Is it Possible to Speak Your Way to a Finished Book (the scoop on writing a manuscript using voice activated software)

> Does anyone have experience using voice activated software to write
> your books? I experimented with a program some years ago, but found it
> too slow. I imagine the software has improved since then.
>
> I would like to hear from anyone who has used it, and became more
> prolific using a program that writes down everything you say, instead
> of having to type out all of your work.

A few years ago, as part of a book project I experimented with using Dragon NaturallySpeaking package to transcribe dictation files recorded using my digital recorder. After training the software (I had to read a pre-set page to it a few times so it could learn my speaking patterns), I learned the following:

  • Although the software is pretty accurate with it’s transcription (and steadily getting better), it’s not foolproof. Expect to edit your work thoroughly because many of the errors will also slip by the average spell checker (e.g. – read versus red, lead versus led, etc).
  • Since it’s trained to your voice, it does a quirky job if you’re trying to transcribe a recorded interview or conversation with one or more people.
  • Using this to help write a book would be handiest if you are writing a personal memoir or recording stories being told by an elderly person (or anyone else that has had to tell such tales many times).

Regardless of what you’re writing, the downside is that it will show you that we form spoken sentences and structure stories in a radically different fashion than how we write them. We tend to repeat ourselves, cut our words (depending on regional accent), rely heavily on cliches and colloquialisms, attempt to revise sentences on the fly to see what sounds better, and while we’re formulating sentences we tend to throw in unnecessary words and sounds like “uh”, “and-uhh”, “ummm”, “like”, “so”, “and so on”, and etc. The first time I saw my first transcribed story attempt on the screen I felt like I was reading the ramblings of a babbling idiot.

After all the editing and cleanup, I came to realize that this method sucked as a replacement for just typing everything into a word processor. I found that I was better off using this method for transcribing collections of dictated notes and thoughts, saved to files that I could print as references or cut pieces and insert into a manuscript.

Good luck with it…

Max