Sunday, June 3, 2012

I owe it all to Alex

By now, I should know that no matter how many times I read through a manuscript, a handful of errors will deliberately hide from me until after I've already submitted it to the publisher.

To be fair, The Dragon Tamer was completely clean when I sent it in.  There were other improvements needed, but no typos.  Unfortunately, I can't say the same for the two novels I've submitted.  (Who would have thought that eradicating errors in a 10,000-word short story is a little easier than a 96,255-word novel?)

For me, the main culprit is dropped words.  My first drafts are usually quite clean (in terms of typos), but when I go back to edit, I always fall victim to MS Word's lovely habit of additionally selecting the word right before the block of text I'd intended to replace.

I'd just submitted Bonds of Death, sequel to Art of Death, to the publisher.  After submitting, I decided to go through the manuscript one more time—because nothing feels better than finding mistakes after it's too late to do anything about it (note sarcasm).  But since I had other work to do as well, rather than read the manuscript the same old way, I decided to have Alex read to me while I worked.

Other Mac users may already be familiar with Alex, but I'd never "met" him before.  For those of you who don't know, Alex is a robotic text-to-speech voice that comes with the more recent Mac OS's that sounds much more natural than previous computerized voices.  He's incredibly easy to use, and you can set up a shortcut so all you have to do is select the text you want him to read and then hit the shortcut, and he'll read it.

I know PC's have some sort of equivalent, because as a teenager on a PC, I used to write joke plays and make all the computer voices act them out.  (Ahh, good times...)  But I haven't used a PC in about five years, so if anyone else knows how to do text-to-speech on a PC these days, feel free to chime in.

Anyway, I was pretty impressed with Alex's reading of Bonds of Death.  The prose flowed better than I expected, and he even got almost all of the characters' names right.  He sounds a little ridiculous when he says "okay" and "yeah," and the dialogue is always hilarious because he's not a good actor, but what he's absolutely wonderful at is helping you find errors you might have missed when reading with your own eyes only—especially if you're editing under a deadline, and into the wee hours of morning when your mind isn't as fresh.

With Alex's help, I caught three dropped words, one duplicate word, one singular word that should have been plural, and two wrong words ("though" instead of "through," "hey" instead of "he").  If I'd had my eyes on the text at the same time he was reading, it probably would have been even more effective—although I hope not, because that would mean the manuscript had even more errors in it.  Of course, now I feel horrible because I didn't catch those errors before submitting the manuscript, but at least I know they're there and can fix them in the edits.

Meanwhile, I've finished the latest round of edits on Art of Death and will likely get a galley proof next.  Although I really combed through that manuscript and don't think there are any errors left, you can bet Alex is going to help me through the galley proof, just to be sure.

(and now, Alex is reading my blog entry before I post it...)

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