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Monday, December 6, 2010

Read Me a Story

One of the things that has been told to me many times is that once your final edits are complete you should always read your story out loud. I have done this but my voice gets tired and mouth gets dry. Frankly, I don’t like it very well. But, what about having someone read it to you while you read along on the screen, or go about dusting and organizing. This would be a great way to catch errors. We all have them. Your mind sees the word you thought you typed, but it isn’t really there, even though you think you see it when reading. Or, the sentence looks great, or a paragraph is perfect until read back and you wonder “what?” and quickly edit.

I tried a free program a few years ago, which I cannot recall the name of, but as it was free and a demo, there was one voice, and he was more computer than human. Of course, I don’t think there is a software program out there that will invoke the emotion you wrote into the story, but I would love one with an English, Scottish or Irish accent. Oh well, I just know that there has to be better software than the free demo, and so the search began and this is what I found.

Verbose Text to Speech Software - According to the description, it will read any text on your computer out loud and you can listen to the text as an MP3 audio file so you can take it with you. I am not sure how convenient that would be if I was away from my computer and needed to edit. On the other hand, it could be good just to get the flow of the story down. I think I would enjoy having earphones plugged in, listing to my latest WIP while gardening in the spring and summer. That would be the best of both worlds. It could also replace the audio books I normally listen to while driving by plugging the player into my CD.

ReadPlease! is a text-to-speech software. I was unable to learn much about this but ReadPlease 2003 is Free and ReadPlease Plus 2003 works with Windows Vista. Does this mean the free version only works with older Windows versions? If not, the 2003 version is free so it may just be worth a try.

¬NaturalReader 10. There are a few versions of this but I am more interested in the Personal Version. It claims to use natural voices to convert any text to spoken words. I did visit the website and it gives you examples. The voices do sound more human than computer, at least to my ear. It also converts to MP3 or WAV for a CD or iPod, as they all do. In the personal version there are two natural voices included (male and female). And, it can be used on any Windows operating system from Windows 98 to Win7 and every version developed between the two. While poking around, I was able to listen to Graham with his “Male UK” accent. If I were to purchase the Personal version I could get a male/female combination with an American accent or a male/female combination with a British accent. I wish I could get one of each.

TextAloud With AT&T Natural Voices (Windows Software). In reading the product description on a purchase site, it was more technical than I like to read. From what I can tell, it is available in Windows 98, XP, 2000 and NT. There are two computer synthesis voices, Mike and Crystal, and these documents can be read aloud from your computer or also converted into an MP3 and CD. There is also a note that there is a “unique Proofread function helps make anything you write mistake free.” I would like to know more about that. Can you imagine writing mistake free? I know, we all hope our final product is mistake free before shipping it out to potential agent or editors, but to arrive to that point sooner would be wonderful.

TextSpeech Pro Deluxe Text-to-Speech Converter for Windows with AT&T Natural Voices. Okay, now that is a long title. In the product description from the online shopping site it claims to have “the most natural-sounding, easy to use text-to-speech software on the market”. It also export the synthesized speech to a variety of audio file formats so you aren’t glued to your computer. There is a nice list of all it can do, but I am really not sure how it compares to the others listed. Actually, by the time I got to this one, my head was swimming.

I don’t know if there are other Text-to-Speech software programs out there, but these are the ones I found. Most of the product sites do have demos you could try out. This is something I will do to compare when the time comes to purchase, if I decide to make that purchase.

Have you ever used Text-to-Speech software and have a document read back to you? If so, which program do you use and has it been helpful? Also, if the software you are familiar with is not listed above, please share it so I can do some additional investigating.

7 comments:

  1. Wow! Great info. I've read my manuscripts out loud, but I've never used software for it. I jotted down the names you mentioned so that I can check them out. Technology is amazing.

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  2. Rula, let me know what you think after you have tried them. I am still trying to decide what direction I am going to go.

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  3. I tend to read my work out loud, but like you I eventually start to lose my voice. Not until I tried to read an entire 100,000 word manuscript aloud did I realize how long that is. LOL. I may have to try some of this text-to-speech software sometime.

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  4. Thanks so much for researching this, Amy. This is something I've always been curious about but never tried. You gave me a good starting place. Thanks.

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  5. These sound very interesting. I would love to hear someone else reading my wip. I get tongue tied sometimes, but then again, maybe that's telling me it doesn't flow right. :)

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  6. Wow, you should get an award for that awesome research! I would love to hear my books read aloud--I just don't want to hear MY voice doing it. LOL Wish I could also pick out which actors I'd like to hear reading it to me. . . :)

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  7. Catherine, I am going to download the demos and see how it goes.

    Clarissa, I've wanted a better program since I tried the free demo. You will have to let me know if you try any of them out.

    Michelle, I can't imagine your stories not flowing. I mean no offense, but I am pretty sure the tonguetying is a result of the material becaus there is nothing wrong what what is being read ;)

    Donna, you are so sweet. Wouldn't it be cool to pick the actor. My mind is already thinking of possibilities - lol.

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