Don’t you love it when you find a new awesomesauce writing tool when you’re not even looking for it? Me too!
I’ll try keep the backstory short (as good writers do, right? ;))
Back in the dark ages, when I thought myself invincible, I helped a friend move. I insisted I could lift the end of a nine-foot couch by myself and carry it downstairs. Turned out I could, but not without bursting something in my right forearm. It formed scar tissue, and I couldn’t bend my right index finger (if it were a normal injury, it wouldn’t happen to me). I had surgery, and I now have use of the digit, but scar tissue caused by the surgery means I’m left with killer tendinitis in that forearm. Overuse=agony.
So, with the deadline on my last book under contract approaching, I was set on fire by two new story ideas (Very funny, muse. She is such a bitch). I figured I’d just write the two proposals at the same time I finished the book. After all, I’m retired. I have the time, right? Right. Except for that forearm. Once the tendinitis flared, even resting it on ice bags when not typing didn’t help.
I got Nuance’s Dragon Naturally Speaking software somewhere years ago to read my manuscript back to me during the edit process. I knew, of course, that I could dictate into it, but I wasn’t interested. When I write, I edit as I go. It’s not at all odd for me to rewrite a sentence 5 times to get it right. So dictating just wouldn’t work for me.
You’d think, after all these decades, I’d learn never to say never. I was getting desperate. The deadline was approaching at the speed of light, I was dreaming about those two new ideas and I was in pain. I dug out my CD of Dragon, but it wouldn’t work with my current version of Windows.
Hey, wait – I have the latest version of Windows! I’d heard there’s voice recognition built into it! Yeah. Not so much. I got it activated, used my old Dragon headset and mic, and tried it out. You know the old story about a roomful of monkeys at typewriters, creating a novel? They’d have had a better shot at finishing this book than I would, with that Windows speech recognition program. I have zero accent, and still, it got one out of three words correct.
I broke down, bought the new version of Dragon, and installed it. Those of you who know just how cheap I am will understand how frantic I must have been.
Enough with the backstory, Laura! Jeez, Margie Lawson would not be proud. Anyway HERE’s the takeaway for you
This thing is the hot fudge for your writer’s sundae!
At least, it is for me. These are the advantages that I’ve found, working with this software:
- Dragon has slayed my inner editor – She got so confused, she’s slunk away and I haven’t seen her since. It’s something about saying the words instead of seeing them as I type. I put on the headset, close my eyes and dictate what is happening in the scene that’s running in my head. I’m free to get into my character’s skin, and experience his thoughts, because part of my mind isn’t taken up trying to spell words, think of synonyms and correct errors. I don’t even look at the screen while I’m dictating.
- I’m writing FASTER – I am a very slow writer, because I edit as I go. When I complete a chapter, get feedback from my crit group, I move on. I now have to do one more read-over, to correct mistakes Dragon made, but it’s still faster than my old way, because my internal editor is as dead as Pluto (the planet, not the dog).
- It spares my arm – Notice this isn’t number one on the list. Though this is why I bought the software, this is less important than the items above it.
- Who knew dragons were wicked-smart! – I don’t make it easy. I have a character named Hope, and Bear. How does Dragon know it should cap those words? Because it learns! When it makes a mistake, I correct it (can do that via voice, too), and it remembers! It also learns the way I say things (if you have an accent) and learns from its mistakes there, too. Every time I close out of the system, it updates what it has learned about my voice.
- Its FUN! – I know, it’s a new toy, but it’s fun to use! It’s a little miracle to see the words appear on the page as I say them. I so laughed – the other day I was dictating, and the cat came in and jumped into my lap. I forgot I had the mic on, so, “Hi love-bunny!” turned up in the middle of my black moment. You’ll want to watch that.
So what do you think? Are you ready to try out dictation software?