I began looking into dictation for several reasons. Like many people, I have experienced back problems which make it hard to sit at a computer and write all day. I’ve also had trouble keeping weight off since becoming a full-time writer. There, said it!
You might relate to these reasons or have some of your own. I feel nearly every fiction or non-fiction writer could benefit from dictation. You can still type when you want to, but trust me, dictation opens a whole new dimension.
3 Reasons It’s Worth the Effort to Learn to Dictate
Dictation is a skill you have to practice and acquire, just like when you learned to type or handwrite, but putting in a little time has tons of advantages:
Typing, I usually manage about 900 words per hour. My dictation average, even with tons of pauses and slow speaking, is about 2,000-2,500 words an hour and many dictationists are faster than I am. If I do this for three hours, I average 7,500 words. Sure, that’s pure draft copy, but it’s out there! For NaNoWriMo, you need about 1667 words a day for 30 days or closer to 2000 for 26 days to reach the 50,000-word goal.
Dictation should probably be seen as any NaNoWriMo-er’s new best friend.
If you don’t believe that you talk faster than you type, take an online typing quiz (or just type in Word and check the lower left for word count) then read the same thing out loud into an online dictation program like TalkTyper while you run a timer. However, remember that creating text on the fly is always more difficult than just reading something.
The ability to reduce butt-in-chair time is pretty much priceless. With desktop dictation software, you can set up desktop or remote mics such that you can roam all over the room or your entire house while babbling your masterpiece.
With digital dictation recorders or dictation apps for your mobile phone, you can walk in the park or take a hike in the mountains while babbling your masterpiece. Awesome!!
Learn more about this by checking out Writing Walkabouts: How I wrote 6,000 Words in 6 Miles.
I don’t readily believe in the efficiency of multitasking—but I have exceptions. Being able to complete a mental task like speaking a chapter in my novel while say, doing my planks, stretching, folding laundry, or other mindless tasks makes sense to me.
As you can probably guess, this just scratches the surface of possibilities and advantages. It’s a truly powerful modality.
So Why Don’t More Writers Dictate? The Learning Curve
Despite all those advantages, not many writers dictate their novels, which is funny really because we do more writing than many professionals who have embraced dictation (in business, medical, and legal professions).
It’s largely due to the learning curve. Even though storytelling has been verbal for eons of time, that’s not how we’re taught these days. We are programmed to feel efficient by sitting in a chair, moving our fingers across a keyboard configuration purposely designed to slow down our typing so that typewriter keys wouldn’t jam into one another. Isn’t that kooky?
Speaking your story rather than typing or handwriting it feels less efficient at first, but even as you fumble it’s as fast if not faster than typing or handwriting.
There’s a Book About This: The Productive Author’s Guide to Dictation
Learning to dictate absolutely presented a learning curve for me and dictation has a notoriously high dropout rate, but I was motivated by the advantages. Stick with it, and you can leverage this skill.
On Amazon: The Productive Author’s Guide to Dictation
Happy writing, however you go about it!