Trying Dictation Again

Now that I'm over my bout of writer's block, I suppose I'm feeling a little panicked about getting as much done as I can before the next bout of writer's block hits. I know that's very irrational, because sometimes writer's block hits because of some problem with the writing that I have to address, so writing more now might only hasten the arrival of my next bout of writer's block.

Even when I was working in biology research, I was always interested in optimizing processes. I've carried that over to my writing, and tried to optimize my writing process over the years.

So I did some Internet searches on writing faster, and I found the books 2k to 10k, and 5,000 Words Per Hour. Both books had very good tips and advice.

In the 2K to 10K book, I liked the advice about jotting notes in detail about the scene you're about to write. I had never done this consistently, but when I did, I noticed that writing the scene went much more smoothly. I also liked her advice about experimenting to find the best times of day, best places, and best writing practices for each person to optimize your writing output.

The 5000 Words per Hour book was really good to show me the value of sprints, and how to measure progress by words per hour. I experimented with duration of sprints, number of sprints per day, and the times of day that I did sprints, and I found that I had the highest words per hour when the sprints were 20 minutes or less. For my last book, my highest words per hour rate was during the afternoon and late evening, but that was mostly because I wrote the book while I was out of town, and my mornings and early evenings were always busy. I will continue to experiment so that I know at what times of the day I can write the most.

The 5000 Words Per Hour book also talked about dictation. I had tried dictation a couple years ago, but it felt very awkward to me because I wasn't used to paying attention to the sound of my voice. Also, when I write, I tend to think word by word or in short phrases, and at the time I didn't realize that dictation software works best when you think in entire sentences.

I decided to try dictation again, because even though the dictation was very awkward the last time I tried it, I did notice that my word output was higher. I knew that if I could become better at dictation, my word output would be even better.

I did a lot of Internet searches, and read the books The Writer's Guide to Training Your Dragon, The Productive Author's Guide to Dictation, and Dictate Your Book.

I tried out dictation using the Dragon Anywhere app on my phone, and also the Siri dictation function already on my computer. Most articles suggest that you ease your way into dictation by dictating things like emails, blog posts, and diary entries. I decided to use the writing exercises in the book Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman's Guide to Igniting the Writer Within.

I won't lie, it was extremely awkward. But because the writing exercises are only 15 minutes long, it made the dictation easier. The dictation software of the app and on my computer was not perfect, and did not have all the functions that are available from the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. I also could not train the software, and so there were names and phrases that were always transcribed incorrectly.

The resulting rough draft was absolutely awful. I type relatively accurately, so it drove me nuts to see all the small errors in the text. I had tried different microphones also, but I just didn't have any that were good enough for the software to pick up my voice more clearly.

But despite the errors, and the extra time it took to edit the rough draft, the word count was very high in the amount of time it took me to dictate it. The articles I had read all mentioned that the learning curve is high for some people, and it will take a while to get used to dictation, so I decided to press on.

I have a Mac, but reviews all say that the Dragon software for Mac is not very good. So I bought Parallels and the Dragon software for Windows. My husband also found a really good deal on a podcast-level microphone. It's not one of the popular podcasting mics, it's a Samson, but it's much better than any of the other microphones I own.

When I set up the Dragon software, I set up two profiles, one for my Regency writing, and one for my contemporary writing. The software will analyze existing files to learn your vocabulary and writing style, so I had the Dragon software analyze my Regency books for my Regency profile and my contemporary books for my contemporary profile.

So far, I have been using Dragon to dictate as I outline my next Regency novel. I added the names of my characters in the vocabulary editor in the software, and so far it has been very good at accurately identifying proper names and surnames, even homonyms like Thorne and thorn.

Since I'm only outlining, the dictation has been easier than when I was writing fiction for the writing exercises. The hard part about writing fiction was not the punctuation, but in trying to think in longer phrases for the dictation software. However, I have discovered that I don't need to think in full sentences for the Dragon software on Windows to be able to accurately transcribe me. Even the Siri dictation function on my Mac has been working better because I've been trying to dictate in longer phrases.

Hopefully in a few days, I will start work on the rough draft. I know it will be rough going at first as I struggle to get used to dictating fiction, but because dictating while I outline the novel has slowly gotten easier, I am hopeful that the fiction will get easier too.

I will post another blog post later about how dictating my fiction has gone.

By the way, I dictated this entire blog post, and only did some light editing and inserting links using my keyboard. The Dragon software for Windows was very accurate, and it was very easy to use dictation commands to make corrections as I was writing the piece.