As a writer, you're often told that you should read your work aloud. You've either read it somewhere, or been told by another writer, and it's true. What other writers, friends and experts don't always remember: we're human. And as writers, we also run the risk of being extreme introverts, or stricken by anxiety or social stigmas. We write because, just maybe, we communicate best silently.
If you also fit the writer stereotype that is also easily embarrassed, shy or a hermit, that may not be an option for you. Personally, I'm too shy to read aloud when anyone is in the house. Also, when the house is empty. So, never.
Hearing your work read aloud helps you find inconsistencies, missing words, repeated words and other things you can miss by reading quietly.
I had to turn to a Text to Speech program (abbreviated TTS), one that was free and I could adjust the speed. My search led me to find NaturalReader 13.
The free version includes the fully functioning software to read aloud text, free voices and speed control. I find that slowing the reading down to 0 or -2 works best for me.
You can also change features like the color that the reading text is highlighted (the default is glaring yellow), and the font of the document. I made mine Liberation Serif, size 12 font to match my manuscript.
The voice options for the free version are, admittedly, lacking. You'll be provided with one female and male US English voice, and one female UK English voice. None of them are overly "natural" sounding, but it gets the job done. You are listening for flow, missing words and repeated words. If your only option is a computer, make the best of it. I would recommend springing for the paid version just for the voices alone.
Make it part of your routine; after you've written, listen to it. Make minor changes. You'll be surprised at the words you think you wrote and missed or repeated.
What does it sound like?
The interface and layout is nice, but what does it actually sound like? I've recorded a few samples (poorly) to give you an honest representation.
Hazel, UK English at Speed 0
Zira, US English, speed -2
[audio wma="http://michellebrumley.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/naturalreader-speedneg2.wma"][/audio] David, US English, speed -2
If you're so inclined: the paid version has features such as more natural sounding voices, the ability to export your spoken text to .MP3s as well as being able to create and modify pronunciation. It's on my personal wish list! You can find a full breakdown of the free and paid versions here.
If you'd like to try the features of NaturalReader 13 without having to download software, they have an Online Text to Speech program available here. It will give you an idea of the "premium" voices available for use.
Do you have experience with another Text To Speech software? Tell me about it in the comments! Writers deserve to have your own experience and expertise.
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