The short answer: Yes. “The ear is a better editor than the eye.” I don’t know who said it first but it’s darn good advice. I love to read out loud (occupational hazard – I’m an elementary/middle school teacher). If I read it out loud and stumble over words I wrote then I know my reader is going to struggle. And that’s not good.
Before I go further, I want to take time to sing the praises of my wonderfully patient husband. I love to hear him read. He has this amazing deep voice that I not only like to listen to, but he also knows how to capture the author’s voice. I’ve always bugged him to read my writing but mostly just for proofreading and clarity. But this past weekend I finally asked him to read the first chapter of my WIP aloud. I was captivated as his voice took command of my manuscript. For the most part, it was better than I thought.
Having someone else read my work allowed me to step back and put on my reader’s hat. It’s too hard to do that just by reading what you wrote. Your mind fills in details and words that you meant to be there, whether they’re actually there or not. Reading it out loud yourself is a great first step, but having someone else read it to you is the ultimate test.
Now I realize that not everyone has the luxury of a spouse or significant other who is both willing and capable of providing a great oratory experience. And no, I am not willing to loan out my husband’s gilded voice. Or any other part of him, for that matter. Southern women are notoriously possessive, you see. So here’s the next best thing if you don’t have one of your own…
WritewayPro is an excellent writing software for novelists that I happen to also use. It has a text to speech function that works pretty well. It’s a little “choppy” but serves its purpose. I plan to write a full review on WritewayPro later, but for now let me just say that I don’t know how other writers survive without this software (or one like it).
Another FREE option is NaturalReader. This program reads a little more smoothly than WriteWay does, but it doesn’t recognize some titles, such as Ms. This can get a little distracting if, like me, you have a character who is always addressed with her title. But again, it is free.
Narrator is also standard on most PCs. Simply click your Windows icon and type “narrator” in the search field. A small window will pop up that allows you to set parameters, such as reading only a selected portion of the text or reading the entire page. Mac users also have a similar function called VoiceOver, I believe.
It can be a little uncomfortable to read your work aloud to an empty room but you’ll get used to it in time. If it really bothers you, try reading to your child or your pet so you have an audience. Or even better, pretend you’re practicing for your first reading at Barnes & Noble! Once you’ve corrected as much as you can on your own, go ahead and use one of the free programs above or seek out your own personal reader. Just remember that mine is taken…