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NaNoWriMo: Is Dictation Worth a Try?

Hello my fellow NaNo-ers!

I hope everyone had a successful Day 1. I had two writing sessions yesterday and here are my stats:

  • In the morning I wrote 1732 words, with an average of 1022 WPH (words per hour).

  • In the evening I wrote an additional 1480 words, with an average of 1212 WPH. This brought my total to 3212 words for Day 1!

Now, some of you may be wondering why I'm tracking my WPH. To be honest, it wasn't something I had ever really done until yesterday, so it'll be a little harder to compare my prior results to my current ones.

On average, however, I can typically crank out about 2k words in two hours. Now I remember having some really good days where I managed that in just one hour, but I think my average was around there. I have some data saved somewhere on my computer that I'll have to pour over. There might be some more definitive averages, but I think that about does it.

It's important to track your creative output, though. Every successful business has at least one thing in common: they track their success. This is a no-brainer when thinking in business terms, but what about the author entrepreneur? (I'm borrowing this phrase from the wonderful Joanna Penn.) If you're doing any kind of writing, it's important to have a measure of your productivity. Not only will this help with your future works - in terms of estimating how long it will take you to complete your new WIP - but it will help you with your current project.

You've probably heard from many famous and very wise people that you should never compare yourself against others.

I agree with this whole-heartedly. But I think you should compare yourself with your past successes. Applying this to daily word output, you can set goals that you know you're capable of achieving. If you would like to, you can try to outdo your best day's word count. We're all competitive people by nature, so why not use that to your benefit and try to compete with your previous day's work?

I will say, however, that there is only so much writing you can do without losing your mind. Or rather, there's only so much writing you can do without decreasing the quality of your work. I always, always, try to produce work that will end up in my final product. Duh, right? Well this is something I have to remind myself of sometimes. It's important to put words out there, but if they're garbage, and I know they're garbage, I stop right there. I take whatever time it is I need to take to plot out where I actually want the scene to go and then I pick it back up. If I'm in the process of writing and I don't like where the scene is taking me, I quit writing and identify what I don't like about that scene. This can help tremendously down the road when you don't have to spend precious time rewriting those scenes you hated.

Besides the reasons above, I'm also tracking my progress for another reason: I'm attempting dictation this month.

Years ago, a family member happened to have Nuance's Dragon NaturallySpeaking on their computer and I gave it a whirl. Results? Horrible. I hated it. When I happened across the above video on Youtube detailing one author's success with dictation, I rethought my opinions on Dragon. I'm pretty sure everyone would agree that a 3000-3500 WPH average is ah-mazing.

Being the obsessively focused individual that I am (trust me, it's not always a good thing), I immediately researched all of the information that I could find about writers using dictation. And, surprisingly, there wasn't a lot out there. In my attempt to serve the writing community, I'm going to embark on my own journey with dictation and tell the world about my experience.

This is my promise to myself and the world that I will continue to use Dragon for the rest of NaNo.

Yup. You read that right. The rest of NaNoWriMo. Granted, I know that there will be days where I can't use the dictation software (ie on a plane), but 90% of my writing will be with Dragon NaturallySpeaking. Any time that I'm writing from home, I'll be using this software.

I already spent Day 1 writing with it, and have learned quite a bit so far.

  • Names are very important. Save yourself the mental exhaustion and just change your character's names to simple ones. Now, this is not a permanent change, it's just a change so that Dragon can actually get the name right. I have a sticky-note with the "new" names of my characters so that later I can just find and replace all of those names with the correct one. For example, one of my character's names is Eben. Dragon can not get this right. At all. It thinks I either said "and then" or, very rarely, "Evan." I can't even get it to write "Evan" if I try, so I'm not sure the magic combination to even replicate that one. Hence, Eben will now be called Ethan. Going with names off the top 100 most popular lists should serve you well!

  • Use the "Improve Accuracy" tools. I started off reading two lengthy passages from their list so that Dragon could adapt to my voice. I plan to take advantage of this periodically so that Dragon gathers loads of data on my speech much faster than my daily use of it. I don't know if there's a limit that Dragon reaches - and anything beyond that is pointless - but if I think it'll help I'll going to try it.

  • Take the time to correct with Dragon's correction feature. While it may take more time in the beginning, Dragon is gathering information on how you speak. This improves the accuracy when you use Dragon next time. I've had to select a word, try multiple times to get it right, then spell it, for Dragon to get it right. While this doesn't happen frequently, it's very frustrating. Stick with it though! Keep thinking about that 3k an hour goal to keep you trucking along. My above writing sessions enlisted the use of Dragon, and you can see there was already a jump in my WPH from morning to evening.

As I continue my use with Dragon, I'll update you guys on any other tips that I have. I'm also going to do (at least weekly) updates on my word count and WPH progress. To reward myself for making it all the way through the month with Dragon, I'm going to buy myself a better mic. I'm thinking the Blue Snowball as it's a relatively inexpensive one, and I read good things from those who use it with Dragon. The accuracy improves greatly with a better mic, and I'm just using the one built in to my computer. I dream of the speeds I could reach with a better mic!

If you have any suggestions for good mics on a budget, let me know! Also, if you have any questions for me, feel free to fire away! If you would like to add me as a writing buddy, click here.

Happy writing!

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