Tuesday, June 26, 2012

“Boom shakalaka boom shakalaka” - Dictation Software

I bought the Dragon dictation software to see if I could increase my writing productivity. Hated it. I’d be dictating and then answer my wife’s question about what I’d like for dinner. Yep, my culinary choice spilled right into the manuscript page. Imagine what could happen during a romantic scene.

     Meg leaned away from him despite quivering with desire. “You know I love you, Randy. I’m not sure I’m ready.”
     "It’s up to you, sweetheart,” he said and thoughtfully stopped unbuttoning her blouse.
     Randy lifted her chin to look deep into her eyes. “I will feel the same about you in the morning regardless of--”
     She softly touched a finger to his lips silencing him. Long hair splayed across his pillow as she laid back in fevered anticipation. Her decision made, she surrendered to her body’s need.
     “Dammit, kids. Can't you hear I’m writing? Both of you go to your rooms—now!”
(That could sure screw up the moment for the reader.)

Dragon struggles with punctuation, too. You have to speak all the appropriate commas, quotation marks, periods, em dashes, etc. This gets awkward. Here's a sample dictation and the result:

Dictatation:   quotation mark Meg comma what did the pregnancy test say question mark end quote

Result:    “Meg, what did the pregnancy test say?”

See what I mean? It’s like speaking a strange language. Took me months to become comfortable talking that way. Stumbling speech patterns inhibited my creativity at first, but I stuck it out. Now, I can comfortably put 2000 words on "paper" in an hour. Revisions take as much time as ever, but I can knock out a chapter of new material every day with ease.

A headset comes with the kit. I feel like a spaceman.
"Starbase to Moon-crew one. Asteroid imapct in 10, 9, 8..."
One suggestion—I never used much of an outline before now. With Dragon, I found that a good outline helps me dictate better and keeps me from wandering in the story. I even dictate the outline!

Humor comes with the package. Dictation programs rely on word recognition, sometimes with unintended entertainment value. I dictated “boom shakalaka boom shakalaka” (from the Bill Murray movie Stripes) and Dragon gave me “chocolate chuck lockable.” So, if you make up words or use idioms, as is often done in sci-fi stories, it can get very entertaining.

(This blog was dictated in six minutes.)
Here it is in dictate-ease: parenthesis this blog was dictated in six minutes period parenthesis

Do I recommend dictation software to aspiring authors? Heck no. Y’all keep struggling to write one book every year or two . . . I don’t want competition! Hehehe...


  1. Too much going on around my house, but anything that helps increase your productivity is a good thing.

    Keep on talking/typing/editing/turning over to your agent. :)

    1. This is just an experiment. I'll report again in six months. Who knows? It might be the way of the future, or it could end up in the trash. lol

  2. DEAN! You crack me up. I've been trying to decide if I should try it or not, so you just made it even harder for me. Except for the sentence you sneaked in at the end. That really sums it up, huh? ;)

    1. It's clearly less efficient at first. Plus, it forced me to plan a little differently for writing. I always crafted stories from a general concept without much structure. That allowed for spontaneity and creative exploration. With Dragon, I need a more structured outline to stay on track. The counter to that is I always have the option of grabbing the keyboard to explore a literary spark.

      Overall, my productivity is much greater than before Dragon. For $100, it was worth trying. However, I strongly recommend anyone writing sci-fi or thrillers (my primary genres) continue to write the slow way. It's tradition! Better yet, I will happily send you a package of pencils and some paper...hehehehe!

  3. That's funny! What does it do when the dogs bark?
    I like the clicking sounds of the keyboard. I'll stick to the old fashioned method. Also, I don't want my kin to know what I'm writing. I don't want them walking out of their rooms as I'm dictating a murder scene. They think I'm a nice mom.

    1. Interesting you mention the clicking of the keyboard. I hated that sound when I first switched from my portable Smith-Corona typewriter to a computer. There was no sound of the carriage moving and striking arms impacting on the paper.

      As far as your kids, if they hear you dictate a murder scene, I'll bet quickly do anthing you ask--clean their rooms, mow lawns. Hell, I'll bet, if you ask, they'll paint and reroof the house!

      Seriously, every writer needs a conducive environment in which to create. This dictation software works for me in SOME instances, but not all. There are other times when I doodle with pen and paper, trying to work out scene timing, character traits or any story elements that are not so easily dictated. So, my advice to writers is to find what works for them and don't worry about anybody else's methods--JUST WRITE!

      Thanks for your thoughts, Lucinda.

  4. Can you edit the document by "hand" to correct punctuation and change sentences or rearrange the story? Thanks, Char

    1. Hi Char, yes, you can edit simultaneously. I find dictation fast and easy but my keyboard is right there if I need to "teach" Dragon a new word or alternative spelling. For example, when writing sci-fi, I sometimes coin new terms based on the needs of the story. Also, alien names must be "taught" to the program's library the first ime they are used. The biggest time savings is when I'm dictating standard dialog or narration, especially later in a story after new character names or invented words are in the program's lexicon.

      Good question. Thank you...Dean


I would love to hear your thoughts about my blog.