Category Archive: reading

Mar 15 2013

Proofreading Tips: Kindle and Microsoft Word’s Text-to-Speech

proofreading

While proofreading one of my blog posts for correct spelling and grammar on my Kindle, I’ve found a helpful little tool. Kindle’s text-to-speech may be under used for the reading of e-books, however, I find the feature great at finding misspelled words and misplaced punctuation.

How exactly does it help?

When you upload your file to your Kindle Fire or Kindle Fire HD and turn on the text-to-speech feature, by tapping the screen once and pressing the “play” button the female voice will start reading from the top of the current page. I find that following along with the voice as she reads helps find the errors easier than reading it myself. Why is this? Because you’ve written the words so you already know what it is supposed to say. So when you reread the same scene, your eyes may sometimes scan over the misspelled word and your brain computes it as the word you intended instead.

For example, I only found that I had misspelled the word “through” several times in a manuscript after reading along with the text-to-speech feature because it was only when she said it aloud did I realize I had been spelling “though” and mistakenly reading it as “through” even when reading it aloud myself (which is a well-known tip in proofreading).

Reasons why it could improve your proofreading experience

Like I mentioned above, there are many tips out there already, especially the “read your text out loud” tip. It’s a great tip, but text-to-speech takes it a step further and has someone else read it to you without literally having someone else read it to you. Here’s other ways it can improve your experience:

  • She pronounces the words exactly how it’s written, so if it’s misspelled or not as emphasized as you’d like it to be you can highlight the word or text to fix later.
  • She uses inflections at the end of sentences ending with a question mark, pauses appropriately at commas, semicolons and periods, making it easier to measure your sentence flow.
  • There’s slight variations with quotes that gives her a little personality and helps with the story flow. (Now, I argue about this “fact” with my hubby because he claims not to hear a difference while I like to think he just doesn’t notice, which would be a good thing. However, when she reads multiple back-to-back quotes without tags, we both seem to keep up with which character is talking and when. It may vary for you.)
  • She uses a slight breathy tone when reading to make it sound like a human reading and not a robot or computer-generated … but not always. This also helps with the flow and clarity.
  • Whenever you find a mistake, simply hold your finger over the word and highlight or make a note so you can return to that specific spot later and fix your error.

Some possible downsides

  • Kindle Fire HD only has one text-to-speech personality. It features a U.S. English speaking female voice only.
  • You can choose how fast or slow you want her to read, standard is at 1x but ranges from 0.7x to 4x. This could be a positive but I find it difficult to hear her pronunciation of words clearly or the inflections with punctuation if it’s set at anything beyond 1.5x, and too slow for me at 0.7x. At 0.7x her breaths seem to drag and she sounds bored, as if she’s on the brink of yawning. Not good.
  • Making a note of your error stops the reading. When pressing play, reading begins from the beginning of the page no matter where you left off.

Uploading files to your Kindle

You can email your Kindle Word and PDF files, here’s how:

  1. Find out your Kindle email address by logging into your Amazon account.
  2. Scroll down to “Digital Content” under Digital Management and click “Manage your Kindle.” It may prompt you to sign in again.
  3. On the left under Your Kindle Account click “Manage Your Devices” and it will tell you to Send to Kindle Email Address and provide you with that email. Each Kindle you own will have a different email address.
  4. Simply attach your file(s) to an email and send it to that address. Your file should appear on your Kindle within minutes if not instantly.

Activating Text-to-Speech

Now that you opened your file on your Kindle here’s how to activate the text-to-speech feature:

  1. Tap the screen and press “Aa Settings.”
  2. Tap “On” located next to Text-to-Speech.
  3. A play button will be present at the bottom of the screen on the reading progress bar when the text-to-speech feature has been activated. Press play.
  4. You can change the speed on this progress bar by pressing the 1x button and toggling the different speeds. The 1x button is located at the bottom right while the progress bar is displayed.

Microsoft Word 2013 Text-to-Speech

I think it’s best to use Kindle’s Text-to-speech feature for novel-length manuscripts or lengthy documents. For proofreading shorter works like blog posts or short stories, for instance, I’d use Word’s text-to-speech feature. Here’s how for Microsoft Word 2013:

  1. Open a blank document
  2. Under the File tab go to Options
  3. Click on the Quick Access toolbar and choose “Popular Commands”
  4. Find “Speak” and add it to your customized toolbar
  5. Save. And find it at the top of your toolbar as a quote bubble with the play button
  6. Highlight the text you want it to read and press the quote bubble

Other info you should know:

  • Kindle Paperwhite does not have the text-to-speech feature
  • Earlier Kindle versions have options to toggle between a female and male voice
  • Some e-books and some files like PDF files do not have the text-to-speech feature
  • Microsoft Word’s feature is a male voice and sounds more computer generated compared to Kindle’s feature
  • For more tips on reading on Kindle fire HD and text-to-speech visit Amazon.com help center

 

I hope you find text-to-speech a helpful feature as I do. Have you used this feature to proofread your works? How was your experience? Leave a comment below and please subscribe to my blog for more tips on proofreading and more.

Mar 13 2012

Questions I’ve Been Asked Pertaining to Writing & the Candid Answers: Part 2

I’ve been asked a variety of questions over the years. Some questions been asked multiple times, some are a little odd, some are simple and only people not involved in the publishing business would seek the answer.  So below are some of those questions with simple, detailed and honest answers. You can find part 1 here.

Where does your cover art come from?

Simple answer:Skilled cover artists using royalty free stock photos edit the photos to make tantalizing book covers.

Detailed answer:The publishing house usually has cover artists on board to craft their covers for them. If I’m indie publishing a title, I’ll “hire” a cover artist to design cover art for me. Each artist uses their own graphic editing software (like Photoshop or Gimp) and royalty free stock images to create sexy cover art. They usually work closely with you to try to design the cover as near to your vision as possible.

How do you get paid and how much?

Simple answer: See below

Detailed answer: I get paid royalties either quarterly or monthly by the publisher of the book, and it’s usually a small percentage of the cover price. I’m paid out either by check, direct deposit into my bank account or through Paypal. For paperback titles, I receive 20 percent of the cover price for each book sold. For the same titles published through Kindle Direct Publishing *I receive 70 percent of the cover price of each book sold.

*The cover price of e-books is always cheaper than the paperback copies, as it should be (IMO). Every publisher offers different amounts of royalty percentages. There’s no standard.

Do you just call your publisher when you want them to publish your book?

Simple answer: No.

Detailed answer:With the success of digital books and electronic publishers, e-mail is the better, quicker and preferred choice of correspondence between author and publisher nowadays. Also, being published with a particular publisher doesn’t exclude you from having to submit to them. In my experience, you may be assigned an editor but just because you’re an in-house author doesn’t mean they’ll publish whatever you got. You still have to write and format your work to the publisher’s guidelines and they can ask for revisions before offering another contract. The good thing about being an in-house author is that usually you don’t have to query, you submit your work to your very own editor and it’s likely they’ll accept subsequent manuscripts from you since they’re familiar with your writing and professionalism.

Do you have an editor?

I believe this question was referring to a copy editor instead of a submissions editor at a publishing house.

Simple answer: When my book is published through a publishing house such as Breathless Press, that publisher assigns me an editor. Otherwise, If self-publishing, I have to pay for an editor myself which could be very expensive.

Detailed answer:At the start of my career I thought I knew it all (a common amateur belief). Now, I understand the value of a good editor. Editors are great to not only find typos or grammar mistakes I’ve overlooked, but to help make my work as polished as possible. Editors are great for helping eliminate redundancies, craft believable dialogue and characters and find other ways to make my manuscript crisp, polished and ready for the market. If I’m publishing an indie title and don’t have the privilege of working with an editor from a publishing house, I now consider paying for one.

Are there questions you have that are not listed and you want the candid answers to?

Feb 27 2012

Read More to Write Better

Sure we read fiction to escape reality or to be entertained. We read nonfiction to learn or to be inspired. We read for various reasons. However, did you know to be a better writer you have to read? Not just read, but read analytically.

 

Reading often and with an analytical eye will help you do the following:

Understand the three-act structure of storytelling

This one’s fairly easy and something that does not necessarily have to be taught to you if you read fiction regularly. The more you read the more you absorb the three-act structure of storytelling. I wouldn’t be surprised to know a four year old could tell an adequate story in less than five sentences just by having someone read him a bedtime story every night.


The dinosaur lost his blanket. He travels the land for days in search of the blanket and spots it near the top of a volcano. He climbs up the mountainside, fighting lava monsters until he finally makes it to the blanket and takes it back. He safely returns to his mommy and daddy, and lives happily ever after.

 

 

As dull as that story is, it’s still a complete story that contains the three act structure with Setup, Confrontation and Resolution. We understand this structure early and easily in stories just by reading and reading often.

Helps to study the market

Compare your books to other books by reading similar books in your genre with similar themes. It allows you to see how popular or appealing that genre and theme is, how your story compares to it in terms of uniqueness, and helps you discover overdone plots and overused characters and other clichés.
With that information you can write a book that stands out from the competition and produces buzz. You can also see the commonalities of your genre and understand why readers gravitate (or not) to those types of books so you can better provide reader satisfaction.

 

Helps to find your voice

When reading stories with similar themes as your own you  can analyze how other authors tell their stories and why you think their voice worked or didn’t work for that book. Is it too dark? Fast paced with choppy sentences? Does it lack tone or emotion?
Finding out how the narrative voice fits with the book or not will help you see which style is best for your own story.

 

Helps to broaden your vocabulary and improve your grammar

We read many words while reading some of our favorite books and some are words we’re not familiar with. We learn and memorize those words and add them to our vocabulary. With every story we read our vocabulary grows. The more words you know, the easier it is to write and be more descriptive.
We can be our own teachers at times and improve our grammar just by reading regularly. Seeing a word spelled a certain way, or with an apostrophe here or there becomes second nature to mimic that in our own writing.
Plus, more people should easily understand the difference between the words then and than if they read those words in a few sentences often. (A tiny peeve of mine).

Bad excuses NOT to read as a writer

  • Afraid of stealing ideas from another book or author.
This is a poor excuse, in my opinion. True, there are few original ideas left (if any) but there are limitless ways of telling a story. You have a unique voice, style and creativity that it’s nearly impossible for two people with the same idea to tell the exact same story.
  • It takes away writing time.

If you’re on a deadline, sure writing time is few.  However, plenty writers benefit when they read almost as much (if not more) than they write, for reasons stated above.

 

So continue to write but remember to read and read often for entertainment, inspiration or whatever the reason, but especially if you want to improve as a writer.

Do you agree with my points? Do you have something to add that I may have missed?

Feb 14 2012

The Complicated Story Ending

The ending of your story should be just as engaging as the beginning hook. It should be emotionally satisfying, and tie up most if not all loose ends. If the book is part of a series, it still needs to stand on its own, and answer all major story questions.


Sound familiar?

These are the (unofficial) rules about story endings that all writers know or should know. We follow these rules to ensure a great ending to our story in the hopes that readers will stick around for the next book in the series, come back to read our next standalone title, or even pick up one of our backlisted ones.

Why Endings are Important.

The end of any book is important. The end is the last impression the reader has of our stories. It’s the part of the story that is the freshest in their mind and which they rate and judge the book as a whole. A great ending is hard to write but necessary to attempt.

Although I know what makes a great ending I still struggle to execute it at times. I obsess over it, trying to perfect it.

Makings of a Great Story Ending:

  • Twists and surprise endings: Surprising the reader with a revelation that was foreshadowed throughout the story. i.e. It was right under their noses the whole time.

  • Theme: Tying in the overall theme or message of the book into the ending to add extra significance.

  • Answer the major story question: Will they fall in love? Will they find the murderer? Will they ever learn to trust one another?

  • Character change and growth: The main characters must begin the story a certain person and by the end of the story the character is a changed man or woman. The events in the story, the obstacles, the triumphs and failures all mold the character into a different person by the end.

  • End at the end: Once the major story questions are answered and the character achieves the story goal then the story is over. Ending the story before questions are answered and characters change or long after can disappoint the reader.

Currently I attempt to rewrite the ending of my latest WIP and hope it all falls into place. Knowing how to write the perfect ending to your story doesn’t make it any less complicated, in my opinion. However, my motto is: If it’s too easy, you ain’t doing it right.

Feb 03 2012

What I’ve Learned that May Help You and Your Writing




Over the past few months I’ve been soaking in a lot of creative writing information as part of building and improving my writing skills. I recently challenged myself to write the best book I’ve ever written, and to attempt that personal feat required many hours of reading, analyzing, researching and (of course) writing.

I’ve had some epiphanies during the course of writing my post-apocalyptic novel (Before the Darkness) that I would like to share. These are things that I already knew about creative writing (I’m an author. Of course, I knew :/) but only really understood when reading these books or blogs.



What I’ve learned

Source



Metaphors and allegories can help strengthen a story and provide an engaging writing/reading experience.

Major plot twists or twist ending should tie into the overall mood and/or theme of the story for a greater emotional impact.

The sci-fi novella Wool by Hugh Howey

Incorporating universal human emotion into every facet of your writing builds strong characterization and helps the reader relate to the characters, conflicts and particular circumstances.

The erotic romance novel Destiny for Three by Lilly Hale

All reviews, be they positive or negative, ranting or raving, short or long, are still beneficial to the author. A reader may show interest in the very thing another reader finds unappealing in a book. It’s all subjective. At least the book provoked some kind of emotional response to push readers into discussing it.

Readers’ comments about Ranting authors over negative reviews from book reviewers

To easily find areas in your book that are telling instead of showing search for the word WAS. Using was in a sentence usually indicates the lack of effectively describing something or someone in your writing.

Noble Romance Blog

Write what you love and the rest will come to you.

Instead of focusing on getting to the end of your story, make small goals and complete those first.

It’s never too early to start talking about your work.

From various creative writing books, blogs and magazines:

These are just of few of the things I’ve grown to really understand over the past few months just by reading books, blogs, readers’ comments on blogs and magazine. Have you had an epiphany lately?