Revisiting Voice Recognition

As I prepare for Ever Touched’s release and what comes after (hint: a lot!), I’m pondering using voice recognition software to write again.

(Some of Ever Touched was written using Dragon Naturally Speaking when I found myself with a severe tendonitis flare up and no time to take off.)

I’m no stranger to Dragon. I started using it back in 2003 (version 6) when I thought I had carpal tunnel syndrome. Ergonomics wasn’t much of a thing back then; I wrote until my wrists damn near fell off. Oops? And it worked well — after I got past the whole “talk to write” idea and got into a groove. My intention was to do it all the time, but between the bulky headset that gave me headaches and a longing to just type, I ended up quitting, only using it when absolutely necessary. Which is fine…if I didn’t want to get more books out there which means faster drafting. Fast drafting (say, more than 1,000 words a day) is impossible due to my wrists. I barely finished my amended Nano goal in 2015 (30k) because typing 1,000 words a day for 30 days was hurting me (it’s cumulative).

(For the curious: I didn’t have carpal tunnel, just severe tendonitis that could turn into carpal tunnel. It was a wake up call. And I’m up to Dragon version 13 now. Every version gets better. They claim now it is something like 96% accurate without training.)

I’ve despaired forever over this. And I was okay with my pace and slow releases except that with my current pace, everyone’s forgotten about me. Publishing every two years is a millennia in publishing. If I want to make any money doing this (and I’m not talking big money — just enough to pay a few bills every month), I have to step up my releases.

Ever Touched taught me that I didn’t necessarily need to rewrite a novel after drafting. Oddly enough, it didn’t need it. I used a different plotting method, and while every novel is different, I am wondering if I could continue to write cleaner first drafts (which is part 2 of my snail’s pace = my process). But obviously, if a novel needs a rewrite, I will do so, as I want to put out the best work I can. No cutting corners! But anyway, I experimented with writing a bit less and working on two drafts. That didn’t last long because while it doesn’t sound like much, it exhausted me.

I also have yet to experiment with breaking everything up into several sessions versus just one. We’ll see how that goes.

My issue with voice rec was also that the act of dictating 600-1000 words also exhausted me. I remember checking my wordcount at one point while voice reccing Ever Touched and was shocked that it was just 600 words. It had felt like at least 1200! For someone with fibromyalgia, anything that causes such extreme exhaustion (remember, I work a day job too!) is not a good thing.

But some writer friends and I were discussing voice rec and how you can double or even triple your output. And how adding just 200 words to your session can potentially double your output for the year (I hope I have that right. I did the math for 1200 words a day, just 200 words over my target of 1000 words…and the difference? You go from approx 300k per year to over 400k per year!). Which means…more books! Of course, that’s not counting editing/revision/release prep, but still…it has its merits.

Soooo I thought, “wait a sec. I don’t need to voice rec for the entire thing. What if I used it for half the session?” So type 600 words, voice rec 600 words. Or let’s get wild here: type 800 words, voice rec 800 words. 1600 words per day! (That’s almost a Nano day there!). That would produce half a million words a year! Yowza! If I could deal with the exhaustion of doing both every day…

But I’d probably start slow. Dictate 200 words or something until I got better at it, and could build up endurance. The other thing is what I call “mis-recognitions.” That’s when Dragon effs up. And sometimes you don’t even notice because it looks like it’s right at first glance. And then if you do notice, you have to train it to get it right, and it can be very time consuming. The answer to that is to push on and not correct them, but 1) Dragon doesn’t get any smarter — it’s made to get smarter with each correction — theoretically and 2) I have OCD and can literally NOT make corrections to text that’s just plain wrong (plus, I might forget what I originally wanted to type in the first place!) So not correcting is a Bad Idea All Around, my friends.

Also thinking about using a voice recorder and having Dragon transcribe. Been in the works for awhile but haven’t given it a try.

(Also? I don’t need to wear the headset. There’s an app for iPhone and Android that functions as a microphone. Accuracy is pretty damn good. I wanted to get a Bluetooth headset, but I’ve heard horror stories about them falling apart.)

So what all this rambling boils down to is that I want to get serious about my productivity and I’d like to incorporate dictation into my writing sessions. Whewwww…it took me almost 800 words to tell you that!

/long-winded writer is long winded

This is all assuming my energy levels get better and my body can take it. Currently I’m not doing very well on that front. But nothing’s hopeless. We shall see. I’d at least to give it an honest try because if I don’t, I’ll never know if it’s possible. And my writing career will remain in neutral.

So, wish me luck! As soon as Ever Touched is released (May 1st! Not long now!), I’ll be doing the dictating thing.

Anyone try this? Any experiences or hacks you’d like to share? If you’ve never tried, do you think you’d want to possibly give it a whirl?


  1. I always THINK it would be awesome to just dictate a book while I did other things, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t work that way. Also there’d be a lot of “From the sky came–sh*t, what is DOG WHAT ARE YOU EATING oh crap turn thing off how–” and I feel like it’s easier just to type.

    Have you ever tried Dvorak for the typing? I rarely have wrist pain since I switched, but the learning curve when you’re already good at QWERTY is haaaaarrdd.

  2. I have tried Dvorak so many times, but QWERTY is so ingrained in me that I believe it’s impossible. There’s a newer one called Colmak that I’m looking to try.

    It’s worth a shot, anyway. 🙂

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