How Not To Train Your Dragon

I am the worst Dragon trainer in the universe.

No, I don’t mean a winged reptile. I mean of course the Nuance program.

Look, years ago, when the Earth was new — now I think about it, probably 18 years ago or so — I had the then current version of dragon, and I trained it. It took me about 20 hours, or a bit more, but I had it working wonderfully.

There were downsides, because I absolutely suck at doing things like dictate punctuation. Or line breaks. But I got a long-dump-of-text which I could then format to suit. And some books didn’t want to come out any other way.

Then my computer caught fire.

Stop staring at me. No, seriously. One morning — the office was the other half of my bedroom — I woke up with the smell of smoke, sat up in bed, and the computer was smoking. I told Dan “the computer is on fire” and he said “you’re nuts.” But I wasn’t. It was a batch of motherboards made in Myanmar (I think) that had moisture on them, and all the computers caught fire within six months.

Anyway, I bought the next version, but it never trained right, and–

I buy it every so often.

The latest version was absolutely terrible, because it’s now ONLY online. You download it. There is no disk.

So I got it and installed it on my computer. It told me that training was disabled. Which is funny, because– never mind. it also thinks my profile is standard American vocabulary and diction.

The result is quite possibly the worst transcription I’ve ever seen. Word salad. It’s worse than Microsoft dictation which is pretty terrible, and it’s worse than otter ai which was laughably horrible. This is not just word salad, it’s word salad with a bunch of weird words that have absolutely nothing to do with what I was saying.

Anyway, in despair, I went to my fan group on facebook, and asked about transcription. A friend who also dictates gave me the name of a service who will transcribe. It’s pricey, but not crazy. Given what I make when I put a book up, it will take care of it, and it will allow me to get two books out a month, which I quite failed to do this month. (Or even one.) It will also allow me to set up the bookshelves and library at last, while writing.

Now, I’d prefer it if Dragon worked, of course, but you see, the only profile I can install Dragon under is Admin and the one I want to use it under is Sarah. And I can’t train it because I don’t have admin privileges, but the admin account doesn’t have the right to view Sarah’s documents. I might try to get Dan to solve it, but I’m going to guess it’s just going to end up with him putting it on his computer to use, and I’m going to pay for transcription.

Which is fine, because I’m not writing on spec. And selling the books will pay for the transcription.

But I’m still sad I can’t train my dragon.

Oh, and coming out today!

Barbarella: The Center Cannot Hold #1

Beyond the edge of known space lies…the Unnamable. Myth? Gods? Malevolent force? No one knows. No one but the one force in the universe that can stand against the Unnameable: the Architects, hidden guides of our galaxy for untold eons.
Enter Barbarella, on a desperate quest to find and convince the Architects that a war with the Unnameable will spell the death of Every. Living. Thing.
Get ready for tension, excitement, espionage, and the secret of how to defeat an empire. Fun, romance, and cosmic adventure beyond the furthest reaches of the galaxy!

40 thoughts on “How Not To Train Your Dragon

  1. If I wanted to buy your previous Barbarella series and wanted you to get some money for it, how would I go about that at this point? I usually get my comics from, but they’re all older books rated as FN-VFN, so I know they’re second- (or third- or fourth-) hand books, or maybe books that sat in their inventory for, well, for decades at this point because I buy almost zero new comics (William Tucci and a youtuber named RJ excepted).

  2. I shuddered.
    I was an early adopter, or attempted to be. (Dyslexic, so it seemed a great idea.) I spent well over 100 hours trying the train the program, and never got over 75% accuracy. At best. Best was rare.

    Seeing as they’re still in business, they must have gotten *much* better. But I haven’t managed to overcome my aversion.

  3. I have the punctuation issue, too. Always forget to put it in when speaking/dictating. Sounds like maybe you have remnants on your computer of old versions? Maybe save your profile off to a thumb drive (USB stick), then delete all parts of Dragon. Then install the new Dragon, then import the profile from the stick.

    Might work?

    And considering the conversation we had before about you not wanting other people to transcribe your work….you probably won’t do that! lol

    1. One of the few dictation related books I found helpful said something about just skipping all punctuation except periods and commas, which helped me relax about it, and also held back my tendency towards colons and semicolons. (I blame the French side of my family for that) Putting the quotation marks back in afterwards…that’s always a bear. My proofreaders/editors always find places where I overlooked the quotes.

      1. Well, Piffle. That would take research, which takes time better served by doing something else. I know where you are coming from.

    2. Actually part of it was that I couldn’t afford it. I also at the time was trying to do Jane Austen fanfic, as transcription.
      It’s more I don’t want people who know me to transcribe.

  4. *Hugs* Sorry to hear that, it is a serious bummer. I know Kevin J. Anderson has used a human transcription service for decades and been very productive with it, I hope it works out for you.

    For people curious about alternatives to Dragon: I’ve limped along for years with the Speech to Text thing that comes standard with Windows, when I needed to not type stories. I believe there is an equivalent in google docs, but I didn’t find it notably better than Windows. Some phone based “note taking” apps have a dictation option, I know I used one sporadically on outdoor breaks at work and emailed the notes as text files to myself. And it doesn’t matter which dictation software you use, you’re training the voice recognition abilities of some software owned by moderately shady people.

    With time spent on cleanup/formatting while I still remembered what I was trying to say, I never found dictation particularly faster than typing but it relieved stress on the hands and wrists, and in some moods it was easier to get over the “don’t wanna write” hump using dictation.

    Inventing dictation friendly codenames for the characters (to be replaced by their actual names via find and replace) started out fun, but got old. Annoying moment: Lanati the space opera heroine went by the code name “Helen” through both books (dates of composition November 2019- December 2022) and I was insanely sick of that name by the time I was done writing the sequel and ready to start using find and replace. And now the heroine of one of my maybe-WIPs insists on being called Helena for realz. Joy.

    (Minor note to anyone using Windows Speech to Text, I was a little surprised that it usually recognized Imogene, the code name one of my other space opera characters insisted on using. If you like the name, as I do, the fact that it’s dictation friendly is worth keeping in mind.)

  5. I used ONE of the dictation programs years ago, as a way to give achy fingers a break. At the time, I was writing blog posts and reviews, and I got fairly proficient at it.
    Alas, we had to host a son-in-law & grandkids for an extended period, and he hung out in the living room, next door to my office, and I really didn’t want him listening to me. Public performance anxiety; not unusual for guys my age, according to Iron Man.

    But, forgive me if I imagine the software struggle, listening to Our Lady of Supreme Indifference:
    “Moo, sand swirl.” NO! That’s NOT what I said!
    “Musings quarrel.” NO!
    “Mao sends whirl.” NO!
    “Me sang world.” NO!
    “Meson coral.” NO!
    “Mows inkwell” NO!

    It could go on like that for days.
    Let us know if we need to send cookies.

    1. Yes, I’ve been there. (Have a pretty neutral Midwest accent, but poor diction). You can tell most speech to text thingies to “correct last sentence” or “correct last two words” and it will pop up a list of options. Can be useful for training it.

  6. Re: punctuation when dictating, I have the opposite problem. I sometimes find myself leaving voicemails and saying “comma” or “period.” Highly embarrassing.

    1. Oh, that is even better than my mom tapping on her latest paperback to check what a word means. (It works on her kindle!)

      1. I’ve been known to try moving my mouse pointer over to the wall calendar. (One day, maybe, it’ll work…but this is not that day.)

        1. Oooh, sharing that one with mom. 😀

          I get frustrated about not being able to change the view angle or bring up the map… in walk-through videos that I am watching exactly because I couldn’t figure something out.

  7. What I can’t tell is if computers have always been this convolved, and I’m just losing the flexibility to learn them as I get older, or if something has gone sideways with modern systems that is making them more complex than they need to be.

    I think it is a combination, but not sure how to be sure.

    1. Largely it’s fix-exploitations-makes-it-complicated.

      We still have a couple of computers for the kids that are in stasis, and they’re as direct as ever.

  8. Save your text as a .wmd or mp3-4 (no larger than 300mb if you don’t want to pay) and upload to They’re pretty busy at night, so first thing in the morning is best if you don’t like waiting. Accept the default “medium” setting. Not sure how they’d handle your accent, but the price is right – worth a try!

  9. Maybe you should get a hot secretary to sit in your lap and take dictation… Joystick optional…

  10. If all else fails, learn to spell and punctuate. I habitually double-check everything I write on my computer – that’s easier than using any program to do it and needing to correct that program’s errors.

    1. How on earth is this supposed to help with training a dictation program to not hopelessly mangle the words she is saying?

      1. -She could always look for a better program. But, as I know perfectly well, most programs are pretty useless except for standard correspondence. Do it by hand if you want a good result. I’d say the same thing to non-English speakers, who have even less chance of a decent result from translation programs, and to English speakers who want a legible result from translation to another language. Do it by hand and CHECK the results. Anything unusual is going to be corrupted, especially if it uses rare standard words or any that are made up for a character. I’ve spent enough time correcting the ‘translations’ of professional translators to know just how bad grammar and spelling errors can be.

        1. Except that a great many people do manage to train their instillation to work, for fiction, she’s just getting gnawed by gremlins in her gear.

          And she mentioned several attempts at other programs.

          And she’s already doing it by hand, but there’s not enough hours in the day.

          For that matter, she was a translator, and a good one, at one point.

          1. Yep. It’s a matter of time, not knowledge.
            John, perhaps inspired by my typoing seems to be under the impression I don’t know English. And perhaps write in another language (?)
            Other than the fact I can’t at this late a date get rid of my accent English is not only my native language now but also my degree. KNOWING is not a problem. TIME is.

        2. What the actual heck?
          I want something I can dictate into while running around cleaning/unpacking. Because I lack time.
          What the heck? Over.

          1. Yes, I know it’s hard to write coherently while also trying to do something else. I’ve been there and done that myself. But when you know, as any author does and you do, what the result is supposed to say then errors stand out at you and get corrected while you write without even being thought about. Especially if you use any techical terms. I used to write specialist stuff regularly for various magazines (I retired from that long ago) and could tell immediately with just a glance through the published piece if a proof-reader with no specialist knowledge had ‘improved’ my text by changing words or leaving out chunks. I feel for your fight with dyslexia, which is just as hard to conquer as my technical subjects were, just at a different stage of writing. After over 60 years of writing stuff that HAD to be correct maybe it’s now so automatic that I don’t even notice that I’ve corrected a typescript during a read-through.

            1. No. The problem is NOT AT ALL writing coherently. The problem is screwing in bookshelves while typing. As soon as you can give me access to a second pair of hands, I’ll do it.
              Seriously, read what I’m saying, instead of something just to the side of what I actually wrote.

              1. Screwing in bookshelves? At your age? That’s just asking for a hip replacement sooner rather than later. 🙂

      2. Right?
        I know how to spell and punctuate. Yes, I’m dyslexic and it’s hard to make it exact if it’s long, which is why I sub contract. Takes forever.
        BUT I used to teach English Comp in college. It’s not lack of knowledge.

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