss most of them, because their too-helpful brains are busy glossing over errors for them.

So, how do you find MORE errors than your brain wants you to find? That's where the auditory edit comes in. What your eye and brain conspire to hide from you visually, you can often HEAR in an auditory edit.

No, I don't just mean reading it out loud yourself. Why? Think about it. Your mind is busy correcting for you. You're going to read it as if it's right. Aren't you? At least part of the time, you will.

Other humans are no better. They are going to read over a lot of mistakes the same way you will. So, what does that leave you?

ReadPlease (which sadly works only on PC and not MAC) or other text-to-speech programs!

These programs aren't human with the human gift/curse of correcting and completing patterns of words. They are machines, without bias and without purpose other than to speak precisely what is on the page of type. That means you'll hear "is" instead of "if," if that was what you typed out. WORD won't show that as an error, because both are valid words. You'll hear typos. You'll hear times where you typed the wrong word. You'll hear a lot of mistakes you won't see.

In addition, the program highlights, word by word, as it reads, forcing your eyes to take in each individual word. While you won't hear a homonym error or punctuation error, you may see them when forced to look at each word as an individual.

Is there a down side to an auditory edit? Not really. You can choose the voice you are comfortable with, the speed you are, the size of the font...

The machine is a machine, which means it makes a few choices you'll have to get used to. For instance, it will choose ONE possible pronunciation for a given word spelling. IOW, even if you're talking about a bow and arrow, the machine may have the pronunciation of bow (as if bowing to a king) as the chosen pronunciation. But, you'll get used to that.

Likewise, if you create langauge for your worlds or use foreign words in your stories, the pronunciation the program uses may not match what you have in mind, but you'll get used to that, as well. And since it uses the SAME pronunciation for such a word through the edit, you'll know subsequent instances are spelled correctly by the same pronunciation coming through.

How much does this cost you? The free version of ReadPlease is...well, free. It will take about 2000 words at a time of text. You can get a free 30-day trial of the full version, which will take an unlimited amount of text in, allowing you to move continuously through an entire novel. If you choose to purchase that version, it's $60, which I find well worth the money. There are optional add-ons for more voices, but I've never found those necessary.

Does it work? Of course, it does, or I wouldn't be suggesting this as a final step before your final formatting run.


No comments: