Talking to Write

At the beginning of this year I faced some cold, hard reality. I could not continue to call myself a writer if I could not produce… and I was not producing. Again, a month or so ago, I assessed my own capacity, and came really close to folding up the pages of my writing career and walking away from it. I didn’t, and I’m glad I persisted.

If you give a geeky writer a goal…

First: Pushing myself to write more. Nebulous, but it was a start.

Second: quantify it. It started with increasing daily wordcount goals every month. I kept posting my monthly accountability posts on my blog, and seeing the charts move up encouraged me.

Third: amplify it. I started forcing myself to do dictation during my daily commute. (highly recommend both this handheld voice recorder, and reading On Becoming a Dictator)

Fourth: sustain it. I hate listening to my own voice, so now I am teaching myself to speak the punctuation. Which allows Dragon Naturally to do the transcription (you will want the premium version to do this, basic doesn’t do recording transcription that I’m aware of).

Then the geeky writer will achieve new heights… I’m doubling or tripling my daily wordcount, so it is working. If I can train Dragon, and myself, I can achieve a novel’s worth of wordcount in two months (conservatively).

Next  new goal…?

Early this month I pushed myself to do a writing marathon while on vacation, which enabled me to finish The East Witch. I have a new novel! One I wouldn’t have had I given up on this! Now? I’m a significant way into another novel, this one a very special project I’m collaborating on with my First Reader. Plus working on the serial Case of the Perambulating Hatrack which is about 2/3 finished at pulp novel length.

So I keep getting asked how I’m going about making the wordcount happen on a daily basis. It’s dictation, but as I learned fairly quickly, dictating on the commute and then transcribing when I got home was overwhelming. Plus, as I said above, I really hate the sound of my own voice. And I have discovered that I have a weird quirk from years of training in storytelling and puppetry and performance… I do voices. And I put a lot of emotion in the story. Which is, ah, well, the First Reader teases me if I’m playing it out loud as I type it up. This is why I’m going to using Dragon Naturally to transcribe the audio.

Which is, ah, interesting…

This is the word salad you get out of Dragon if you have auto-punctuation turned on (it only provides periods and commas, based on pauses in speech. Which isn’t always a good thing when you are composing as you speak and stop to think.) I also have the program trained on the specific manuscript to reconize some, but not all, of the names and words I’m likely to use, with specific pronunciation training.

 There was lucky and Jannik Jannik to take care of himself. Danny was no longer going to worry about the slight buck Rogers spaceman he still had no idea what exactly Jannik triggered whether he could do it again. But damn out. He blinked his eyes again, feeling the tears rolled down his cheeks time Jannik got picked up. He was, and I looked directly at him disappointed Sgt. Danny popped his head up cautiously and looked. There was a darker passion the fog like a shadow approaching Danny grunted beside him, Lieut. Rosskowski called out as everybody see that in a low tone course of eyes and yeses came back. Danny had a feeling that all of them were readying their weapons boiled with lights again, and then bolts out instead of the abrupt rip this time it was a slow tendril down on the tendril more like cauldron, looking out into the room fog stretched like a soap bubble until it popped and then once again. I was something huge and dark with too much teeth in the room with them. Danny popped a three round burst and then ducked under down behind behind Mousseau to go around him to the other side of the big aircraft box so was his spear wasn’t to be a whole lot of help. This was something that required weapons that can reach out and touch someone to deliver real damage here Jackie’s rounds going off into peculiar wine made his flesh crawl that might be Jannik whatever it was it what drowned towards the right side of the box and was headed that way.

However, if you go through the process of training yourself, as well as training your Dragon (that phrase amuses the heck out of me to say) you’ll get something more like this:

Danny was not surprised to find lucky being his usual efficient Roman self, as much as it was a stereotype, Danny had already learned in the two days he’d known him Luciano was a prototypical leaching man.

“Lucky, how’s it going man.” Danny shouted at him.

Lucky was standing atop a sick wall of heavy crates and moving another one into place as Danny called to him. He settled it neatly into its corner, then turned and sketched a sort of salute or wave at Danny below him. “Almost there, Sgt.” He pointed out towards the missed, which did not seem to have retreated since Danny last side. “You might want to check on Moussa, he’s acting twitchy.”

Danny nodded and saluted lucky, then started to walk around the stockade towards Moussa’s position. As soon as he could use the the fog at ground level, he understood what lucky meant. The missed had been sitting showing shapes of crates and piles of gear earlier and Danny sighed. Now, the missed was roiling as though things were moving inside it, and it had darkened, Danny thought he could no longer see some of the things he can could have seen before. He made his way around the stockade to the massive crate for Moussa had been sitting earlier. So was now standing leaning on his ear. His eyes never stopping as he scanned the fog. His face was as serene as ever, but Danny thought he could detect some tension in the other man’s shoulders and stance.

Danny spoke to him in a low tone, somehow speaking loudly seemed like a bad idea here and now. “Moussa, report”

Moussa didn’t look at Johnny Danny, he spoke almost without moving his lips. “There demons in the fog, Sgt. Things I cannot put a name to, which crawl and creep and scuttle.”

“That sounds ominous. Do you expect an attack?” Danny asked.

“I cannot say. Perhaps lucky should finish with the stockade and join me.”

Danny realized that was as close to the asking for help is Moussa would get 80 side of the he also would arm himself and join, and he would get Jannik to join them as well, which made him realize that Jannik’s desk and a computer set up should be moved to safety inside the stockade. Danny nodded it Moussa

“You if you need help urgently will be back shortly.” Danny turned and marched away his shoulders sent he’d almost begun to relax almost. This place was uncanny, and his spine crawled with the sensation of being watched from behind.

Still in huge need of editing, but much, much better than the block of word salad. I keep feeding my manuscript back through the training for writing style, as well, after I’ve edited bits, and it seems to help. It simply can’t wrap it’s little AI mind around the Zulu warrior’s name, Musa. You’ll see it above in several formats. And the proto-Assyrian, Ibi, which… well, Dragon refuses to acknowledge it as a name at all!

I’m excited. I’m seeing real progress, and potential. Meeting my goals feels good. Now, to make new goals! Like… Marketing. Promotion. Those sorts of vital-but-boring tasks. First, though, I’m going to go write. The worlds in my head are getting more vivid the more time I spend in them.

15 comments

  1. the thing is, Dragon has kinda stagnated. Once it got to the point they started using it for medical trasncription, and they managed to get the specialized version for that onto the market… the just kinda slacked.

    1. That’s too bad. I bought the version I have about a year or two ago – I had an older basic version but upgraded to Premium when it was on sale. It seems to be working for me, and honestly right now, that’s what I need.

  2. You just missed me twitching like a spastic fish.
    A bit over 20 years ago, I was an attempted early adopter of Dragon. (Dyslexia. I speak significantly faster than I type.)
    It wasn’t ready for market.
    Not even close.
    Your word salad example was a best case scenario, after having spent way too much time “training” it.

    1. I was given a copy of Dragon almost a decade ago. I had similar issues, which is why it’s taken me so long to come back to it. But I HAD to try it. I can’t type fast enough in the limited time I have to get the word count high enough to be a competitor in today’s Indie book market. So I was pleasantly surprised at the performance. Is it perfect? No. Is it much easier to edit this than to sit down when I’m tired and try to compose? Oh, heck yes.

      1. I know they’ve gotten much better. I tried speechnotes when I had to make a few lists while I was up to my elbows in muck, and was impressed.
        Unfortunately, every third word would likely be “Dad”.

  3. I don’t think I could dictate fiction. For me pacing is a very visual thing, the flow of my prose is determined by the shape of the paragraphs on the page. (This may be the result of being exposed to e e cummings and Ezra Pound at an impressionable age.)

  4. I’m too fond of going back and revising the paragraph I just wrote for that to work. (It’s like I sketch and then write.)

  5. I don’t know if this is possible for you, but have seen the following work for others:
    Use bog standard names like John and Mary when dictating the story. Dragon Dictate won’t be confused by them and will work better. When cleaning up the text, do a Find/Replace for those names and you’re good.

        1. LOL! I actually have long silences on a couple of the recordings because I put it down in a hurry or just stopped talking while I dealt with traffic. Turns out I’m not very vocal when concentrating on staying out of the idiots’ way.

  6. Mrs. Sanderson, you are not being fair to yourself. Whether you continue to produce or not, you are a writer.

    You wrote, and folks like me paid our hard-earned cashy-money for your stories. Some of which we’d appreciate on dead tree (Castalia? Silver Empire?) so the tech oligarchs can’t prevent us from re-reading them.

    Nearly whatever it takes to get you to connect your skill with the Muse and your time to give me another Tanager book, I’m down with, except a falsehood.

    Please be a more productive writer! (Quoth the reader) but if the fields must lie fallow for a time, so be it.

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