You've heard me talk about her. Mostly using hateful adjectives and animalistic growls. It's my dear friend, Anna! You know, the talking robot.
I hear you. You're saying, "What?" in a disbelieving voice. What good is a robot that only talks? You can talk to yourself. But this, my writer friends, this will be your saving grace (or the bane of your existence). I give to you very simple instructions for using Narrator in Windows.
Go to the Start menu.
Type 'Narrator' in the search box.
Wait until 'Narrator' appears.
Open the program.
Here's where things get tricky. It works best for me if I open Notepad, copy a chapter of my MS into it, then highlight the text and *poof* Anna (almost always) reads it. You can also set it up on Adobe Reader, but it works slower on my computer, so I just use Notepad.
Sometimes she's a stubborn so-and-so and it takes her a little bit to get on the right track with me, but mostly she follows my orders and reads that MS in a flat monotone fit to drive me batty. Except when she swears. She's a great swearer.
Swearing aside, there are reasons I need Anna in my life, despite her maddening mispronunciation of very simple names, Anna! Sometimes you have to overlook her stupidity to get the most out of her. You know when you take a chapter to critique, or you read it out loud to yourself, you often catch mistakes your eye skips over? That's why I need Anna. Because I type words out of order sometimes, or forget a word altogether.
I set Anna to a higher voice speed. A 5 is way too slow for me. I want to finish the book sometime this century, Anna! I like 7. It's about the same rate I talk, you know, when I'm not super excited about something and I'm running off at the mouth. It takes her about 10-15 minutes to read 8-10 pages at a 7. By the time she's finished reading a chapter to me, I'm usually bleary-eyed and frustrated with myself for not catching these mistakes the first 29 million times.
Oh, Anna. You're irritating, but you're a genius. The last go-round with her on The Wrong Brother's Bride took me about 6 or 7 hours to complete. Not all at one time. I think I'd expire if I tried to do it all at once. About three days, in blocks of about two hours because that was all I could stand. You'd be stunned by the things I caught. Or what sounded terrible and could be rewritten into better form.
Try it. Search for your Narrator, let him or her read you some text. Catch those mistakes your eyes skip over. Impress your editor. You might be sorry as your robot mispronounces names, thinks the word 'fed' is short for federal, and calls people 'S.O.B.' when your characters are crying, but it's worth the annoyances.