This article alone is worth your time reviewing this collection.

This article describes a way to review that is not strictly free, but is relatively low cost.

Some people suggest reading the draft out loud. This can work. It also takes much time to do.

Creating a voice audio of the entire draft takes only seconds using the audio review method. Save all that other time for the other great parts of life. I listen to my book to edit for mistakes and problems. This works very well for me. It helps me hear someone else’s voice reading my manuscript or book draft, which makes me a bit more critical of what I’m hearing to better catch parts that sound funny or odd. Digital audio is easy to playback and listen again to confirm there’s an issue with the writing. My writing problems happen much more often than the automated voice pronouncing something wrong.

Automated voice, or text to speech apps, are getting much better. However, they almost always mangle the pronunciation of a particular word. Then I can decide whether I care to fix the pronunciation configuration of the text to speech app so it pronounces the word better, or decide if you’ll just work around it (my vote). Remember the product is a written book, not an audio book. The automated voice is to help you review with your hearing, not to be good enough to sell as an audio book. By the way, if you figure that out, please write your own book so I can learn from you.

In my past commercial use of automated voice, or text to speech apps, I have spent much time configuring the robot voice to sound more human. In my opinion, given the purpose of review, it is not worth all the time you’ll spend configuring. If you decide to make an audio book, hire a human voice actor to read your book. I can ignore the mispronunciation for the brief period of review.

The benefits of this approach for me include:

  • Convert dead time formerly used only to commute into productive editing time

  • Use your ears to catch issues that your eyes glossed right over

  • I set the app to speed up the pace of the recorded audio to faster than humans typically speak to help me review more content in less time. I don’t go to the point where the audio sounds like chipmunks, but it is faster than the normal 120 words per minute we hear in conversation.

I use a small collection of tools to review by ear.

  • Text to Voice app that exports to MP3 format

  • MP3 Player (mine is built into my car stereo) with easy stop and start controls you can feel without looking to aid safe driving

  • Digital recorder to note changes that need to be made after my commute

All Text to Voice apps currently have a strange accent. I have found that Australian female voices tend to be the least difficult to listen to. You don’t really care about the accent if you can understand it. The goal is for your ear to catch oddities in your writing. Even with the strange accent, the Text to Voice app will faithfully say exactly what you typed. If it sounds off, then you likely made a mistake in writing. The ear catches mistakes that the eye misses after it has gone over the draft a few times.
Even if you don’t have an MP3 player in your vehicle, you can record MP3 format to a plastic CDROM and play it on older handheld CD players. Use the technologies available to help you speed your work.

Here is how I do it.

  1. I use AsciiDoctor to publish the draft to HTML.

  2. I copy all of the HTML page from the browser and paste it into the Text-to-Voice app.

  3. I export the draft book as a voice recording by an automated voice to MP3 format.

  4. I put the MP3 file on my car player and begin the drive to work.

  5. I keep my digital recorder close at hand so I can stop the MP3 book recording and make a voice note of what my ears heard that was weird or off.

  6. I stop the car MP3 player by pressing one physical button.

  7. I turn on the digital recorder with one button (the Sony record button is concave so I can feel the right button without looking away from traffic).

  8. I say to the digital recorder "Look for the phrase 'the dog jumped over the moon' (or whatever phrase was just before the error my ears caught) and then I explain what was wrong and how to fix it.

  9. I press the stop button on the digital recorder.

  10. I press the start button on the car MP3 player.

  11. I repeat the process while in routine traffic situations.

    Do not attempt this in complex traffic situations. Be safe first. Be a writer second.
  12. I make review voice annotations during my drive to work.

  13. I make review voice annotations during my drive home.

  14. At home, I open the HTML version of the entire book and search for the phrase I caught near the error.

  15. I then back up to the nearest chapter or section heading, so I know which file to open to edit the error. This is because my file names match my section headings or chapter titles.

  16. I locate the location phrase 'the dog jumped over the moon' with the find function.

  17. I see the error I heard and make the fix I recorded.

  18. I save the file.

  19. The next day I make another HTML draft version, a new MP3 file, and repeat the process.

Because these drafts are digital, I’m not wasting paper with paper edits as frequently.

To get kitted up for this method do the following.

Buy an inexpensive digital recorder with appropriate features:

  • Easy-to-use button controls with no log-in required (like on a mobile phone) or other delays

  • Press record, talk, press stop

  • Look for the least features to keep it easy to use

  • Look for sales, but prioritize ease-of-use button controls over saving $10.

Pay attention to the ease of controls. I use this while driving, so I can feel the record button without looking down. Easy controls also reduce the transaction waste each time I have to turn the recorder on and off.
I do NOT use my mobile phone to do this recording. The mobile phone’s required security log-in adds too much delay for me. You may want to if you’re at home or in your office and can tolerate the delay. But I use this while driving, so I prioritized for ease-of-use for safety due to minimal cognitive loading to the driver.
Figure 1. The Sony Similar to What I Use

For the Mac I use the Text2Speech Pro app, for which I paid $3.99 US Dollars.

For Windows I’ve used NextUp’s TextAloud (see which was about $30 as I recall.

The car I’m using has a stereo that plays MP3, so that is already part of my infrastructure for audible review of my book drafts.

For example, in two 40-minute drives to and from work I found about 40 issues in the audio version of my book first draft. I made notes on my digital recorder. I have one digital recording per issue. Then I was able to go back and fix those issues during the evenings and weekends so readers don’t have to encounter those issues. This gives my book higher quality than it would if I relied entirely on visual editing.

I strongly recommend this audio review method.


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