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Writing Process Revisited

Lots of changes around here. More coming, too, but I don’t want to get into it…at least not yet.

There are many things I wish weren’t true but are, and one of them is that I get my best results writing in the morning – by which I mean first thing in the morning. So okay, that’s what I’m doing.

It’ll be complicated with all the kids in the house and with the summer break looming, but Monday through Friday I’ll have four hours to write before doing anything else. There’s a little bit of time on Saturday and Sunday mornings, as well.

Chiefly, though, if any of you are writers – or want to be writers – by which I guess I mean you want to write – and are interested in dictation? I have to highly recommend Dragon Anywhere, available for both Android and iOS, though I don’t want to.

Why don’t I want to? Because it requires constant Internet access. Because Nuance, the company that produces it, is extremely annoying to deal with. Because the app screws up my punctuation and capitalization, and doesn’t understand paragraphs without line spaces between them, and forces me to treat it as a text-only first-draft sort of tool, including such weirdnesses (no, the app did not recognize that word, but whose fault is that?) as only uploading to Dropbox when I specifically tell it to, and even then only as text files with no formatting. Because the app costs $15 a month.

Can I overlook all that? Yes. Why? Because, in the end, it works. I’m doing all my writing on my phone these days. I’m using its built-in microphone. Its text-to-speech engine, wherever in the cloud it may reside, works a heck of a lot better than the version of Dragon running on my laptop.

In principle I could simply be recording my voice using any old app, and transcribing those recordings back at my laptop whenever it happened to be convenient. And I’ve done that. But I don’t get any immediate feedback if there’s something wrong with the recording, which has led to a lot of wasted time and eroded my trust in the process. Also, the transcription is less accurate than simply using Dragon Anywhere. Also, the editing/transcribing process is fairly cumbersome and I very much prefer to do it as I go along, with immediate feedback.

Mostly, I just talk and my words appear on the phone. That’s what I want.

There are bugs, of course. If I press “delete” or “backspace” on my folding Bluetooth keyboard, if for some reason I actually connect it, for some other reason the app behaves as if I’d hit the key twice. I have to say…that’s clearly weird. It’s not clear to me why such a simple thing wouldn’t be fixed, even if it had to be done by giving users an optional setting.

It’s exciting for a geek like me to watch just how well this thing works. I’ve used it in a crowded pizza joint that had a full arcade blaring, with running-screaming kids, and the dictation was next to flawlessly transcribed. On the other hand, when I tried to use it outdoors with a slight breeze, I’d have been better off arranging rocks into the shapes of the characters I wanted to type. Maybe I could solve the problem with the right external microphone, or maybe not. So far, not.

I tried a few Bluetooth microphones, by the way. No go. I’d read that they wouldn’t work, and sure enough they didn’t. Too bad.

So that’s it. That’s what I’m doing. It’s going all right, except that somehow I started off writing a new novel I hadn’t seen coming. But what the heck; I’m having fun with it.

And yes, I dictated this entire post using Dragon Anywhere. Took me about 20 minutes, with editing, at a bit under 700 words (no, the app does not have a word-count feature). I guess you’ll have to judge the result for yourselves.

Meanwhile? Have fun out there!

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