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September story #2: No title yet

Well, this is definitely interesting. I think I’m about halfway done with the second story, and I’m not going to mess up the rest of the day by working on it further–this is supposed to be fun! And so far it has been. I’ll start a new story tomorrow morning, and maybe I’ll catch up by the end of the month and maybe I won’t. I hope to, for sure. What if I can really do 30 stories, in 30 days, while homeschooling and foster parenting and driving and cooking and doing all the rest of the stuff that needs to happen? If not, what if I can get close? Hey, what if I end up with 31?

In other words? Generally I’m happy with how things are going. I’m getting better at the dictation part–but I’m still pretty inefficient. What I’m doing, basically, is this:

  1. I set a timer for 25 minutes and dictate new fiction into my phone, which is set to airplane mode. The timer works via my headphones and gives me these reassuring ticking sounds so I know I’m still supposed to be talking.
  2. I share the audio file via WiFi and download it to a Windows computer (actually I download via Linux & access it via a Windows virtual machine, if you care, which you probably shouldn’t).
  3. I get Dragon NaturallySpeaking to transcribe the recording. I then fix most-to-all of the transcription errors and copy/paste into Scrivener, which runs under Linux.
  4. I may or may not do a bit more editing.
  5. I go back and start the timer again.

So, that may or may not be interesting to you–but it definitely is to me. Back when I was doing first-draft typing on an Alphasmart Neo (dedicated word processing hardware) I would do the 25-minute thing, but would do up to four sessions with 5-minute breaks before moving any of the text to another machine for edits. Sometimes I felt a bit adrift in the midst of all that (I used an unreadable font on the Neo, so I couldn’t stop and edit) but it seemed to come out okay. Then, when I was working on a nonfiction book, I would work without a timer, cycle back through the stuff I’d typed earlier in the day, do a bit of research here and there, and generally proceed with few problems.

Yes, the nonfiction was easier for me. Decades of experience, there. I don’t use a timer for blog posts either. Interestingly, Dean Wesley Smith (a writer-guru dude with whom I generally but not always agree) uses a process for his fiction that works about like mine for nonfiction. I think it’s a matter of entering a flow state and staying there, or cycling back to it frequently, and he’s just better at writing fiction than I am. I’ll get there.

Don’t get me wrong–my above process is working. I’m getting 2000+ words a day, and if I had more time I could get more. Just to give you an idea…today I was supposed to have about six hours to write the new story, and I ended up with about an hour and a half once the various crises impinged.

Still. Is there something dumb with my current approach? Maybe! See, if I can just string more of those 25-minute sessions together, I can do the transcription/editing bit later. Why is that important? Because, in theory, I have two hours each morning before other people wake up. If I could fit in four sessions, that’d be great–and then I could do the transcription/editing whenever I got the chance. I can actually do that part in the middle of the living room with a movie and a couple of conversations going on. It’s a matter of shifting the stuff I need to be alone for to the time when I can be alone.

So why haven’t I done it that way yet? It’s just an emotional thing. I just don’t feel that I have as firm a grasp on the story until I see words in front of me.

Once upon a time, though, I felt the same way about using the Neo. I could type on it for half an hour or so, and then I’d need to fix a few things and convince myself I had a handle on the story or novel. I eventually realized that I was doing just fine without that, though, and that’s when my words-per-day count really took off (just under 3000 for most of The Secret).

Simple, right? I need to just trust that I’ll create reasonable words. Words that, even if they suck, can be made into a story. Unfortunately I can’t really just do the transcription for each recording while I’m dictating the next, because I need to fix errors right away–the software (a) “learns” as it goes and gets wonky if I allow too many errors to slip through, and (b) is buggy, so it crashes if I try to work with multiple files or leave it running for too long.

Oh. You have a question?


Yeah, I guess it does seem reasonable for me to dictate the text in near-real-time instead of bothering with all this recording stuff. Thing is, that way I watch the text appear on the screen, which it does in its own sweet time, which screws up my flow. Also I have to keep checking the screen to be sure Dragon hasn’t crashed and the microphone is still working properly, both of which are frequent issues. So it’s actually safer, from a preserving-my-work perspective, to just record stuff for later. And it lets me pace around, too, which is nice.

Oh. Why do I want to dictate instead of type? Because it’s cool, and I like to play with stuff, and I’m having fun with it. Also because I used to type about 700 words of new fiction in 25 minutes, and with dictation I’m getting closer to 1000…and, since it’s one of those “skill” things that ought to improve with practice, I’m hoping for even more.

Why strive for higher word counts? Because it’s fun! Ideally it’ll be fun for you guys too, as I get the fiction-machine running more smoothly.

Now. If I can keep away the refrigerator deliveries and friends who want to take me to lunch and friends who write about their new books and want feedback and kids with crises and…oh wait. Never mind. I love all that stuff too.

Have fun out there!


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