Friday, February 19, 2010

Uncle Pete's Sagely Writing Tips

I'm currently head down tails up doing edits for Ghost of Ping-Ling, but I thought I'd briefly surface for air, as well as to share a couple of useful pointers I've picked up on my travels1.

You know how it is when you've been working on a paragraph/chapter/book so long you can quote it in your sleep, and you've lost all objectivity as to how it sounds and whether it makes sense. Sure, you could give it to someone else and let them take a look. Or you could put it in a draw and throw away the key for six months.

But if neither of those solutions are practical, here's two suggestions.

1) Change the font.

It sounds ridiculous, but it works. If you change the font of a block of text, it helps you look at it with fresh eyes, no matter how many times you've stared at it in the past. I usually work in TNR, and I find changing to Courier works wonders.

2) Listen to it read.

That doesn't mean you have to get someone to read it out to you (of course, if you have that luxury, that would be wonderful). There are plenty of free text-to-speech converters available on the web. They have very listenable voices, and can usually be adjusted to male or female, British or US etc. I paid $50 for the one I use, but that way I get full functionality - which means I can translate my entire book to an mp3, stick it on my ipod, and listen to it anywhere and anytime I like. Money well spent.

So there you go. Some tips I've picked up. Hopefully they'll be of some use!

Now excuse me while I dive back into the dark depths of Lake Edit. If only I could find my scuba gear.....


1 I've picked up so many useful tips from reading other people's blogs, I thought it must be my turn.


  1. I always use the Courier font, and there's a reason a lot of editors and publishers like it: it's easier to see errors because of the spacing of the characters. It's also a true-type font, so what you see is what you get. I can't catch errors half as fast in TNR as I can Courier.

    Good call on the text to speech. I use it too, and it helps me catch repetitive phrasing and missing words.

    Good luck with your edits! I've been wondering how you're doing!

  2. I recently received an iTouch, and have loaded my manuscripts onto it via Stanza (a great app) to see the work in a 'professional' manner. Reading aloud is a fantastic way to 'hear' how it sounds, and I pick up so many mistakes that way.

  3. Thanks for the tips! I've tried yWriter's text to speech function and it works well enough to do what you suggest. Windows free text to speech software was a little on the choppy side. It kind of reminds me of Speak & Spell from ca. 1980.

  4. I'm quite surprised at how sophisticated modern text-readers are. I use Verbose Text to Speech, and it does a great job of picking up the correct intonation of sentences. It does fall down sometimes on 'unusual' words and names - Tajni comes out as "Tiny", for example - but usually it gets it right.

  5. I'm not sure I could bear hearing my stuff read aloud, haha. It might be amusing to hear how a computer mangles my characters names, though. I remember having a heck of a time "training" the voice recognition software when I was using it to write stories.