Text-To-Speech (TTL) as Editing Aid for Writers

No Wasted Ink

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As authors, hearing your manuscript read out-loud is an important step in the editing process. By listening to your text, minor glitches in your writing stand out and are more easily corrected. While many of us do read our work ourselves, it is often better when someone else reads your work so that you can focus your attention on errors and making a note of them on your manuscript.

Personally, this is one of the reasons I like to read my work at critique groups. It allows me to not only gauge the response to my work on other people, but I also get the benefit of the read. However, there are times when a critique group is not available or when you wish to listen to long passages of your manuscript. For those times, I recommend a text-to-speech program.

A Text-to-Speech program converts your typed text into speech. Most…

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AutoCrit Automated Editing — An Author’s Best Friend

AutoCrit is an easy to use, automated, online substantive editing tool for fiction of any length, be it flash fiction or an epic novel. It can be used at any stage of the writing process — from the first draft to the last — to help identify common weaknesses in your writing and any areas that may need your attention. And it’s awesome!

The aspects of your writing that AutoCrit examines relate to sentence craft, not grammar — it isn’t a copyediting program. It doesn’t flag misspelled words and punctuation mistakes.

When you upload your text, it generates instant reports on your story’s pacing, dialog, word choice, repetition, strength of writing (overuse of adverbs, passive voice, showing vs telling, cliches, redundancies, and filler words), and a comparison of your work to successful fiction.

When it locates potential problems, it lists them in the sidebar and highlights them in the text in the main window. It doesn’t make changes, or recommend any specific changes to make, it just suggests the number of any given problem to remove. It allows you to make changes to your text while you are in AutoCrit and to export the edited text to you computer, if you like.

Because To Thee is This World Given has circular structure, where the first and last chapters, second and second to last chapters, third and third to last chapters, and so on, are mirrors of each other, I needed to be able to evaluate each pair of chapters side by side, so printing the reports out and making the changes in the manuscript by hand worked best for me.

I’ve posted a sample of one of the reports from the 3rd draft of To Thee is This World Given here, so that you can see a real world example (the changes made to the 3rd draft with the help of AutoCrit became the 4th draft, which was the first draft sent to a human editor).

This sample report illustrates why you still need a human editor — the section evaluated was all dialog. AutoCrit can’t distinguish between dialog and narration, and since people tend to speak in the passive voice using a lot of filler words and vague pronouns, dialog will often be “red flagged,” even if it is okay.

There are three 12 month subscription plans available: for $60, you can evaluate up to 1,000 words at a time; for $96, you can evaluate up to 8,000 words at a time; and for $144 you can evaluate an unlimited number of words at a time. You can use any level repeatedly over the duration of the subscription, so while there are limits on the number of words you can upload at any one time with the first two plans, over the course of the year all three programs allow you upload an unlimited number of words. You can try it for free here.

I chose to go with the $60 / 1,000 word option, both because I was skeptical whether the program would be worth it and because I wasn’t sure how unwieldy the longer reports would be. The service so greatly exceeded my expectations that it’s hard to put into words how satisfied I’ve been with it.  AutoCrit is the best $60 I have ever spent.

One final plus — AutoCrit can help you gauge a prospective human editor’s competency. In the future, I plan on requiring potential editors to provide a sample edit of around 1,000 words that I can compare to an AutoCritted sample.

Wendy Van Camp on her blog, No Wasted Ink, also reviewed AutoCrit and provides a nice comparison of it to a few other automated editing services.

You might also like my proofreader, Chereese.

For an account of my experiences with Kirkus Editorial services, go here.

 

To Lie or To Lay, That is the Question

Due to my unfortunate experience with the editorial service offered by Kirkus Reviews, I needed to master the proper use of to lie and to lay.

I thought I’d share what I learned in case it might be of help to you. Additionally, a very helpful guide on how to use lie and lay can be found here.

When my first Kirkus editor changed all of my laids to lays and my second Kirkus editor changed all of my lays back to laids, I set about trying to learn the rule for myself once and for all (it turned out that both editors were wrong — both lay and laid mean putting, but what was being done was reclining).

[A full account of my experience with Kirkus Editorial can be found here ].

After struggling to make sense of some very obtuse grammarians, I realized that the distinction is really very easy to keep straight as long as one keeps in mind what lie and lay actually mean.

To Lie is to recline or rest horizontally.

To Lay is to put or place something somewhere.

Lie — recline or rest / Lies or Lying — reclining or resting / Lay* — did recline or rest / Lain — had reclined or rested

If you lie, you recline. If it lies it is reclining. If you are lying, you are reclining. If you lay*, you did recline. If you have lain, you have reclined.

Lay — put or place / laying putting or placing / laid — have put or placed

If you lay, you put. If you are laying, you are putting, If you laid, you have put.

(*When using lay to mean reclined or rested, only do so if the reclining or resting has already taken place and it makes sense to use it in conjunction with the word did. i.e did lay. If however, the person is in the act of reclining, is currently reclining, or has already reclined, use lie, lies/lying, or lain respectively.

Did lay is likely the source of all of the confusion, but just remember that while it is possible that you did lay on the bed, it is not possible that you did lay the keys on the table, because lay, meaning put here, is present tense, so you cannot be both putting and having put at the same time. Having put is laid.

The “Recline/Put Test:” When choosing between lie or lay, lain or laid, lying/lies or laying, see if your sentence makes sense if you swap lie or lay with put or recline.

If put doesn’t make sense when you swap it for lay, you need to use lie. If recline doesn’t make sense when you swap for it lie, you need to use lay. For example:

Was he [laying][putting] in bed? No, he was [lying][resting] in bed.

Had he [laid][put] in bed for days? No, he had [lain][rested] in bed for days.

[Did] he [lay][rest] in bed yesterday? Yes, he [did lay][rest] in bed yesterday. [Did] she [lay][put] in bed yesterday? No, she [did not lay][put] in bed yesterday. The key word here is did: Did lay means did rest. If she put something on the bed, she laid. If she was on the bed, she lain.

He [lays][puts] back in the chair. [BAD]

He [lies][reclines] back in the chair. [GOOD]

Keep in mind that lie will be followed by an adverb that answers when, on what, and/or in what direction:

  • lie down over there
  • lies down over there
  • is lying down over there
  • had lain down over there
  • did lay down over there

Lay will be followed by a pronoun or a noun:

  • lay it down
  • laying it down
  • laid it down

So once you lay something down, it is lying where you laid it.

I hope this helps! Some additional posts that may be helpful as well: my post on my proofreader, Chereese, who I highly recommend; my post about my experience using AutoCrit, an online substantive editing program that I also highly recommend; and my post about the various things I’ve learned over the past year:

Publishing: Odds and Ends and Lessons Learn.