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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Speaking versus Writing

   
Author Topic: Speaking versus Writing
meg.stout
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I've heard of a couple of writers who speak their fiction rather than write it.

And for years I have had fantasies of speaking into a microphone and having the computer magically do the typing for me.

Alas, voice recognition software isn't sufficiently mature yet. And I am not independently wealthy, so hiring a transcriptionist isn't an option either.

However, in Nanowrimo-inspired desperation, I did experiment with speaking into a tape recorder. It's one designed to work for voice recording (turns off when nothing is making sound, allows playback at various speeds, search ebay for Sony VOR and you'll see several examples).

Anyway, I got 45 minutes of dictation in and it took me a little over an hour to transcribe it myself. 2750 words decent first draft quality stuff that is definitely sufficient for Nanowrimo.

Digital stuff can run into the hundreds of dollars, but tape-based recorders/transcription devices are in the tens of dollars for a full kit. Or it's free, if you're a pack rat like me.


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annepin
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Ugh, there was a time when I had a 2 hour commute. In desperation, I took a tape recorder to "write" as i drove. Well, needless to say, my brilliant dictated prose didn't sound quite so brilliant once I wrote it out. _And_ I had to undergo the ordeal of listening to my voice on tape for two hours...
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lehollis
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If speaking the actual fiction doesn't work, a recorder might still be useful for taking notes, plotting, outlining, character sketching, or other writerly activities.
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Robert Nowall
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I tried dictation a couple of times, but really have no knack for it---I'm not as verbally articulate as I am at the keyboard, and, besides, there's the expense of having somebody transcribe what I've dictated. I do my composing in my head, but can only put it down through my fingers.
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skadder
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I used an Olympus dictation thingy to record plot ideas, small bits of prose that I think sound great, etc. It is not good to record lengths of prose because it is so boring to listen to yourself, especially when really you just want to write the next bit.

I did try a Palm. However trying to type on something that small gave me RSI in the wrist (not something you want!).


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meg.stout
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In order to actually type the stuff, I had the recorder play back at slower speed. That's way nasty, although I suppose it didn't sound like listening to myself. More like listening to a soporific man.

Since some successful writers are able to do the speaking thing, it isn't necessarily true that spoken stuff is hideous. But I do think it is a learned skill.


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KayTi
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That's great that you've found another mode by which you can write, and write a lot. Fantastic. I hate listening to myself on tape, so I don't think I could touch that with a ten foot pole (do i really sound like I lisp my "s"s and elongate my As? ick!)

However, are you sure about the voice recognition technologies? There are many accessibility technologies available today that we were doing research on in the early 90s, things to read websites to the blind, take mouse directions from voice or chin movements, etc. I would be really surprised if voice recognition software hadn't kept up. It might be expensive, but for someone who has suffered an injury, for instance, it might be possible to get some insurance compensation. I would check university labs too, as they are often researching these kinds of things and might benefit from having some additional users for pilot software.

Just some ideas.


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JeanneT
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I know someone who was disabled by a stroke who uses voice recognition software for typing and it is very good. She isn't able to type at all but maintains a VERY substantial email correspondence. It isn't cheap but within the same price range as MS OfficeSuite so you don't necessarily have to be rich to afford it.
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InarticulateBabbler
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Kevin J. Andreson writes that way. Usually, he has a secretary transcribe--but he can afford that. He touches on aquiring that skill in his intro for the Writer of the Future download. He speaks the entire prose, but he didn't start doing that. He started voicing ideas. He said it takes a while to get where he is. I've been doodling on and off with a Sony Digital recorder for a couple of weeks. I find that speaking my ideas into it makes them easier to remember without playing it back. Maybe it's the sound of my own voice thing.
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Pyre Dynasty
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Sadly my mind doesn't work they way it should to write with my mouth. What my voice says and what my fingers say are entirely different. It's like I have entirely different language centers in my head.

By the way, why do they call them fingers when they don't exactly fing?


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Grant John
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I actually have a dictation program, and I have used it (mainly for job applications because typing them drives me insane) but I had a series of speeches some of my characters were making and I used the dictation program to actually make the speeches into my computer and it read well as spoken word.

Grant John


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Robert Nowall
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I'll add to my comment that, like computers themselves, the programs I've heard about that transcribe the spoken word, weren't available to me when I experimented with dictation.

I suppose practice is the key...it usually is to everything else.


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annepin
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Indeed, the one speech program I'm familiar with had to be "trained" to learn to understand you. I do think speech recognition has come a long way since (this was early on in the turn of the millennium!); nowadays you call an 800 number and have to speak to a computer.

Pyre Dynasty, I agree--my brain works in two different ways, and to write, I can only type. Not even writing long-hand has the same result. I think it has to do with being able to see the word I'm writing, what's gone before it, and what's coming after it. With speaking, i don't get that, so I too easily lose track of what I'm trying to say.


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mitchellworks
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I don't know if we're supposed to name software here (Kathleen can edit me if needed) but I purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking earlier this year from Costco -- I think it was around 60 bucks. It is excellent for speech-to-text, after about an hour of teaching it to recognize your voice. On a long drive (like 4hrs to my sister's with all the kids snoring in back) I'll start chatting into it. It has learned to spell correctly even my made-up words like "Mindsbase". You can navigate around it and correct on-the-fly with certain voice commands, but I don't recommend doing that while driving, since it requires looking at the screen. Instead, you can basically speak clearly and get close enough for a later cleanup.

The real secret is learning to orate as you would type, as others have said. It really is tricky. I learned to type as a very young child since my father always had computers in the house (even when they were so big they filled the garage) so I think in type. Perhaps that's what made me a kinesthetic learner. My brain doesn't move without my fingers.


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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Mention products with my blessing, as long as what you are doing is basically offering a "review" of the product.

That kind of information can be very useful, so please, feel free.


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