Lisa Leoni

Romance writer and rad humanoid

Text to speech: your new editing bestie

One of my critique partners talked about how she uses text to speech software to read her book back to her. Always looking for new productivity and efficiency tools, I decided to give it a go and it’s AMAZING. I catch some things when I read something aloud, but my eyes/brain will often fix some mistakes.

There’s something about hearing another voice read your words while following along on screen/paper that helps to catch issues. It helps to notice repetitive words, odd sounding sentences, awkward cadence, etc. I want my books to eventually make it to audiobook form so this will prove to be a worthwhile exercise.

The best part? You can select accents. ACCENTS. Scottish (obviously I selected that), Southern U.S., English, and more!

Free services
Fromtexttospeech.com lets you paste in text and create an audio file. It’s a great option if you want to load an audio file for each scene or chapter to your favorite music listening device. Want to get fancy? Choose a different voice for each POV character.

Have a Mac? There’s actually built-in text to speech functionality.

  • Open “System Preferences”
  • Select “Dictation & Speech”
  • Select “text to speech” tab
  • Click on the drop-down menu next to “System Voice” and test out the voices. Don’t like any of those? Choose “Customize” at the bottom. There are numerous accents and speakers of other languages under that option for free download. Plus, if you’re looking for US English variations, the downloadable ones in that menu have a more natural speaking pattern than the default ones selected. I currently have Fiona for Scottish-Standard. For UK-female I have Kate & Serena. For UK-male I have Daniel & Oliver.  For US I have Susan & Tom.
  • Select the “speak selected text when the key is pressed” box. Click on “change key” and decide what keyboard combination you want to assign the text to speech feature. I chose opt-esc.
  • Whether you’re in Microsoft Word, Google Docs or Scrivener (this one has it’s own text to speech offerings) you can highlight text and use your keyboard shortcut to initiate the reading.

Don’t have a Mac? This will help you.

(but really, I have no idea what to do. Maybe someone who uses Windows can post in the comments?)

Paid voices
I discovered, and subsequently fell in love with, Scottish Stuart on Cereporc.  I’m writing contemporary romance set in Scotland with a Scottish hero and I wanted a level of authenticity in my text-to-speech experiences. *cough* Or something like that. After purchasing the voice it was super easy to install it to my machine.

If you decide to buy one of the voices, go to the steps I listed under “free services” on your Mac to install and select it within the “customize” area.

How I use the voices
The ones on the computer, not in my head, silly. I open the text to speech section of the Mac System Preferences. Next to that I my book open. I assign a voice for each POV character. I change POV each scene so it feels as close to an audiobook as I can get it.

I just highlight the scene, click on my System Preferences dialogue box and choose the voice. Then when I need to change the voice I pop back over to System Preferences and select a different one. It’s super easy! Stuart and Susan are my POV readers.

I follow along reading on my document as the voice speaks. If I notice odd words or funky sentences, I just make those changes as the voice continues.

There’s no way to stop the reading (that I’ve found, anyway) once you start it so if you have long scenes or think you may need to make more involved changes as you go, try selecting just a paragraph or two at a time.

Time for an exercise
I want you to head to Cereproc. At the very top of the browser you’ll see a text box. Paste the following sentences: “You’re beautiful, smart and wonderful. I adore you.” Then change the voice in the drop-down menu to the right to “Stuart (English, Scotland).” Hit the “play” button and enjoy.

I’m only a few chapters into text to speech’ing my MS. I’m not sure how I’ll handle the schmexy scenes…but so far I’m loving it!

Check out this post by Sara Letourneau on Writers Helping Writers to learn more about text to speech.

Do you use text to speech to help with your editing? Or even use it for beta reading?

p.s. fun fact: Stuart read this blog post to me to try and catch errors. Blame Stuart, not me, if we missed some.

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