Try A Dragon For Speed Dictation Writing - Indie Pub It
There’s a new trend sweeping through the indie author industry, one that seems to promise a genuine advantage: Dictating your work using voice recognition software.
The most popular dictation software is Dragon Naturally Speaking, published by Nuance. The more recent Windows operating systems come with dictation software built in, but most authors prefer the commercial version. Because of the name of the software, and the fact that there is a short adjustment period needed when you first start using the software, authors are calling this process “training your Dragon”.
Using dictation software seems to be a perfect solution. Once you’ve got used to speaking your books aloud, you can reach fantastic speeds. One author promises you can reach 5,000 words an hour, relying heavily on dictation software to reach those speeds.
Why is increasing the speed at which you “write” (dictate) books a good thing?
It’s tied in with the prolificacy advantage that indie authors have. (For more on prolificacy, see my March and April columns from last year). As our books are forever available, the more back-list books we have out there, the more sales we make.
Because readers that are new to your work don’t tend to check publication dates, any book of yours they read will feel new to them. The more books you have available, the more they can indulge in the new reader habit of binge-reading everything they can get their hands on.
Also, if you have many books available, you can get very creative with your promotion and discoverability strategies, including making some books perma-free, leaving some in the KDP Select program and not others, bundle books, going in boxed sets with other authors, and more.
Have many books available therefore increases both your sales and your discoverability quotient (which in turn increases your sales).
It’s pretty hard to argue that being prolific is not a good thing. (And if you’re of the “fast writing = bad writing” persuasion, please read this post and many more like it.)
Being prolific is a matter of:
Spending more time writing, and
Writing faster in the time you have.
Dictation software immeasurably improves the speed at which you write.
Dictation is not for everyone.
I have spent a few weeks getting to know and love my own dragon, as well as read a lot of books, blogs and writer group posts focused on improving fiction dictation. It’s a sharp learning curve, and there’s some strategies that help, including:
You have to know how to write a story.
If the whole story-writing process is still squeaky new to you, then learning to dictate at the same time might be too much to deal with.
Once you’ve written a couple of books, and have a better handle on narration, dialogue, action, etc, including where all the punctuation should go, then you might be ready to try dictation.
Alternatively, train your dragon on work that “doesn’t matter” – a throw-away book, emails, blog posts – anything but your fiction.
You have to know what you’re going to write before you write it.
This means plotting your story ahead of time. If you’re a pantster and have no intentions of changing, then you might find that trying to dictate your book at the same time you’re trying to figure out what happens next is too complicated.
Having said that, I do know one pantster who owns a dragon. They outline ahead only a page or two, or half a scene or so, then “write” up to it. That still gives them plenty of space in which to discover the story.
You have to be prepared to re-learn old tricks.
This is for the veteran writers out there, who are twenty, thirty or more books into their careers. This is the wall I hit hard myself.
I am a ten fingered typist, and I learned in high school, which was too many years ago to mention here. Typing is invisible to me. I don’t think about it at all. I watch the monitor, think about what I have to say, and the words appear. My fingers move independently of my mind, which is purely engaged in telling a story. I can even backspace and correct small errors without even noticing that I’m doing it, and without interrupting the flow of my story-telling.
On the other hand, dictating my book is not invisible, and I suspect it won’t be for a long time. (It did take months to learn to type proficiently, after all.) That means that what I’m writing is a little bit clunky right now, and feels incredibly slow (even though I’m still reaching word counts far beyond my very efficient typing speeds).
If you’re in this boat, and you really want to dictate your books, then be prepared for a learning curve and some frustration – more than the newer writer and less proficient typist might experience. Give yourself a longer time to get comfortable with the software before calling it a failed experiment.
You have to think ahead of your mouth.
When you write using a keyboard and pen, you tend to think of the first few words of the next sentence, then write them down, then think of the next few words. It becomes an almost seamless operation where the words in your head flow and so do the words on the page.
When you’re dictating, it does work the same way, but you have to think in whole sentences, instead of fragments, or vague ideas that you work out on paper.
You work (and sometime rework) the sentence in your mind, then speak it aloud for the software to write down. It’s a very different way of working, and it’s part of the adjustment and training you have to go through.
Some writers just can’t make the adjustment. Writing is so much a process of exploration for them, they simply can’t build whole sentences in their mind before speaking.
Also, sitting there in dead silence, while you figure out what to write next can be a little scary. It makes you feel like you’re “stuck”, that you’re not working fast enough.
But the software doesn’t record those silences. It just sits and waits for you to speak. Usually, even with all the unrecorded silences, you’ll still be far ahead of your typing word count when you’re done for the day. It’s a matter of trusting the process and relaxing.
There is a bit of an investment involved in switching to dictation. You have to buy the software, and also a decent headset. I found the corded one that came with the software was uncomfortable and the cord wasn’t long enough. I invested in a Bluetooth wireless headset, and it was well worth the money, but it’s still an upfront cost before you even start to experiment with dictating your books.
Do some research, if you’re at all curious. There are several books available, including 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter: Write Faster, Write Smarter by Chris Fox, and Dictate Your Book: How To Write Your Book Faster, Better, and Smarter (Growth Hacking For Storytellers) by Monica Leonelle. There are also a ton of blogs and groups discussing dragon training, including a very long board chat on Kboards (search for “training my Dragon”).
In the end, though, your only option is to try it out for yourself. If you do decide to make the jump, give it a serious try – give yourself weeks, if not months, to make the adjustment. You’ll be working against some heavily-set habits, but if you can overcome them, the time and frustration is well worth it.
Tracy Cooper-Posey writes vampire romance series and hot romantic suspense. She has been nominated for five CAPAs including Favourite Author, and won the Emma Darcy Award. She published 35 titles via legacy publishers before switching to indie publishing in March 2011. She has published over 45 indie titles to date, including her latest fantasy romance, The Branded Rose Prophecy. Her indie books have made her an Amazon #1 Best Selling Author and have been nominated four times for Book of the Year. Byzantine Heartbreak won the title in 2012. Tracy has been a national magazine editor and for a decade she taught romance writing at MacEwan University. An Australian, she lives in Edmonton, Canada with her husband, a former professional wrestler, where she moved in 1996 after meeting him on-line. Her website can be found at http://TracyCooperPosey.com.