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?