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Deep Listening Exercise and Speech to Text using Excel

I’ve been reading Manuscript Makeover: Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore, by Elizabeth Lyon, 2008. In my opinion, the name of the book does not mislead.  If you write fiction and you want to be published, you cannot ignore this book. It is easy reading, carefully organized, and thoughtfully presented. I only wish she had provided a condensed version of her Makeover Revision Checklists found at the end of each chapter.

I would love to be able to go through a checklist that that Lyons condensed to a few pages rather than having to thumb through the book to find something.

I just finished a NaNoWriMo novel and plan to subject it to a careful analysis using her book. I do not think I’ll start at the beginning and work straight through though to the end. I already know I skimped on scenes and characterization in order to meet the 50,000-word deadline. Even if I never get my novel to a publishable state, I believe the exercise will improve my writing overall.

I like her ideas on deep listening and have adapted them in two ways. The first way is to listen to conversations and stories during the day. Then create backgrounds, characters, and endings to the stories I hear. Of course, I’m not ‘right’ in the story I’ve made up, but it leads me to listening more carefully.

The second way I’ve modified her idea is more a change in medium than in substance. She recommends reading your story aloud. I’ve had this recommendation from my professors and have seen it in other books. The truth is, when I begin to read aloud to myself, I can make it about two paragraphs, then I slide into silent reading without being aware I’m doing so.

Maybe it is a character flaw, but I just cannot read aloud to myself. So, in the wonderful world of technology, is there a solution? Ah, yes there is. You can plug in a macro to your Word program that makes it read your manuscript to you. To do this, you can go to Microsoft’s Office Support page and follow the steps for converting text to speech in Excel.

Wow, that works for me. When I’m editing, I highlight a paragraph or so, then tell the software to play back what I’ve highlighted. I read along listening to the reader’s voice instead of mine. (I just had a horrible thought; I’ve been a professor for years. If my voice puts me to sleep…). By doing this, I hear errors that I would miss if I was reading my own work, even if I was reading aloud.

I’ve noticed I incorrectly read my works to say what I think they should say, not what they say. That blind spot can allow me to ‘read over’ a mistake many times without seeing it. However, if someone else is saying it, even an electronic voice, I hear the mistake.

I don’t know why this works better for me, but it does.


Nanowrimo: Day Two

I have begun writing in my second Nanowrimo. That’s the National Noval Writing Month for the uninitiated. It’s a challenge contest where you compete with yourself to write a 50,000 word novel in one month, November.

I ‘won,’ that is I finished last year, and I’m competing again this year. Today is day two. I have written just over 12,000 words so far. To ‘win’ you have to write 1666 words a day. I’ve written over 6,000 words a day for two days. I’ll do the same tomorrow.

Obviously, I’ve done nothing else but write for the last two days. I’m not a masochist, I’m pushing myself because I’m a professor. I’ve set aside this weekend to push myself to my limits. I want to get 18,000 words in three days, and another 6,000 words this week. That will put me half way through the project. After that, I will have 888 words per day to knock out.

With everything else I have to do and Thanksgiving coming. I didn’t see another way for me to finish. This year, the semester ends early, the second week of December. If I didn’t have a push at the beginning of the month, at the end I would be overwhelmed with class and the contest.

So, after two days of nothing but writing, I’m surviving. I know I’ll survive three. Then I’ll be able to kick back.

Just one more thing. There’s a list of books on NaNoWriMo’s website for writers. Take a look at them.

Keeping up with the Craft

There’s a difference between the ‘art’ of writing and the ‘craft’ of writing. Art is subjective, its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder … but craft is objective. There is a right way and a wrong way to craft. Gerard de Marigny in Joanna Penn’s blog on September 5, 2011.

Today, I’m writing about the craft of writing. How does one learn the craft? As I see it, there are two distinct ways.

First, I understand before education was ubiquitous, writers learned the craft by studying those who were successful writers and writing frequently oneself. There weren’t how to books, or continuing education classes on writing fiction. It was more learning by doing – a type of immersion learning.

This type learning is still valid. Most sources I find recommend would be writers read well written fiction to learn how to write it. They also recommend that one writes with discipline, i.e. establish a routine for writing, one that gives you sufficient time to accomplish writing a piece.  Usually, these sites recommend writing in blocks of four hours or so.

The second, more recent way of learning the craft is to take courses and read how to books. If you live in a remote area, as I do. Sometimes it is difficult to find a course available. There are a number of online courses on creative writing. Also, one can read the how to books. Here are some I think are valuable:

Stephen King, On Writing

Alander Steele, ed., Gotham Writer’s Workshop: Writing Fiction The Practical Guide from New York’s Acclaimed Creative Writing School

Darrell Pitt, Secrets of Successful Writers

                Don McNair,  Editor-Proof Your Writing

                Renni Browne & Dave King, Self Editing for Fiction Writers: How to Edit yourself into Print

                Scott Nicholson, et al., Write Good or Die: Survival Tips for the 21st Century

These are the ones I’ve read recently. For me it is fun and interesting to continually read about writing and how one can do it better. I have even noticed that watching movies or television has changed for me. I can identify the beginning, middle and end of stories and know when a playwrite is using a character to fill in a backstory, for examples.

So, in summary, I support the tried and true ‘old’ method of learning to write and use Self-Directed Learning to further train myself in the craft of writing.


I’ve decided to do NaNoWriMo once again. Haven’t heard of it? It’s the National Novel Writing Month that takes place every November. During that month, you write a novel of at least 50,000 words.

Piece of cake you say? Do you have school, work, family? Do you want to visit family or friends at Thanksgiving. There will be other demands on your time.

This year, I’m going to make it easier on myself. I’ll have a detailed outline to work from. Last year it was seat of pants writing. I didn’t do badly though, I won by the 26th.

My novel is Red Maslem and the Pilots of Anzu. I haven’t gone back and edited it, but that’s not an issue with me. I did write a novel in a month. After that, I wrote a 577 page book in December, then between January and March of 2013, I wrote two more books.

I’ve published two books on Kindle and one on CreateSpace, in between everything else I have to do. I hope to have the third one edited and available this fall.

I want to have the one I write this November to be of high enough quality to be published commercially. I’ll vet it with agents after I write it instead of going straight to Kindle Publications.