Even before Edit Out Loud was available to writers earlier this year, reading or listening writing aloud has been a proven tactic to change up the format of your writing so you can identify pacing, plot, sentence structure, and grammar issues that you simply miss while reading to yourself.
Edit Out Loud does two fundamental things to enhance this process:
It lets you listen aloud on the go so you can find more time to edit your book, then adds those edits back to a Word document so you can address them when you return to a computer.
It lets you share audio with beta readers so they can listen from anywhere and collect their feedback in the same way.
Now, I want to give you an idea of how those things work in practice. To do that, I’ve invited Emma Lombard to share her—and her beta reader’s— experiences using Edit Out Loud. Below is a Q&A session with myself—Dustin Maxey, founder of Edit Out Loud—and Emma Lombard. With no further adieu here is my interview with Emma. Read on to learn how to get a free month of Edit Out Loud premium—and a chance to win a free year!
How Emma Uses Edit Out Loud
Dustin: Before talking about Edit Out Loud. Can you share a little bit about your writing background?
Emma: Before I became a historical fiction author, I was an editor in the corporate world across various industries—aviation, aquatic ecology, education and the world of academia. My blog series, Twitter Tips for Newbies, is popular in Twitter's #WritingCommunity for helping writers (new to Twitter) navigate the platform and find their professional voices on social media. I write a monthly column for ENVIE! Magazine (https://enviemagazine.com/), where I share great publishing industry resources. I am also the author of an upcoming historical women’s fiction novel, Discerning Grace.
Dustin: Edit Out Loud aside, what advantages do you get from listening to your work aloud?
Emma: Hearing my written words spoken helps me smooth out dialogue and chunky scene descriptions. Although the written word is intentionally different to the way we speak in everyday life, it is still useful to hear the words aloud. Also, when I’ve been re-drafting a manuscript for a while, I tend to get blurred vision. Listening to my work-in-progress helps me keep my writing process going. Since I’m usually in editing or writing mode when I listen to my manuscript, I find I can’t be busy with other jobs or chores because it still requires all my concentration; however, there is much to be said to be able to move from my desk and computer over to the couch, where I can curl up with my phone to listen, and dump my notes directly into my manuscript through the app. The change of environment is always conducive for renewing my interest and engagement with my manuscript.
Dustin: How has Edit Out Loud enhanced those benefits for you?
Emma: Hearing my character’s voices come to life is quite a thrill. I especially choose a British-accented man to narrate my story because my book has British characters. I had already envisaged my scenes and dialogues when I wrote them, but hearing them being read out is like watching a movie. It animates my story in a way I never imagined, and helps paint a richer picture.
The flexibility of having Edit Out Loud as an app on my phone is a big plus. It even enables me to sit with my beta readers to listen to my story together. Either of us can stop the narration whenever we have something to brainstorm. It provides an opportunity for my beta reader to ask me questions about my story in real time, or lets me ask them about what their thoughts are on certain bits in my book, which really drills down deep on feedback. I had not thought of listening to my manuscript at the same time as a beta reader, but one of them suggested it and it was so easy and productive that I’ll be sure to do it again. Interestingly, my beta reader preferred to listen to it in an Australian-accented woman’s voice, which again, gave it a whole different flavour for me to hear. The choice of accents is a big plus, and they are so easy to choose or change in the app, if you wish.
Dustin: One of the biggest advantages I find with Edit Out Loud, is the speed. How does it affect the speed of your editing process?
Emma: When I listen to audiobooks, I usually speed up the narration because I’m listening for enjoyment, and not for work purposes. In the Edit Out Loud app, it’s super handy to be able to slow down the speed of the narration when editing. With that approach, editing through listening is a much slower process, but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It pays to listen more diligently to the structure of sentences or the nuance of dialogue. Considering that I do multiple runs of editing on my manuscripts, it doesn’t hurt to have one form of editing that slows the process down a bit, and forces me to use a different part of my brain. One of the other ways I listen to Edit Out Loud is to play the narration on my phone while reading along with my Word manuscript. One advantage of the app is being able to pause the narration while I type up my changes directly into my document. Using the computer’s read aloud function, I find that you have to highlight the paragraph you want it to read, but if you need it to stop, you have to re-highlight the text again for it to continue reading. It’s a clunky process that becomes very wearing during a 100k manuscript. The Edit Out Loud app stops and restarts instantly, saving a bunch of time. And it always keeps its place.
Dustin: When do you think the best time is to introduce Edit Out Loud into the editing process?
Emma: Personally, I think anytime you feel bogged down by reading your words, using the Edit Out Loud app is great to help you keep moving. That’s the beauty of the app, it’s completely flexible, and can suit many different styles of reading, writing and listening, since you can also read along with the narration on the app too.
Sometimes, when I’m stuck in the middle of a draft, I’ll read or listen to my book from the beginning because that’s one thing that gets my creative juices flowing again. Tweaking and editing along the way gives me a sense of satisfaction that I’ve achieved something in my manuscript for the day, instead of wallowing about not having written a new chapter.
If I’ve just smashed out a whole chapter the day before, and my beta reader wants to see it but they’re super busy the next day ferrying kids around—they can just listen to the new chapter in the car.
The best time to send my beta readers drafts to listen to depends on the arrangement I have with them. For example, I have sent whole manuscripts, as well as new or revised chapters to beta readers. This is great if they’ve given feedback and I’ve incorporated it into my chapter—they get to hear what I’ve done with their suggestion right away. If you’ve got passionate beta readers like me, they love this!
Dustin: Where is the coolest on-the-go location Edit Out Loud has ever allowed you to edit a novel?
Emma: Honestly, the most fun I’ve had using the app is in the kitchen of one of my beta readers when we listened to my story together. It was immensely satisfying to see my reader’s reactions in real time—the nods, the smirks, the frowns, the laughs. It was a great way to visually see the beats of my plot working. It was super encouraging to have them say, “Love that!” aloud, or to wince in confusion with, “What?”
My revision process was brought to life by interacting with my reader like that.
A really fantastic feature of the app is the ability for a beta reader to add notes to your manuscript. They can be verbal or written notes, which show up like tracked change bubbles. The hard part about this is receiving an email when you’re out and about, or busy with other things, and you see their feedback, and immediately want to dive back into your manuscript but can’t. Patience was never a virtue of mine!
Dustin: You have diverse writing skills. You’ve done everything from fiction and blogs to magazines and editing for a variety of different industries. Where do you think Edit Out Loud is the most applicable?
Emma: All of the above. I’ve personally used reading aloud to edit content for blogs, my website, magazine articles, newsletters, query letters, synopses, and manuscripts. As long as the content is in Word, it’s easy to listen to. If it’s not normally a Word document (like my blog), I then just paste the edited text into the relevant spot where it lives. I wish this app had been available back in my early days of technical editing.
Any instance where words are written is an opportunity for the author to use the Edit Out Loud app. Listening to your work read aloud slows your processing down, which helps ensure the comprehension you intended for your audience is there. Readers tend to skim or read much faster than they listen, so listening to your work ensures you’ve captured absolute clarity.
How Nicole and Caroline, (Two of Emma's Beta Readers) Use Edit Out Loud
That was an interesting perspective from Emma. In addition to using Edit Out Loud to listen to her own writing, she also shares her audio with beta readers so they can leave feedback. Emma was kind enough to introduce me to two of her beta readers to get their perspective. Below, Nicole and Caroline, two of Emma’s beta readers, share their experience using Edit Out Loud.
Dustin: What did you think when Emma first told you about the concept of Edit Out Loud?
Nicole: I was skeptical at first as reading is one of my favourite pastimes and I’ve never really bought into the concept of audiobooks. Having said that, I’m always keen to give something new a go—particularly when it has the potential to save time. So, when Emma asked me to try the app with the latest version of one of her novels I jumped at the chance.
Caroline: I was pretty excited with the concept of Edit Out Loud, the App is well thought out and is intuitive for a first time user. It makes sense.
Dustin: How has using it made the beta reading process easier?
Nicole: It’s easier to fit beta reading into a busy schedule when I can have the book read to me while I’m doing boring chores. I often play Emma’s books on the Edit Out Loud app through the car speakers when I’m driving around town, or waiting to pick the kids up from school (the only downside being that I have to wait until I stop to go back and put my comments in ... haha). I’m a huge fan of multitasking so this is a major plus for me.
Given that Emma’s novel is a constant work in progress, the version she has given me to read is not always the latest version she is working on by the time I get my feedback to her. Therefore, I need to make sure I have noted the page number and typed some identifying words into my feedback report, so she can find the right place ... this can be quite time consuming. It’s so much easier and faster to just use the comment feature in the app which takes Emma directly to the right spot in her novel.
Caroline: In my house there is always something or someone needing attention & finding time to read has been an issue. I always seem to be in my car driving my children to either school or sporting events/training. Having the ability to pop in headphones whilst cooking etc. or listening to a section or chapter in the car has made such a difference.
Dustin: What are the differences between what you catch using Edit Out Loud and what you catch reading?
Nicole: It’s definitely easier to catch grammatical errors, sentences that are too long, and redundant words when the manuscript is being read out loud through the app. I’ve also caught a few ‘incorrect’ words that I may not have picked up if I was reading the book on my Kindle, or in hard copy (e.g. goal versus gaol; fits versus fists). Sometimes the eye reads what the brain knows the word should be in the context of the sentence, but the ear doesn’t make the same mistake. I think that I am more likely to pick up on timeline or plot errors when I’m reading the book myself. Although this may be partly because I can’t multitask while I’m reading to myself so the book gets my undivided attention.
Having said that, a couple of times I have gone back and checked a couple of things that didn’t quite sound right, but that were actually ok (e.g. The app pronounces ‘N-no’ more like ‘endo’, and spells out ‘hmph’ as H M P H). But I can live with that.
Caroline: When reading, I find in my mind I sometimes place words, or structure sentences, the way they ‘should be’, and not necessarily the way they are written on the page. The Edit Out Loud App has helped me to pick up a lot more nuances in the text. Having someone read to me allows a whole other part of my Beta Brain to work for my Author.
Dustin: Where is the coolest place you’ve ever listened to one of Emma’s novels?
Nicole: In the coffee shop drive-thru on my way to a meeting.
Caroline: Unfortunately, nothing Uber cool springs to mind. However, as any busy parent will tell you, any place that I can listen to a book uninterrupted, and have a bit of space, is cool. Ideal for me is my back deck, cup of tea in hand, iPad in place. Let the editing begin ...
Get a Free Month of Edit Out Loud Premium—and a Chance to Win a Free YearI’d like to thank Emma, Nicole, and Caroline for taking the time to give their thoughts on Edit Out Loud.
Edit Out Loud is free for everyone to use, but I’d like to extend an opportunity to you all to get a free month of Edit Out Loud premium. All you have to do is sign up for Emma’s BY THE BOOK author newsletter by Friday, July 24. If you do that, you’ll receive a link to sign up and get a free month of Edit Out Loud. You’ll also be entered for a chance to win a free year of Edit Out Loud.
Subscription to BY THE BOOK Newsletter: https://www.emmalombardauthor.com/edit-out-loud-competition