Is Dictation For You?

This article was originally posted on Rainbow Romance Writers website


There’s no right or wrong way to write a book.
Some authors enjoy writing longhand because they believe it helps with their creative flow to physically put the words to a page. I’ve even heard tell of authors who still use old-fashioned typewriters. My carpal tunnel aches just thinking about it! LOL I’m going to take the assumption that the majority of modern authors use a computer of some sort.
But have you ever considered using dictation?
Software is available to download such as Dragon Naturally Speaking. I actually have the free app on my iPad. It’s rather accurate unless you have a speech impediment or a heavy accent. But you may already have the only tool you need to dictate our next book besides your imagination.
Your smart phone!
If you have a smart phone you already know about that nifty talk-to-text feature for texting, emails, Facebook, Twitter, etc. In fact I’m driving in my car right now using the talk-to-text feature emailing myself this very article. LOL. But the software by Dragon works great too right from your computer or tablet.
I’d like to share the pros and cons of dictation so you can decide if you might like to give it a try on your next novel.
The most difficult things for many to get used to with any sort of dictation is speaking the punctuation. That means when you finish a sentence, you need to say “period” “question mark” or explanation point.” And when you want to start a new paragraph, you actually have to say the words “new paragraph” then take a slight pause so the device can register that the words don’t belong in the text rather you are giving a coRedRidingHood_LARGEmmand. Make sense? Sometimes my device will actually spell out the words “period” and “new paragraph,” which is annoying.
That brings us to the second pitfall of using dictation.
Some feel that it creates too many errors and with the time spent correcting them you could’ve just typed it. Still others feel that stating punctuation interrupts their creative flow. I personally have not found this to be an issue and have dictated over 75% of my short stories and novels. In fact the only book that was 100% typewritten was my very first erotic short story Red Riding Hood.
Another con of using dictation software is that bizarre words and names often are misunderstood. Case in point, my current manuscript The Rhubarb Patch has a main character named Phineas. However he goes by Phin in the book. Talk-to-text turns his name into Finn. But with a simple control G ‘find and replace’ I can correct the spelling. I use this same technique when the device actually writes the punctuation words such as “explanation point” etc.
Now you may be thinking that sounds like a pain in the tukas. What are the pros of using dictation?
Can you say 16,000 words in one day?
Yeah, I’ve done it many times.
I’m not the best typist so even if I’m on a wild roll typing a scene, I make a lot of mistakes. And those mistakes visually draw my attention away from the scene and I’m forced to pause, hit backspace and make the correction, possibly losing my thought. On the flipside, while I’m speaking into a device I don’t have that visual distraction. It’s as if I’m telling a story out loud. As far as being distracted by speaking punctuation commands, after time, speaking the punctuation becomes second nature. No different than my brain having to register the need to tap the enter key to create a new paragraph or typing punctuation.
Since I have been dictating my manuscripts for so long, it’s almost impossible for me to find any fault in this technique LOL. I think faster than I can type, and I can speak faster than I can type. When I am writing a conversation scene the natural ebb and flow of dialogue is flawless because I actually am speaking it. However I do have to be careful when getting too caught up in a scene. Lots of enunciating and inflection can accidentally put errors into the mss. You don’t have to sound like the GPS lady, but you do need to speak clearly.
Also the internal thoughts and descriptions have a tendency to become wordy and or passive. Human beings do not speak grammatically correct sentences in heated or relaxed dialogue—nothing annoys me more than an editor adding words to dialog to make them “correct” LOL. But when writing the text portion of your novel (the descriptions and internal thoughts) the conversational flow from dictating can clutter your manuscript with filter words. Don’t know what a filter where it is, check out these posts by RRW member Brita Addams:
My own personal editing procedure is to highlight all of these filter words and intensifiers with a control-G search and replace so I can locate them and eliminate them from my manuscript whether I typed or dictated the scenes. This makes for a very clean final draft.
If you’re considering dictating your next book, here is my personal process. Maybe some of this can work for you too.
The Inspiration Muse strikes me with whole plots but the characters develop as I write them. I begin a new manuscript by taking one-page handwritten notes on what’s supposed to happen in a chapter, perhaps even a funny line or a whole scene. I use this as a reference then begin “writing” out loud in an email with the talk-to-text feature on my smartphone. When I finish, I send the email to myself. I continue on like this until I’m either brain-dead or I have to get dressed and pretend I wasn’t sitting in my pajamas talking into my phone all day long when my husband gets home from work LOL.
With the scene saved in my email I can open it up at the next opportunity I have to write. I will copy the content of the email—never do control-A because you’ll get all the junk on the sides of your email too—then simply paste it into a new Word document. At this stage a lot of formatting errors will naturally occur. Easy fix! I go into my format settings and correct all the formatting errors document wide.
When I begin reading through the manuscript, I correct mistakes as I go, adding in the quotes around my dialog etc. Trust me, don’t bother to try to dictate “open quote” and “close quote” because it rarely works with the phone. It used to work when I had the old Dragon software and head-set, but for some reason it won’t work on my phone. No biggy.
As I correct the typos I don’t really add a lot of new material because my goal at this point is to get the manuscript down so I have something to work with. I’m baking a cake, the icing and decorations will come later. Then once it’s in my computer I just go about my own natural editing steps. During the month of July—granted I had a one week vacation where I did a lot of writing—I wrote a 75000 word book.
It’s hard to find any cons about that! LOL
If efficiency, being prolific and speed are something you would like for your career, or if you’re just a lousy typist, perhaps dictation software is for you. Have any of you ever dictated a manuscript? If so what were the pros and cons for you?


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