I listen to a lot of podcasts on writing and marketing. One of these is The Creative Penn by Joanna Penn. She has always held out from dictating her novels but has recently tried this. She is now a convert and her enthusiasm gave me the push I needed to give it a go. Here are my thoughts on it so far.
You can use specialist dictation software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking or Dragon for Mac. This is the most common one used. I have had this in the past but have struggled with it recognising my Scottish accent. You do have to train the dragon, and this can take some time. So for the purposes of the test, instead of using Dragon, I decided to use the dictation software on my MacBook Air. I had heard that this was a good option and I felt it was worth exploring.
The first thing I had to master was a few basic commands. The punctuation commands were fairly easy to pick up. These included apostrophe, full stop, comma, open bracket, close bracket and all the other common ones. It was fairly standard open quotes, end quotes. So with the basics understood I was good to go. Or so I thought.
The first thing I learned was that you need to give every command to the software. So the sentence "We need to catch the killer," said Shona. becomes
open quotes, caps on, we, caps off, need to catch the killer, comma, end quotes, said Shona, full stop.
It took me about an hour to master this and then it came easily. I will admit it felt strange at first but it then became natural. I found myself thinking it when I went back to regular typing.
Initially it came up with some strange things but it soon settled down. It still threw out the occasional error though as it tried to guess what I meant. Here are a few of the funnier ones.
It couldn't seem to cope with the word murder at all. It changed it into Amanda, mounted and firelighter. Maybe it wanted to change my books into tales of serial arsonists. I think it might have been because of the Scottish habit of rolling the rrrrr's.
Works on a firm in town became they have a famine in town.
No expense had been spared became I know Howard had been spared. I am jolly sure Howard was relieved to hear that.
From the fact became Halifax.
Now these were funny and as I say it quickly picked up the more used words. Both the computer, and I were soon ticking along nicely. in an amicable partnership.
Would I use it again? In a heartbeat. The speed of writing picks up and I found myself typing a lot more words in a day. I stopped after every paragraph to sort out obvious problems such as the ones I outlined above, but I still wrote way more words.
If you have a computer then I am sure you have dictation software on it. My advice to you today is give it a go. You may be pleasantly surprised. If you are already using it, share your experience, hints and tips in the comments below, and we can all learn something today.