How Creating Dictation Drills from Classic Literature Helped Me Finally Learn Speech to Text

With so many payoffs, learning how to dictate may be one of the best uses of your writing time right now.  Here’s why.

I love classic literature. Because books like Far From the Madding Crowd and The Count of Monte Cristo were some of the first books I read as an adolescent, when I began analyzing stories on a deeper level, they are more than stories to me. They feel like guides.

And they are ubiquitous. I am one of those people who likes comparing contemporary stories with those older stories, partly because they provide a fun baseline for discussion. You can count on plenty of other people knowing what you’re referring to!

So I think that’s why the idea came to me to finally learn speech to text by creating a series of dictation drills based on works of classic literature.

“For the things we have to learn before we can do them, we learn by doing them.”
– Aristotle

At the time, I was struggling to break through a wall I was experiencing relative to speaking my stories rather than typing or handwriting them. I knew I needed to learn how to dictate my books if I was going to continue writing fiction, but I couldn’t seem to make it flow for me.

This learning curve keeps many from reaching the advantages of dictation, and I was among those ranks. It was almost like I was psyching myself out, like I didn’t want to succeed. Isn’t it weird when we do that?!

But I was also not making myself gut through it and practice.

Thankfully, I discovered ways to stick with it, because I sensed that I was onto something that could really change my writing prospects. Without dictation, I knew I’d probably have to stop writing in any serious way. Take up swimming or something! I have ongoing back issues as well as some scares with carpal tunnel flare-ups, and since writing is not just my fun but my bread and butter. . .basically, I needed to protect my moneymakers!

So, I chopped up some favorite passages from classic literature and inserted the dictation commands in brackets. I say this breezily, but it took the better part of my “fun writing” time for months to create these. Then, I spent the next month making myself read through these drills each day.


I approached it like a chore, but it became fun. It was comforting even, surrounding myself with these beloved words while teaching myself new tricks. Stoker, Austen,  Bronte, Kipling, Shelley, Carroll, etc. Pretty great cheerleaders. But best of all–

After about a month, my dictation improved.

I began to lose myself in my own excerpts, which I dictated immediately after running through these classic literature drills in addition to other practice drills I worked out to refine specific skills for things like capitalization, punctuation, and more.

Eventually, I bound it all up in a book. My drills, my system, my experience finding the right hardware and software–everything.

The Productive Authors Guide to Dictation Front Cover Blog


I love dictation. It has expanded my writing life (did I mention you can speak faster than you type, allowing me to consistently draft thousands, not hundreds, of words per hour?), helped me reduce the cursed butt-in-chair time that plagues writers (because I go on Writer Walkabouts where I walk and talk to a digital recorder, then upload it to Dragon software), and allowed me to keep doing what I enjoy.

I say that my dictation improved, but since writing has become so much of my existence, I’ll go further than that. My life has improved!

If you have found dictation challenging, give it another try. You may benefit from the repetition of a drill-based approach. If you can think back on other times in your life when you tried to learn something, did drills help? Ballet? Soccer? Piano! If so, this might be something that works for you, as it has for me.

Most of all, hang in there! With so many benefits and payoffs, learning how to dictate may be one of the best uses of your writing time right now.

You may also be interested in 13 Advantages of Dictation Your Writing.


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