Using speech synthesis to improve your writing

I’ve just discovered a fancy-pants new way of helping me with my fiction, and I thought I’d share. The idea is to use a speech synthesiser to listen to parts of your writing. By listening, you hear problems that aren’t so obvious on the page.

I recently bought a copy of [Cepstral’s][cepstral] text-to-speech software, buying one of their voices for $30. This lets you do some very nice things. Originally I just intended to listen to web pages using the [Click, Speak][] firefox extension. Rather nice; visit a web page, choose ‘speak selection’ from a menu, and hear the web page. Neato.

But I’ve found it more useful when editing fiction. Select a sentence or paragraph and have it spoken back to you. As you listen, awkward phrases will jump out at you. Sentences that flow badly become more obvious. Good writing seems satisfying when you hear it read out.

So how can you go about it? Well, [Cepstral][] do a free demo download of their voices. I’m using Cepstral Alison. Cepstral do their own text editor called _swifttalker_. Just cut and pastie text into the editor and click the play button. Until you buy it comes with a prefixed message about licenced, but if you purchase it’ll go away.

If you are more technically inclined, and are comfortable writing scripts for your word processor (say, macros for MS Word, or python for [Sublime Text][st], or lisp programs for [emacs][]) then you can use the `swift.exe` program that comes with a Cepstral voice, piping selected text into the executable. That’s what I’m doing, and it’s great.

[cepstral]: http://cepstral.com/
[Click, Speak]: http://clickspeak.clcworld.net/
[st]: http://www.sublimetext.com
[emacs]: http://www.emacswiki.org