Went Back to Dictation

I was having a hard time getting emotionally into the stories when I was speaking them into the Dragon dictation software I have.  So I had decided to put the thing away, and I went back to typing.

But then the whole thing with my eyes happened, and I was forced to return to the dictation software.  Some authors have ghostwriters.  They give the ghostwriter what they want written, and they let the ghostwriter do that work.  That is not an option for me.  I want to be the author of my own stories.  If they suck, they suck, but they will suck on my merit.

So I had to go back to the drawing board and pick up the dictation software once more.  Fortunately, nothing is wrong with my voice.  I just returned to speaking my stories again this past week, and I guess all the practice I had up to this point paid off because I no longer have trouble emotionally connecting to my characters when I speak the stories.

I learned a couple of tips that might help others who want to experiment with dictation software or who need to use it.

1. Have a plan before speaking the story.

I’m not a plotter by nature, so this one took a little time to adjust to.  I don’t have the whole book (except for The Bride Price) mapped out.  I do, however, come to the dictation session with the scene planned out.  What I need is how the scene will begin, a goal I have for the scene, and an idea of how it will end.  Then I try to speak the entire scene in one session.

I will sit still and close my eyes for about five minutes.  During that time, I visualize the scene in my mind.  Some people might want to write notes.  I don’t.  If I can picture the scene, I’m good to go.

2. I speak in quick bursts with a few seconds of breaks between sentences.  And I don’t rush the speaking for the sake of accumulating word count.

Word count is a huge thing for me, but even with speaking, I average 2,000 to 3,000 words a day.  I don’t know how authors do it when they are used to doing 5,000+ words a day.  I aim to write 5 days a week, and I take 2 off.  Maybe the authors building up serious word count take longer breaks than I do.

Anyway, I have learned that a complete session for me ends up being a half hour.  That is how long it takes for me to get through one scene.  One scene averages 1,000-1,500 words.

I’ll start speaking 1-2 sentences.  Then I’ll pause.  Sometime I redo the sentences.  Sometimes I keep going.  But I have found when I focus on getting 1-2 sentences out at a time, I don’t feel the pressure to hurry up and get the whole scene out.  (When I rushed the scene, I was able to get 1,500 words in 15 minutes, but I ended up deleting or rewriting half of it.  So slow works better.)

3. I do edit as I go.

If I notice the software got something wrong, I will pause and correct it.   Speaking in short bursts is good for this.  I’m able to delete stuff that is repeated or change most misspellings right away.  Doing this makes my work easier when it’s time to insert the dictated segment into my story and polish it up.

4. I don’t add punctuation because my focus is on the story, but I do insert what I spoke into my work in progress right away and work on it so it’s fresh in my mind.

I know some authors who work better when they add the punctuation.  If that’s you, then do what works.  I just know that for me, getting bogged down into the technical aspects of writing will break my concentration.

To compensate for this, I will work on the scene immediately after it’s spoken.  If I do that, it’s fresh enough in my mind where I know where the punctuation goes as I’m reading through the text.  I also pick up misspellings and words that were picked up incorrectly by the software program (their vs. there, to vs. two vs. too, etc) right away.  I can polish up the scene in about 15-30 minutes.  If I wait until later in the day, it takes me about an hour.  If I wait until the next day, I’m probably going to be at it for 1.5 hours.  The sooner you can polish up the text, the better.


Basically, I’m maintaining the same speed in word counts that I do when I type.  I didn’t get faster, as I had hoped back in January and February.  But I’m okay with that because my primary concern is being emotionally engaged with my characters.

Anyone got any tips they’d like to share?

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 https://ruthannnordinsbooks.wordpress.com/.
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7 Responses to Went Back to Dictation

  1. Have a glass of water or a cup of tea nearby. We agree on a lot when it comes to Dragon, don’t we?

  2. Ddwlem says:

    Interesting approach to getting the story out of the mind. I like the idea of not using punctuation for the initial round.
    Sandy of DDWLEM

    • I tried using punctuation as an experiment the other day. It wasn’t as distracting as I expected, but (and this really annoys me), when I wanted to use a “, the thing would spell out “quotation mark”. I couldn’t figure out how to change that. I did put in the other punctuations I commonly use (like the period, comma, and question mark). I am hoping I can train someone in my house to smooth out my dictation if I can use the punctuation symbols. Otherwise, they’ll have no idea what I’m trying to do. 🙂

  3. I’m trying it, too. I posted about it the same day you did! LOL

    • I’m having my husband polish up what I dictate, so now I have to add the punctuation and new paragraphs in order for him to know who is saying what and when. It took me several times to figure out to use the word “quote” instead of “quotation mark” in order to get the text to show up with the ” sign.

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