Helen (heleninwales) wrote,

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Writing progress

Story Title: Untitled Dwarf Miners story
Words written transcribed last week: 1236
Words written transcribed today: 3140
Words now in story: 4511
Reason for stopping: I have a zeroth draft!

If I can edit the very rough zeroth draft into something coherent, then I have a whole new way of working. :)

Even better, I have suddenly acquired up to 4 more hours of writing time, without cutting into anything else.

"How can this be?" you may well ask. "Aha!" I reply. "Technology!"

As I've said before, I hate first drafts. I hate that blank screen and the feeling of putting inadequate words down in stark black and white. I've often written first drafts by hand because my Internal Editor knows that a hand-written draft isn't the finished thing, so she will ease up and let me write. I also don't seem to have had a settled time table this year, so have been unable to get into a routine of regular writing sessions.

Well, this week I've been experimenting with dictating the first draft.

Yes, I know. I really didn't think it was going to work for various reasons, but I think I may have a way of radically increasing my output.

Firstly, I didn't think dictation would work for me. I've used Dragon Naturally speaking in the past at a time when I was having trouble with RSI and a magazine had a freebie disk on the cover. Though it was OK for reading in hand-written first draft, I got nowhere when I tried to talk a story or even non-fiction directly into the computer.

However, I wasn't dictating directly into the computer, I was dictating into one of these[1]. And -- and here's where I found the spare time! -- I was dictating in the car[2]. As it's voice activated, it requires no attention at all during the actual drive. I just set it to record, put on head set, fasten seat belt and go. Whenever I think of the next sentence, I just speak it out loud. Voila!

Having established that the system would work by manually typing up the first file, I then splashed out and bought the Dragon Naturally Speaking. It just goes to show that giving away freebies does work. I had the older version about 10 years ago, which is just as well because without having had the chance to try it, I would never have spent that much money on speculative software. I'd heard that the new version would actually transcribe files produced by digital recorders.

And would you believe it, it does!

Admittedly the output looks like this...

Transcribed text
Transcribed text
Yes, some punctuation would be good!

Now I know that the whole system works, I can say, "Full stop", "Comma" and "New paragraph" occasionally and the result will be much more readable. :)

But even with the whole file of 3140 words coming out as one huge sentence, it was much easier on my hands just editing that than typing the whole thing from scratch. And really, considering that a) I'm new to this and b) there was some background noise from the car, I think the software coped beautifully.

So now I need to choose the next short story to tackle, and see if I can get another zeroth draft by next weekend.

[1] I'd fancied experimenting with a digital recorder, but couldn't justify the expense. However, G had bought one to record interviews for the research for the new Ph.D. At last I had the chance to try it out without any risk of wasting money. I'll buy G another recorder when he needs to use one. :)

[2] I wanted to be sure it wouldn't be distracting, but unlike talking on a mobile phone (illegal in the UK), I found I just naturally abandoned the dictating when more attention was needed for the road. Once everything was clear, I could pick up my thoughts and start talking again. It's probably less distracting than talking to a passenger and as I think through stories anyway while driving, it's only a case of speaking the thoughts aloud.

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