Tuesday, September 06, 2011

On dictating with my dragon... PART ONE

 Sometimes, I wonder if my Dragon tries to improve my writing, by adding a little more pizzazz... "Her bedraggled appearance..." I say; and the programme obligingly types: "Her being strangled appearance..."

Like many writers, I suffer from repetitive strain injury (RSI) in the wrists and hands, resulting in pain, swelling and a lack of mobility. It's not to be wondered at. After all, I can spend anything up to ten or twelve hours a day at my computer. I have tried an ergonomic keyboard, adjustable table and an adjustable chair. All these things have helped, but none of them eliminated the problem, because I am unable to rest the strained joints and tissues completely. Writing is my job and I have to do it.

So, like many writers, I've resorted to something quite different. I invested in a speech-to-text programme called Dragon Dictate. I talk, it types. That's the theory. And because there are so many writers out there with RSI, I thought a blog post about dictating in general and Dragon Dictate in particular, might be helpful to my fellow writers. And if you don't have RSI, it might be worthwhile thinking that it's better to avoid it to begin with, rather than trying to mend it afterwards!

I am, by the way, using Dragon Dictate as I write this post.

First I investigated what was available, and of course one of the things I did was to ask writers who used speech-to-text how they felt about it. I was surprised to find that many didn't actually use it for writing their fiction. Instead, they used it for things like blog posts, e-mails, letters and business matters. This does of course reduce the time spent using hands at the keyboard, but by no means eliminated their hours spent typing.

When I asked them why they didn't use it for their fiction, they said they couldn't write like that. They found it changed the creative process too drastically and they felt the quality of their writing declined. In fact some said it creativity vanished when faced with a dictating device.

That, I decided, was no use to me. I wanted to be able to use it to write my books. The Stormlord trilogy for example, is over half a million words. If I could have dictated that instead of using my fingers and wrists, I might not have the pain. So I went ahead and bought the programme -- but with a different mindset. I would not use it just for the "other stuff"; I was determined to use it to write my stories.

And here I am, halfway through my new book at 70,000 words of which about half have been written using Dragon Dictate.

Part 2 Wednesday, where I will talk about the pros and cons of writing creatively using a speech-to-text  programme.

7 comments:

Simon Haynes said...

Hi Glenda

If you're using dictation (Dragon OR windows 7), under no circumstances should you call a character 'Hal'

I've struggled for hours to teach the damned thing the difference between 'Hal' and 'How', to no avail.

In the end I gave up, and my new series will feature a character called 'Fred Correct-This'. That's sure to work!

Glenda Larke said...

Oh, I sympathise. In the new book the family name of one of the characters is Ermine. But in the world of DD, there is no such animal. There are the mines, reminds, undermines Hermines and Irvines, but absolutely no Ermines no matter what!

aifin said...

I have been experimenting with DD for Mac and found that unusual names can be set up as 'macros' of the sort "Type name" where name is a short, distinctive mnemonic that DD can distinguish and substitute the correctly spelled text. Especially useful technique for fantasy names!

Glenda Larke said...

Yay -- thanks for the advice, Alfin. I've been thinking in terms of using common names like "Mary" that DD recognises, and then later doing a Word "find and replace" substitution. But your solution is much more elegant.

Jo said...

I tried a Microsoft Word dictation once and really got into trouble because I have an English accent and the system mostly recognised US pronounciation. I never bothered to persevere not being a writer although I still have carpal tunnel syndrome.

Glenda Larke said...

Dragon Dictate allows you to choose your accent. It even has an Australian option. I actually chose the British one, because I think my accent is all over the place (having lived all over the place) and I figured the UK one was probably more forgiving -- after all, it has to cater for the Scots, the Irish, not to mention Somerset, Yorkshire...

Jo said...

That's reet luv.