Trying Out Speech To Text Software For Writing Stories



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The experiment

This past week, I finally took the plunge and downloaded a software called Dragon Dictation onto my iPhone.  (I don’t remember how much the app cost.  Apparently, I had bought it a year ago when I first heard about it, but I was so scared of the idea of speaking a story that I never used it.)  On Tuesday when I was at the dentist with my kids, I searched  for speech-to-text software and found Dragon Dictation.  Since I saw that I had already purchased it, I downloaded it.  I figured, what did I have to lose?  The worse that would happen was it didn’t work.

The idea behind speaking your book (rather than typing it all) is to increase the amount of words you can get in each day you work.  Has it worked for me?  Yes.  I was surprised.  I though my mind would freeze up since it’s easier for me to think as a type.   An author friend suggested I have a couple of things written down for what I wanted to accomplish in the scene before I started speaking the story.  She also recommended I go in short bursts instead of trying to talk nonstop for half an hour.

So after scribbling a couple of notes, I told myself I would give it a 2-3 minute try.  I hid myself in the bathroom so no one in the house would hear me.  (It’s hard to do something like this with someone else around to hear you.)  I stumbled through the first couple times I did it.  But then I finally managed to get in 100 words that I could actually use in my current work in progress.  Encouraged, I recorded more words.  I emailed myself the few attempts (just to make sure that part worked).  And it did.  I copied what was in the email and put it into the document.

The benefits

I’ve been at this for the past three days now, and today I actually worked myself up to speaking 400 words in the span of 3-4 minutes.  Usually, it takes me about a half hour to type out 400 words.  I was impressed.  While waiting for my kids to get off at the bus stop today, I had spoken a good 2000 words using the small speaking segments.  Once the scene was there in my mind, the words came easily.  It is a nice benefit that I can speak a lot faster than I can type.  So yeah, this method really does work.

I have been able to increase my daily word count by 1,ooo to 1,500 more words.  I don’t know if this kind of output will be sustainable.  A lot of it may depend on how much I know about what will happen next in the stories I’m working on.  At the moment, I know where I’m going in all four books.  (Yes, I am currently working on four books at one time.)

The drawbacks

As with anything, there are a few drawbacks.  (These aren’t major, but I feel like I should mention them.)  One, the software doesn’t always know which word I’m actually saying.  For example, I had spoken: I want to marry Corin, Loretta.  What the software thought I said was this: I want to marry corn lettuce.  I also don’t worry about inserting any punctuation.  I don’t know authors do that, but I find it easy enough to capitalize the right words and punctuate while I go through the text in the document to clean it up.

Another drawback is that my brain is not used to speaking a story out yet, and I do feel a certain emotional detachment from the story with this method.  It’s easy for me to “feel” the story as I type.  I’ve been doing this for years, and when I type the story, I am fully engaged with the creative part of my brain.  The creative part is intimately intertwined with my emotions.  (It’s been that way since I was 14 and writing stories.)  When I speak to people, I tend to be logically focused.  Speaking a story is forcing me to tap into the creative part of my brain, and I feel like I’m standing on the outside of the story looking in.  When I type, I’m inside the characters.

However, when I go through and edit through the material (which I do through typing), I find the creative part catches up to what I spoke, and I can then go in and fill in those emotional details.  When I am in the typing mode, I am, once again, inside the characters and feeling everything they go through.  I don’t know if I will get to the point where I can speak inside the character’s point of view as well as can type it, but at least if I never do, I can compensate for it.  I’m still new at speaking a story into my iPhone.


I’m really happy with this software.  I wish I hadn’t dragged my feet on using it.  Who knows how much more I could have done last year if I hadn’t let the thought, “I’ll never get the hang of speaking a story,” hold me back?  I guess we’ll find out what I get accomplished this year.  Then we can take a comparison between 2016 and 2017.  Of course, that’s barring anything serious happening, like a family emergency.

About Ruth Ann Nordin

Ruth Ann Nordin mainly writes historical western romances and Regencies. From time to time, she branches out to other genres, but her first love is historical romance. She lives in Omaha, Nebraska with her husband and a couple of children. To find out more about her books, go to
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11 Responses to Trying Out Speech To Text Software For Writing Stories

  1. I’m going to give it a whirl again tomorrow while waiting for an hour again. Then I may have to take a page out of your book and sneak into the bathroom to give it a try because I really would like to increase my daily word count by that much. Of course, lately, two words a day would be more than I’m getting written. 😀

    • Oops. LOL on the corn lettuce though! I love the Microsoft dictation feature when my year and a half old granddaughter is babbling. Some of the things it comes up with is absolutely hilarious. 😀

      • It is hilarious, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s fun to see what will pop up. I can only imagine what kinds of things you read back when your granddaughter babbles in the background. 😀

        I like the bathroom because it’s the one room where people don’t barge in on you (at least most of the time). I also like doing it in the car. The car was a lot easier for me than the bathroom since I know for sure I’m all alone and no one will hear me.

        I’m glad you brought up the dictation thing. I don’t think I would have braved it without your encouragement and tips on how to make it work. I hope it greatly increases your word count!!

  2. Shelley Chastagner says:

    I’ll have to keep an extra eye out for random vegetables in your next few books. LOL! I’m so glad your finding the software to your liking. I’m almost afraid of how many more books I’ll be getting from you in the near future. Next Novembers NaNoWriMo should be a breeze.

    • LOL It’s funny what ends up coming into the book. If you ever get overwhelmed, you can always take a pass on one of the books. I’ll understand. I push myself as hard as I do because I’m the only one bringing in the income right now. My husband is looking for something, but it’s been taking him a while. 🙂

      I haven’t been a part of NaNoWriMo in years, but you’re right. This might be the one where I can actually make it. In the other years, I would get around 30-40K. So I gave up.

  3. You’re the third person to talk about this software in the past two months. First my boss recommended I try it for writing (we get it for some people in our organization whose disabilities require speech-to-text software). Then my author friend Pat Bertram said she used it for writing stories and blog posts because her broken hand made that difficult. And now you’re using it, and t looks like it’s good for the word count.
    Maybe this is something I should try. God knows I sometimes have trouble getting the daily 250 words out, and I only have so much time to do so. I’ll have to look up this software when I get a chance.
    BTW, the title of your post has a spelling error. Thought you ought to know.

    • LOL Thanks for pointing out the error. 😀

      I hesitated for a long time to try this even though people all around me were suggesting it, too. It doesn’t feel natural when you start out with it. I paused a lot and stumbled through my first few attempts. It’s very awkward, and you feel very self-conscious. I think we’re so used to writing things down that it takes time to train the brain to be creative while talking.

      I might start doing this for blog posts, too. I’m still not a big fan of doing videos. Unless I’m with someone, it’s very hard to do those.

  4. I have the computer version with the headphones and microphone. What’s funny is, one time I was just speaking away and suddenly realized I didn’t have the microphone hooked up to my computer. But the computer still recorded my words through it’s internal microphone. LOL

    I have a really hard time writing this way. I still haven’t figured out how to make it work. It’s like I sit there and just freeze up, not knowing what to say. Maybe I should do what you did and make some notes first.

    • What I like about having it on my iPhone is that I can take it with me and use in the car or buzzing around the house when an idea comes to me. But then I write throughout the day.

      It is HARD when you’re starting out. I froze a lot, too. The notes help. Once you speak a couple of times and the scene is coming to you, it does get easier. I find that the initial start for each day is rough the first couple of times, but that is the same way when I type.

  5. Reblogged this on Author_Iris_Chacon and commented:
    Helpful, down-to-earth commentary on voice-to-text software from author Ruth Ann Nordic. Thanks very much, Ruth Ann, for sharing this with us. Other authors, do you use voice-to-text software? What’s your experience?

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