Thursday, April 25, 2024

Rascals Be Gone! Guest Post by Larry Mild

Do you suffer from rascalitus, those nasty, well-hidden little rascals? I’m talking about the accidental nuisances that crop up when I’ve allowed my phonetic brain the controlling leash. Misspelled words; incorrect punctuation; rambunctious hyphens; and roving space gaps. Equally elusive—and even worse: inconsistencies, like my heroine entering a room in jeans and T-shirt and leaving in a cocktail dress. These rascals are downright embarrassing, especially when one of my fan readers brings it to my attention.  

I proofread forward and backward, intending to absolutely annihilate any errors. I start with two guns blazing, but it’s a tedious task and the enemy is resourceful. Soon I’m sliding more and more over obvious mistakes. It’s a losing battle. Proofing shorter segments of text over a span of time does help, but I’m often rushing unnecessarily toward some imaginary publication date. The greatest joy of writing is creating the first draft. My impulse is just to plunge into my next story, instead of reworking and correcting that first draft. But that’s a no-no.

Reading aloud is a step in the right direction. But reading aloud to myself can be a trap. I’m so delighted with my writing that I unconsciously skip over any rascals. It’s like reading in a vacuum. Reading aloud to a partner is a step up, but only if the partner is another writer willing to fully invest in my work. My coauthoring wife, Rosemary, and I have had the advantage of writing together and reading aloud together for some time. We alternate the proofreading and listening tasks between us to cut down on stressing our voices—especially if it’s a whole novel.   

Recently, I discovered an even better rascal eradication tool. The funny part is that it’s been right in front of my face for years. Two of the most popular programs in the writing arena have “Read Aloud” features. 

The first is Microsoft’s Word word processor. Here’s how it works. We select the starting point in our text with a Left mouse click. Then we Right click on “Read Aloud” and the program will speak to us. Right clicking on “Read Aloud” a second time affords a stop or pause. A good practice for those of us who work in Word would be to use the feature as we write—to complete a section or chapter, say.

Adobe Acrobat formatting program has a number of useful tools worth exploring. For Rosemary and me, the tool most useful is their “Read Aloud” function. First, we turn our document into a pdf. Next, on the Tool Bar at the top of our screen, we click on “View” and select “Read Mode” or “Ctrl H.” Then we use the “View” menu a second time. Selecting “Read Out Loud” affords us the use of five commands: “Activate Read Out Loud”; “Read This Page only”; “Read to End of Document”; “Pause”; and “Stop.” We can pause and edit the pdf document directly or make a note to correct the original document later. 

Granted, these “Read Aloud” voices sound somewhat stiff, without the valuable expression quality of a good actor. If you have no one to listen with you, it’s still a useful function (hoping your attention doesn’t stray). Rosemary and I discovered that, with two of us listening, we not only nail the short rascals, but our scene inconsistencies are exposed as well. Whatever method you choose, don’t be shy. You too can wipe out rascalitus.  

Larry and Rosemary Mild’s newest books are Kent and Katcha: Espionage, Spycraft, Romance; and their novel set in the Great Depression, On the Rails: The Adventures of Boxcar Bertie. Larry also published his autobiography, No Place To Be But Here: My Life and Times. 

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