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Write More Books Faster with Dictation

With National Novel Writing Month (also known as Nanowrimo or simply Nano) upon us, I’ve decided to unveil the writing productivity technique most responsible for helping write two novel-length books (about 125,000 good words) over the short summer months.

After landing myself in that fix, I recovered from banging my head on the keyboard and set myself to explore ways to write faster. I’ve since rolled out my writing productivity techniques for you in blog posts, starting with the right attitude, writing in batches, employing a focus technique, and using Scrivener.

I’ve saved the best writing productivity technique for last. The beauty of dictation is that you can write more without the need to sacrifice the rest of life. Read on.

Dictation for Writers

I have to admit to skepticism when I first saw Dragon NaturallySpeaking software demonstrated. I couldn’t imagine writing anything creative while having to say the punctuation. That would drive me nuts, I determined.

Years later, I couldn’t ignore what others were saying about dictation for writers. So many mentioned increased word counts that, with deadlines pressing, I decided to give it a try. What could it hurt, I asked myself. Typing while writing netted me a thousand words per day on average. Working five days a week at that pace, it would take over six months to complete the first drafts for my two novels. I had about half that much time.

With drastic measures in order, I purchased Dragon NaturallySpeaking Premium, the version that allows transcription from an external recorder. That was important because I wanted freedom to dictate while taking a walk, cooking, folding laundry, or cleaning house. Toward this end, I ordered an Olympus WS-822 GMT Voice Recorder,  but the order was never charged or sent. Fortunately, I discovered the ALON Dictation app for iPhone. (There’s also a version of this app for Android.) I used ALON in conjunction with cloud storage to access the mp3 files the app created from my computer for transcription.

A couple of years ago, I purchased a Blue Snowball Ice microphone for podcasting. It didn’t work out for that purpose, but I never got around to selling it online. That turned out to be fortunate because the Blue Snowball is one of the best microphones for dictation with Dragon. I use it whenever I dictate in front of the computer. The Blue Snowball Yeti, if you can spring for it, is even better. Skimping on the microphone you use can lead to frustration. A good microphone is one of the keys to improve Dragon’s accuracy rate.

How I Dictate My Writing

Freed from sitting in front of a computer to write, I could tell stories while doing mundane tasks like cooking, doing laundry, and cleaning. While engaged in activities, I found it easy to pause for a moment and record sentences as they came. I didn’t take walks and record, though, except around the house. Being in nature inspires me, but I become self-conscious when dictating in public I either need the ability to ignore passersby or to walk somewhere more private.

I discovered that I am most relaxed while sitting propped by pillows in my bed. And being relaxed is most conducive to creativity. Dictating lying down enabled me to tap a deep well of creativity. In my childhood, my father read chapters from children’s classics as my bedtime stories. After I grew older, he stopped reading bedtime stories, so I made up my own.

I started by dictating in ten-minute bursts. After gaining confidence, I recorded in longer sessions. Writing by dictation soon became something I didn’t have to think about, like breathing.

Having to produce a lot of words in a short time helped me see patterns I might  otherwise have missed. I learned that time of day effects my writing speed, for example. I am most productive early on and hit a wall in the afternoon.

Writing by dictation unleashed my creativity in a way that typing at a computer couldn’t replicate. Before I started using dictation, I had to turn off the flow of storytelling once my time at the computer was gone. I found that jarring. Writing by dictation meant I wasn’t tied to the computer, so I didn’t have to turn off the flow as long as I could keep recording the words as they came.

Sometimes I did choose to pull my thoughts out of the story so I could be fully present for my family, but the choice was mine.

Writing by Dictation

There’s a learning curve to everything new, but I found learning Dragon intuitive. A tutorial comes with the software, and for more detail Dragon expert Scott Baker offers an excellent book, The Writers Guide to Training Your Dragon.

Final Thoughts From Janalyn

I’m using dictation to write more books, it’s true. But I’m also  taking advantage of the time it saves me to reclaim my life. Let’s face it, a heavy writing schedule crowds out some important things. Now I don’t have to sacrifice time with my family, and taking care of my house. And now there’s actually personal time. Writing by dictation allows more time for reading in my life, and that’s pretty sweet.

No matter how you put words into your manuscripts, I suggest you set a manageable pace for yourself.

Over to You

Would you or have you tried to write by dictation? What are your thoughts?

Write More Books Faster with Dictation via @JanalynVoigt | Live Write Breathe

Written by Janalyn Voigt

Janalyn Voigt

© Janalyn Voigt
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I’m Janalyn Voigt, an author, speaker, and former social media mentor. DawnSinger and Wayfarer, the first two books in my epic fantasy series, Tales of Faeraven, released with Pelican Book Group and will be followed by at least two more installments. I’m also working on a romantic suspense novel set in an Irish castle, but then historical fiction has a grip on me too. Being unabashedly multi-genre makes me into what some might term a reluctant rebel, but I prefer to think of myself as a storyteller.

12 thoughts on “Write More Books Faster with Dictation”

  1. I regularly use dragon, and do use it (on my PC and a Dictaphone) to write. However, I find having to also dictate the commands /punctuation etc can stop my ‘flow’., and so tend to use my dictaphone for note taking / thoughts on story structure, character profiles etc rather than actual writing. Anyone else experienced this or found a way round it?

    1. Hi, Vivienne. Yes, others do use dragon for note taking and gathering their thoughts. I had trouble with the need to dictate commands, and I still don’t do it perfectly. The people who keep at it pretty consistently say that their adjustment period went quickly. In my own case, it helped to recognize that I mentally ‘said’ the punctuation I included in a manuscript as I typed it.

      Sorry that I missed your question when you first posted it. My website didn’t send a notice to my email account somehow. Thanks for reading!

  2. I bought Dragon over a year ago, trained it and then never used it. My productivity last year suffered. I wrote 4 books compared to 6 the previous year.

    I have an aggressive writing schedule set for this year. It’s funny that I drug Dragon back out yesterday and installed it on my new computer and retrained it before I even saw this. Now I’m thinking I need to upgrade because I’d love to be able to dictate on the go and then have it transcribed later. That would be heaven!

    One question; when you dictate on the fly and you’re interrupted, can you restart with the same file or do you need to create a new one? I’d be using my Android phone most of the time.

    1. Hi, Anne! It is pretty awesome to dictate on the go. Regarding your question: with the app I mention in the post, you can pause and restart your dictation. I use this feature most often when I’m stuck and need to think for a moment.

      Best wishes for your writing productivity in the coming months.

  3. I’ve shied away from the idea of dictation so far for three main reasons. First, I think I’d feel rather silly speaking my (first draft) aloud and that this would hinder my creativity. Second, I do most of my writing in a room with other people who are doing noisy things, so I’d annoy them and potentially have problems getting a good recording. And third, I generally feel it’s my ability to compose the scene that limits my speed at writing, not how fast I can type.

    I could probably get over the first point just by doing it, and the solution to the second is write somewhere quieter. If dictation made me write faster I could feasibly do that and not sacrifice much in the way of family time.

    I liked your post because it made me revise the way I think about my third reason. It’s possible that the act of speaking rather than typing my story would actually change my creative process and let me create faster as well.

    I’m actually considering trying dictation now, though I will have to mull it over a bit longer – I’m a creature of habit.

    Thank you for the eye-opening post.

    1. You’re welcome! Dictation helps my writing flow, and that’s good for my storytelling. I hope it proves the same for you.

  4. I tried dictation with Dragon about nine months ago and it has provided me with a tremendous boost in my productivity. What I love best is when I’m describing something, I can close my eyes, see the scene in my mind and talk. Yes, it will need editing afterwards, but in the moment, I have the best description because I’m see the scene and not my screen.

    1. That’s what I love most about dictation, too, Sherryl. It helps bridge the gap between what I see in my mind and what I put on the page.

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