Mulling Dictation

Edison and dictation machineThe latest trend in independent writing is dictation. It’s hailed as a way to achieve writing speeds of up to 5000 words an hour. Indie pub luminaries such as Sean Platt are giddy about the idea. Joanna Penn of the Creative Penn podcast reluctantly endorses it, if only because she is new to it. So is it the wave of the future?

It’s definitely doable for all but the most budget-challenged writer. The most common voice-to-text software in the consumer realm is Dragon Naturally Speaking. It’s been around for years, and as a PC tech at BigHugeCo, I did several installs. Users can train the software to understand their personal speaking habits, including accent, and transfer their settings to new installs. Claims adjusters found this invaluable, especially when smartphones started coming with voice memo apps. Now they could just dump the sound files into Dragon and have it transcribe.

Author Lynn Viehl, aka The Paperback Writer, used to blog about how arthritis made typing an ordeal for her. A writer who produces several books a year, she adopted Dragon years ago to get around this problem. So dictation’s been around for a few years. But as a means of increasing speed?

I understand the need to up production, particularly for independents. We don’t make money until we have a sizeable body of work, which requires us to put out several books a year. At the same time, the idea of speed vs. quality has some basis in reality. While I did recently bark at a longtime writer friend for sending me the same chapters over and over (He is now forbidden to send them to me without finishing the rest of the book first), at the same time, I’m not sure it’s a wise idea to bang out a book in, say, ten days. Yes, I wrote Road Rules in 13 days, but I knew that story inside and out before line 1 was ever typed. What I’ve found, though, is that writing is not just sitting down and writing the book. You have to think each scene out. Or at least I do.

Still, I’m willing to experiment. If my wife can stand me voicing scenes of alien anatomy, wormholes, and a cult to Marilyn Monroe (Actually, she likes that part), it could be interesting. But I have to spend my money wisely. The basic version of Dragon is around $50. Cheap, but not exactly an impulse buy.s

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