Dictating your work has been a hot topic for indie authors for a while now. Whereas it used to be thought of more as the preserve of writers who needed it for reasons of physical discomfort or disability, it's now being regarded as a potential productivity booster for all.
Whether you're a seasoned dictator racking up the words, or still deciding whether to give it a go, this cautionary tale from Wendy Jones, Scottish thriller writer, will help you ensure that you stay in control of the technology, rather than letting it control you! Thank you, Wendy, for so generously sharing your tale of woe for the benefit of us all. Over to Wendy..
I listen to a lot of podcasts about writing and promotion. A number of them extol the virtues of using dictation software to speed up the writing process. Now, having been typing since primary school, I am fairly fast on the old computer keyboard. I do, however suffer from fibromyalgia. When I was writing my last book my hands were painful so I thought I would give dictation software a go.
This was where the problems started…
Here Be (No) Dragons
I did not have Dragon Dictate in the house, and I didn’t want to slow down the process by waiting for it to arrive. I therefore had the brainwave to use the dictation software on my Mac. At first this was tricky as the software had barely any clue what I was saying. This may have been because of my Scottish accent. I soon beat it into submission although there were some comic phrases.
It never did get the hang of Shona McKenzie. Things might have been easier if my main character had been called Jane Smith.
I did stop after every paragraph to sort out any issues. Despite this it was appreciably quicker.
I also had to learn the commands such as open quotes, close quotes, full stop and comma. On the whole this went well, although my Scottish accent had many of the characters in a coma after every sentence of dialogue. However, this was the least of my worries.
Mixing It Up
I did not dictate the whole document, preferring to type when I could. Once the document was finished it was formatted, proofread, seen by an editor, edited again, proofread again. I am sure you get the message. Sometime between all of this and it being uploaded for print or ebook something went drastically wrong. In many of the places where the dictation software was used word reverted to an older draft. It also moved one sentence from one paragraph to another.
Unfortunately this was not noticed until the book was printed, this despite the fact the proof copy had been read again and proofread.
In the ebook things were different. Word removed the new line command, particularly after dialogue. This meant that much of the dialogue ran together. Again this was not picked up until the book was uploaded.
I am sure most writers will agree this is not good. I had forgotten that Mac and Microsoft do not play well together. I had a big problem and I needed to do something about it.
In regards to the ebook it was sorted out and uploaded immediately. Everyone would get an updated file so minimal damage. With regards to the print book things were a bit trickier. People I knew how to get hold of had bought many of the print books. I contacted them to say I would give them a new copy. Most people said they didn’t want one. They had already read it and it was fine. Anyone who hadn’t read it was given a new book. Any sold at book signings I contacted the venue and put messages out saying people could have a new copy of the book.
The moral of this story is that things will go wrong. It is how you deal with them that is important.
I acted in as moral a way as I could. In the end I lost less than forty copies of the book. What I do have is good will.
I also have an increased understanding that I need to buy Dragon Dictate. If I’m going to do this it needs to be done properly.
OVER TO YOU Have you tamed your Dragon yet? Got top speech-to-text tips to share? We'd love to hear from you!