For my previous books, one of the proofing techniques I used was to select text and have the computer read it back to me. On the Mac, I used one of the female voices that came with the current flavor of OS X I was using. But the speech synthesis was so awful that I couldn’t listen to it for long.
For Jane, Actually, I tried another method: reading out loud and dramatically what I’d written. This method works well as long as you do it in short shifts, but after about fifteen minutes, you’ll lapse into a monotone of despair.
Then I took a tip from my own book. Jane Austen learns that her agent, Melody, had replaced the default digitized voice on her portable AfterNet terminal with a more expensive and better sounding British-accented voice When Jane speaks to Melody through the terminal, it really sounds like Jane.
I was prepared to spend a little money looking for a better digitized voice when I realized Mac OS X Mountain Lion has additional free, better-quality voices you can download. They’re not part of the standard install. I quickly found Serena and installed it and suddenly my text became prose. There’s nothing like an British accent to make stuff cultured.
There are still the predictable problems—read vs read and lead vs lead—and some surprises. If you type June 8, Serena will say “the eighth of June.” And the way she says “Baaatthh” is to die for.
If you’d like to hear a sample of Serena, visit this site: http://www.nextup.com/nuance.html
Imagine how cool it must be to an actual British author. They already sound like that.