What the mind puts in

I want to start with a big thank-you to the kind people who went looking for my paypal donate button – that I was carefully not telling anyone about, because, really, it embarrasses me. My webmaster put it there a long time ago, and I’ve always felt guilty about it. I like to sell good stories and earn my living by giving what people see as good value for honest labor. I am a long way toward that wetsuit now. Thank you.

I’ve accidentally discovered yet another way of proof-reading. I’m not very good on the laptop with it’s little touchpad, and while using Word, looking for and failing to find any errors on final read-through of CLOUD-CASTLES, I somehow blundered into having ‘read aloud’ (on the review tab) active. Now, the last time I tried voice-to-text and text-to-voice, was in early years of Dragon, and frankly the monotone voice was a very good cure for insomnia and no help to proof-reading. Besides, I have quite a large vocabulary, and it just couldn’t deal with it.

I will say things have improved beyond recognition. It’s still no voice actor, but you can stay awake. Importantly, it highlights each word as it reads it… this has an odd effect on me, when it doesn’t read the word I have just read (I read far too fast).

You see, it actually reads what is there. It doesn’t read what my mind thinks should be there. I picked up literally hundreds of missing prepositions. ‘a’ and ‘the’ particularly, but loads of the second ‘as’ in ‘as mad as hatter’ too. On reading my brain cheerfully filled in gaps, and ‘as mad hatter’ got read as ‘as mad as’. Likewise with ‘of’ or ‘the’ or the ‘a’ I just left out in the example above. I filled in the blanks with right word. Oh. the right word. I found at least one every three pages – and in action scenes, often quite a few more.

Inverting word order too was still shockingly common. ‘a in hurry’ – my head just fixed it by itself.

Doubling words, because of because of… my brain cheerfully skipped the second as it knew it should not be there.

It didn’t end there, of course. My generous mind did a great job at the letter level too – especially with words that had the right number of letters and the right first and last letter – which were correctly spelled, just the wrong word. Crank and Clank. I knew that one heard the clank of heavy machinery. So I didn’t read ‘crank’ – but that is what I wrote.

The other thing my accommodating mind did for me, was to insert minor pauses – as in commas. Only the text to voice, didn’t. So I read something that made sense. And then hear something that just didn’t.

The other thing I found I picked up was an annoying pattern of repeating words. The reality was that I’d get hooked up on a word or phrase and then use it the next sentence, and then, in reality use them again. Reality says this is not a good thing. I just didn’t pick it up, reading, because I read too fast.

Bits of illogic, and bits where I was not clear on who was speaking or being referred to, also came out of the woodwork. I found one paragraph with three uses of ‘he’ – with the middle one being an entirely different ‘he’ to the first or last. I knew, of course. But hearing the text, it was anything but obvious.

So: it worked for me. It’s worth trying. Humans make these intuitive leaps. We join the dots derived from the context. That’s not always right. Look at how many people decided that Kyle Rittenhouse had killed black protesters – but that was the context they were given. Context can lead the mind very seriously astray. This is a way of removing that from the equation. It just reads what is actually there.

Illustration from Pixabay, by Geralt, free for commercial use.

26 comments

  1. Well, given the way ‘people’ are talking…

    Saying that there is no difference between black protestors and felon terror soldiers would not get me called a racist, would it? I mean, surely the news media would not be held to a different standard of speech than I would, so long as they speak in service to a different political interest?

    Editor: Bob was not held to the same standard. Bob got called racist.

    Additionally, reasonable folks, who judge others by consistent standards, have sincerely wondered if certain of Bob’s statements have implied nutjobbery on race. Not because he was called racist, but because of trying to parse his statements in their original context.

      1. I mean, suppose it is super harmful for a white white supremacist to say that blacks cannot do math, because of all the excellent potential black mathematicians that could be lost, due to systemic this, and creating a hostile environment that. Wouldn’t it also be likewise super harmful for a woke white or black or asian academic administrator to endorse the ‘mathematics is white supremacist’ theory that may be equivalent to ‘mathematics is not for blacks’?

        If you were sincerely worried about communicating to a wide audience, and carefully avoiding any message that might suppress interest in pursuing desired outcomes, wouldn’t it make sense to focus group your messages with a wide range of backgrounds, and not simply whatever academic sub-specialty you used to generate those messages?

        Wouldn’t you look at what, say, applied mathematicians say is the difficult accessibility issue with practicing applied mathematics? (Which might include having a good enough mathematical foundation, requiring instructors who will help you find your problems, and go back and fix your understanding from the part of the previous instruction where you misunderstood, or were miss-instructed.)

        If the ‘instructors telling you where you are wrong’ model is correct, telling minority students not to expect and not to pursue this experience would disparately hurt their enjoyment of and success in applied mathematics.

        There are certainly reasonable grounds to conclude that I am a screwball. There are certainly standards that objectively and even handedly applied would reject me as being insane.

        People who wish to compel you to apologize for being a monster, and to make amends for your ‘crimes’, whose own behavior suggests that they care little when they commit such crimes, a) should be resisted on general principles b) are unjustified even if you are not successful in resisting.

        1. Given how many black kids can KILL ADULTS in chess, and willingly memorize all kinds of chess gambits, I’m pretty sure that a lot of those black kids have the innate smarts for higher mathematics.

          1. They do – often in the form of music. When you start looking at black kids in music classes, and analyze some of the compositions they layer together, and look hard at jazz riffs and solos? There’s an amazing amount of math in play [pun intended]. They just don’t see it as math, and neither do most would-be-activists.

          2. > I’m pretty sure that a lot of those black kids have the innate smarts for higher mathematics.

            Only if they have the smarts to ignore those activists and “act white” when appropriate. Not everybody who promises to help you is your friend.

  2. I’m going to have to try that, because you just listed literally every major editing problem I have.

  3. Thank you, Dave. I had not tried the test-to-speech thing yet, and it sounds very helpful. I’ll give it a go and see what happens, once I get the WIP closer to finished and go back and fill in some names and holes.

  4. Yes, yes, yes! I am so glad you did that (listening to what you’d written) and that it helped you! The errors you describe are ones I catch in so many stories as I’m reading — though I probably don’t catch them in my own writing, for exactly the reasons you described. I’ve been suggesting that people read their own work aloud to someone, but if you have a good voice-to-text program, that works, too.

    Now, if only I could persuade people not to use ‘to’ when it should be ‘from’…”This thing was different to that thing,” when it should be “This thing was different from that thing….” It throws me right out of the story every time I see that!

  5. I like to sell good stories and earn my living by giving what people see as good value for honest labor.

    I haven’t checked out Rats, Bats and Vats since I was in high school, too young to drive. I’m perilously close to 40. I explained to my mom who you are by saying “Rats, Bats-” and she instantly finished the title and knew who you are.

    That is a pretty low return-on-sale for a single copy sold, even if one recognizes the value of exposure, so the chance to balance it out a bit is welcome.

    That is how writers avoid dying of exposure, you know! :insert meme here about someone trying to get a guy to work for the exposure:

    1. Hey – I got 32 cents for that book you read :-). Quite good value, I reckon. Thank you. If you still remember it, it must have made some impression. I always laugh at that book – it was me writing a political treatise as a libertarian and sliding it past my co-author’s notice.

  6. We most definitely do NOT want you dying of exposure, Dave. I’ve bought all of your published books, and plan on buying the next hundred or so. Stay alive so you can write them!

  7. I feel somewhat bad about not donating, but we have some … expensive hobbies (seven of them, although one will graduate university in about 3.5 years).

    However, you shouldn’t feel bad about getting the money, for two reasons:

    1. Do you help people you know who are in need when it’s within your power to help them? Some of us can’t drive an Ambo, but can send money.

    2. Should a waiter who does a fabulous job be ashamed to get a tip? Most of us know you only from what you write (fiction and non fiction). If we decide to give you extra money it’s not out of pity, but out of respect and gratitude to the good your writing has done in our lives.

    1. Ori you have FAR more important things to spend on than something I didn’t ask for and didn’t expect. Trying to help people is if you like bred in the blood and bone and fed to us with mother’s milk. So yes, I try to do so. But (to wax vaguely religious) it is not something I do for a reward, but because if I didn’t I would be someone unlike me.

      I do know it is not out of pity (well, who knows, but it doesn’t matter). I just live by my own code that finds giving easier than receiving 🙂

  8. I bought books but you only make pennies per copy. Take forever to get a decent suit that way. Would you consider coaching? I’d be glad to pay for your honest opinion of my book.

    1. Sorry – I didn’t see these comments until today. I’m not a great editor, but I will make the same offer I make most people who ask :-). Contact me on MeWe or FB, I’ll give you an address. Send me the first 10 pages – I’ll give you what help and advice I can. I don’t charge for helping people. If I feel that I can help beyond that – and you find what I’ve said to relevant and helpful, we can talk.

  9. Not kidding, Dave. I’ll email you the manuscript, you email me your thoughts, let me know where to send the money and how much.

    1. Sorry – I didn’t see these comments until today. I’m not a great editor, but I will make the same offer I make most people who ask :-). Contact me on MeWe or FB, I’ll give you an address. Send me the first 10 pages – I’ll give you what help and advice I can. I don’t charge for helping people. If I feel that I can help beyond that – and you find what I’ve said to relevant and helpful, we can talk.

  10. Bummer. I’m not on social media so I can’t take advantage of your generous offer. Thanks anyway.

Comments are closed.