There’s something about writing by hand that works better for me than ploinking away at a keyboard.
You can take a pen and pad anywhere, without looking like a hipster sporting a laptop in coffee shops. My mind thinks just a little quicker than the pen moves, suiting pomodoro/timed writing, with no temptation to do a little keyboard editing while paused for a moment. And no internet, solitaire, or other diversions that an eminently distractable attention span can be coaxed away to.
The problem though, beyond cramp, is typing it all in.
There is the advantage of minor tweaking while entering the content, like a sort of handy halfway between the first draft gurge and the second draft edit. But having upped the output with monthly quotas, I’ve found myself with hills of scribbled sheets. And that requires a whole additional inclination to type it all in. And frankly, I’ve hit a wall.
Dictation software was one solution happened upon while surfing, with another writer-by-hand expounding the virtues of a particular software package. Fair enough, says I, lets give it a go. Being not one of these shills who name drop products in the hope of freebies from the relevant company (yet), the particular package I’m trialling shall remain unsaid.
First discovery I made: check your machine specs beforehand. I was dismayed to find my mid-range laptop is actually kicking on a bit. Bad times. Fortunately, my (even older) desktop had a bit more grunt to provide a reasonable response time from what is quite a memory-hogging application.
Second discovery was the learning phase, where you spend a not inconsiderable amount of time dictating some provided text so the software can accustom itself to your voice.
One of the side benefits I imagined with dictation software was the opportunity to train for audio books or book readings. Call me wishful, but what author doesn’t dream of reading their etchings aloud in dulcet tones to an admiring potential market. If so, I’ve got a ways to go, having to repeat a lot of passages before the software finally okayed me for general parlay. Well, people do say I’m a mumbler at times. But I guess the software has to discern a wide range of vocab, larger than say a smartphone assistant would need to cover, so repetition is required to refine to better accuracy.
Finally, it was all ready for action. I plonked a USB mic in front of myself, found a page of etchings, opened the notepad tool, then pressed the button.
What an odd experience.
To be honest, the first attempt was a bit underwhelming. Best results came from reading at a slower pace than my usual caffeinated gabble, but misinterpretations were still frequent. Okay, possibly lazy diction was at fault, and the USB microphone might be a bit crap. But the software did put me in mind of reading to a wizened old lady with an ear trumpet going “whaaaaat?” every few words.
And I did fear I was sounding something of a ponce in my bid to enunciate in the clearest possible manner, like a rather camp Viscount on Valium.
But, words were appearing.
And it was quite an entertaining way of plowing through my hasty scrawls, time flying by compared to the painful forcing myself to type a page or two. Especially once the fun of issuing “full stop”, “comma” and “new line” commands meant a bit of flow could happen. And slouching back in my chair like a louche Captain Kirk only added to the enjoyment.
Some of the mini-editing while typing was lost, it seeming more difficult to make changes on the fly mid-sentence. But combined with quick typing at the editor, a pretty effective technique could be developed with practice.
I’ll continue with it for the package’s trial duration to see if the process becomes more natural. And I’m interested to see if the software does accustom to my voice more over time as claimed. Apparently some authors use dictation as their primary writing method. Not sure how free forming into a microphone would feel, being a visual person who needs to see the words on a page. Maybe an interesting experiment for later.
- It’s fun seeing how much translates correctly, commanding the cursor around the place
- Reading your writing aloud is recommended for detecting clunky prose. This gets that phase happening early in proceedings
- Grooming your reading voice for that future audiobook career
- Hey, this actually whizzes by
- Do I really speak that incoherently? Sigh.
- It does feel odd, burbling away, hunched over a desk mic
- Better results come from slowing down and speaking clearly, making this questionably slower than typing. Or I could just get a computer made within the last ten years.
- On the fly editing is a bit seat of the pants, but might improve with practise. Or better pants.