Training the Dragon

dragon

This month brings my fourth NaNoWriMo (including camps) since 2012.  But this time its different.

I’m starting a new novel for which I have done some vague outlining. (I am following Libby Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! It has already been of help for the outlining process).

What is new and different for me is this: I’m dictating my book using Dragon Naturally Speaking, the preeminent dictation software. The goal is greater productivity; you can speak faster than you can type.  The software ‘learns’ the way you talk, so the more you use it, the more accurately it transcribes your words.  Call it ‘training the Dragon.’

So far, after five days, I’m quite pleased with my Dragon.  It takes some getting used to. I tried it out some before this month, but Nov. 1 was the first day that I used it for real.  So far, the accuracy of the transcription is amazing.

In addition, I am writing in “sprints” based on the concept of Pomodoro espoused in another craft book, 5,000 Words Per Hour by Chris Fox. The sprint is 25 minutes of writing — all writing, all moving ahead, no deleting, no editing — followed by a five minute break.  Fox believes one key to reaching this speedier output is through dictating, which is what prompted me to plunk down $100 for the program.

On Day Two, for example, I turned on Dragon, leaned back in my chair, closed my eyes, and wrote in three sprints:

1. 11am- 11:25: 721 words (then went to an early lunch)
2. Noon–12:25: 619 words
3. 12:30-12:55: 662 words

That’s 2002 words in 75 minutes of writing… which works out to 1600 words per hour.  The interesting thing was that while I was dictating with eyes closed, I felt far more focused on the story in my mind than the words on the screen. I didn’t feel the desire to go back and change things. I was just… telling a story.

Day Three (just now) reached my goal in just two 25-min. sprints:

2:30-2:55 — 966 words
3:05-3:30 — 755 words

1,721 words in one hour, all dictating.

Day Four, three 25-min. sprints using dictation only.

12:30-12:55 — 910 words
1pm-1:25 — 983
1:30-1:55 — 739

My dictation speed held relatively steady compared to Day Three, at 1754 words per hour, but I was able to do a third sprint, giving me much higher total output, 2,632 words.

Day Five was even more of a breakthrough — I dictated not sitting at my PC with the headset, but onto a small recorder.  I went into the kitchen, put the recorder on, and proceeded to dictate 2,521 words in 90 minutes — while I emptied the dishwasher, washed dishes in the sink, prepared dinner for the family and set the table.  Later I plugged the recorder into the PC, and Dragon transcribed the files in just a few minutes.

Allow me to repeat this: I was writing a novel while I was washing dishes.  Ain’t science wonderful?

Of course, none of this helps improve the quality of the book.  The Dragon can’t help with that — its all on me.

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