This Is Why You Should Never Say “Never”.

I have bought all the Stone Tablet Singles that Sean Platt, Johnny Truant and Dave Wright have put out so far, but this particular one I resisted.

That’s because my mind was made up.

I have, over the last decade, given dictation four serious tries.  I mean, two or three books’ worth of trial, with the latest software and equipment, training, the whole schmozzle.

Every time I have ditched the headphones with a sigh of relief and returned to the keyboard.

There were a huge number of reasons why I gave up, but a biggie was the time I spent cleaning up the mess the dictation delivered.

The last time I quit, I decided I was never going to chase this particular shiny object again.


I am under considerable deadline pressure at the moment, and after avoiding Sean and Neeve’s book for five days, yesterday I did two things:

  1. I bought 15-Minute Dictation and scanned it very quickly (they’re short books, anyway).
  2. I dusted off Dragon NaturallySpeaking and my headphone.

I dictated for an hour or so, and tried not to wince too much, because I laid down some serious wordage.  I think this is the reason why I keep circling back to dictation–it’s hard to beat the speed.

Sean and Neeve’s book told me a few surprising things about dictation that I hadn’t thought of before:

  1. It’s supposed to be a slow and finicky process at first.  It took months to learn to type, too, and now I don’t even think about it.  Dictation will get there.
  2. It isn’t perfect, but the software is getting better all the time.
  3. It’s brilliant for squeezing in words in 15 minute bits and pieces and perfect for mobile writing.  You just have to carry your next few beats of your outline with you, always (or have it in the cloud).

There are other hacks and hints in the book, but these three were the biggies for me.

Couple of things in the book actually made me laugh out loud and assured me I wasn’t being recalcitrant about dictation:  Sean Platt has also struggled with dictation for ten years, quitting multiple times.

And he hates Nuance (the company that makes the most popular and expensive dictation software out there) with as much passion as me.  I have had numerous public fallouts with Nuance over the years — I would point you to the blog entries, but those blogs are gone now.  Nuance and I have a stand-off-ish relationship, now.  Every year or so I get a phone call from them and (not so) patiently tell them to remove me from their call list (again).  I can’t deny the software works well, but dealing with the company itself is like rubbing your knuckles over a cheese grater.

Because of the effectiveness of the application, I keep reluctantly giving them my money.  But, there are alternatives that are developing very fast these day, and may soon give Nuance a run for its money.

Also, if you’d like to dabble and try out speech-to-text, most operating systems come with an in-built app, and there are free and open-source apps out there, too.  Although, I’ve yet to find something as good as Dragon (dammit).

There are many other books that help you dictate your novels.  Here’s some of the ones I’ve consulted in previous tries at dictation (in preference order):

5,000 Words Per Hour

Fool Proof Dictation: A No-Nonsense System for Effective & Rewarding Dictation

The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon

The Productive Author’s Guide to Dictation

Why You Should Never Say “Never”

The point of this post is that I always strongly encourage authors to test and trial any new strategy or tactic or, in this case, tool.  Once you’ve given it a try, though, and chosen not to use it, you should probably put it aside and come back to it in a year or so, and see if the whatever now might work.

There are some things that are unmitigated disasters.  I’m not talking about tools and tactics that are clearly not suitable.

But if the results a “meh”, or don’t suit you right now, then put a pin in it.  Especially for anything involving technology, in a year’s time, who knows what the standard will be?  It might work brilliantly for you then.

I have no idea how this attempt at dictation will go.  It might be another failure, but I have some new approaches and ideas to try this time around that just might make the difference, and I can finally enjoy the increased speed that comes with it.

We’ll see.


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