By Bob McCrillis
I’m a terrible editor.
It’s an affliction that has cost me at least one potential agent. At a book signing for one of his clients, I started chatting with him about doing yet another complete rewrite of my novel. My elevator speech interested him and he encouraged me to bring a query package to a conference at one of the local colleges scheduled for a few months in the future.
Man, I knew I had this one locked. I had a great story, an inside track for an agent, and a couple of months to finish the rewrite. Imagine my humiliation when, after proudly handing him my query, he started through it then took out his pen and began circling things. Not editorial issues or voice possibilities, but obviously missing or duplicated words, “he” where I meant “the”, and even inconsistent spelling of a name between the first paragraph and the fourth on the same page!
After a few pages, he handed the whole sheaf of paper back to me with the comment, “I can’t represent anyone who doesn’t take his writing more seriously than this.” Interview over.
We can argue about his manners but he certainly made a lasting impression.
The advice, read your work aloud, helped find a few errors but my tricky brain just changes what I wrote to what I intended to write. Reading verrrryyy slowwwwly with a ruler under the line worked but it was torture!
I’ve found a tool that reduces torture to simple tedium – a text to speech app on my computer. I copy and paste a section of text into the app – I’ve done as many as three thousand words – then click speak. An uninflected voice reads my text back to me. Okay, the voice isn’t HAL from Space Odyssey but I do have half a dozen choices. I’m currently using a British female voice. Hearing her stumble over my mistakes in that cut-glass accent encourages me to hustle up and fix the problem before I get sent to the tower.
I’m using Google Text To Speech since I already use Google Drive to back up my work and get directions – oh, and it’s free – but I’m sure there are many alternatives.
Even my notoriously picky developmental editor has noticed that my work is much cleaner since I started using my secret weapon.
Now if I could just find an app that guaranteed me an agent…