Reading allowed. Or not

Writers are encouraged to read their ms aloud. You arm yourself with a long drink, fend off all household pleas and settle down with the ms or screen in front of you and a notepad to jot down quick notes. Hopefully, the rest of your family hasn’t called the white coat men as you mumble away to yourself and you bash on.

I thought I’d be really clever. I’d load my ms as a personal document on to my Kindle and get it to read it using its text-to-speech feature. Easy-peasy. My throat would love me. Email sent off to Kindle with the attached ms and downloaded shortly after, I propped my Kindle up on the table (More on the fancy cover with a stand here). I opened the ms personal document in the list of books and selected Text-to-speech.

Oh dear!

The electronic voice was American – no problem as my protagonist starts life as a US citizen – and a light baritone. Word for word, it wasn’t bad. ‘C’mon’ came out as ‘See Monday’ but that was the only real blooper. The intonation was a bit haywire, but not a deal-breaker.

It was the way the voice ran straight into the next sentence and even worse, the next paragraph. A human would have paused for breath. After five minutes, my other half brandished headphones in my face and after ten, I had to turn it off.

But I’ve tried it. And you have to try things in life.

So it’s back to the read-aloud-a-thon. We need to hear the intonation, the pauses, the cadences, the flow and the emotion in the sentences. When we read silently, as the normal person does, we hear these in our heads as our neural and linguistic pathways insert them automatically.

Sorry, Kindle, although I love you as an e-book reader, you’re still just a machine.

1 comment to Reading allowed. Or not

  • The same American reading on Kindle from my book ‘from Bad to Wurst’ made me laugh. Funnily enough, he did seem to drop his voice at the end of sentences and pause between paragraphs, yet we must have the same one. He had great difficulty pronouncing the German words–petersilie (parsley) became Peter silly(!), but all in all amusing, and mildly useful. But yes, I agree, you have to go through the slog of reading out for yourself, though at 130,000 words of my novel, I’m not looking forward to it.