In the past month, I’ve moved from Word to Scrivener. I’ve found that this makes a big difference to the way I write (and especially to the way I handle my research and planning.)
Now it’s time for the next big step: increasing productivity by teaching myself to dictate my books instead of typing them.
Now that’s a biggie. But… I’m sure I can do it. After all, I’ve done this before in one way. Years ago (when we were still using typewriters instead of computers) I composed all my drafts using pen and paper. I can still picture the notebooks that contained my handwritten novels. (I wish I’d kept some of them, just to look back on – a bit like keeping your children’s first stories from Kindergarten!) The transition from handwritten draft to typed draft was the second step of revision – the first step being red pen corrections in the notebook.
Then along came computers, and suddenly revisions became a whole lot easier. No more typing and re-typing successive drafts – you could edit on the screen, then print out the final draft. Bliss. But I was still writing the first drafts by hand, simply because that was the way I’d always done it. My creativity simply seemed to fly out of the window if I tried to compose on the screen.
I plodded along with hand-written first drafts until (when I was working as a ghostwriter) I had a schedule so crammed with work that I could no longer justify the extra time it took to write by hand first, then transcribe. Kicking and screaming all the way, I taught myself to write directly onto the screen.
Now, of course, it’s second nature. I scribble plot ideas with a pen and paper, but the minute I’m ready to write, I fire up the word processor.
Enter… Dragon Naturally Speaking. I bought one of the very early versions and,
When I saw the gobbledygook on the screen, laughed hysterically and went right back to typing.
Fast forward half a dozen years. Again, I was inundated with work. I organised a guest post for one of my blogs by a well-regarded children’s writer, Sally Odgers. I was intrigued to find that she had been using Dragon NaturallySpeaking for years. My interest rekindled, I checked out the program online and found that its accuracy had improved vastly. I bought a copy, tried it out, and was impressed.
The only problem was, I had the same experience as I’d had years before trying to move from handwritten first drafts to wordprocessed first drafts. Non-fiction was a lot easier. I seem to be able to come up with the right words when I was explaining how to do something (as I am in this post, using Dragon NaturallySpeaking) but when it came to fiction… It was a whole different ball game.
Fast forward again to this week. Here I am again, in a situation where I need to boost my productivity considerably. Naturally, my thoughts turned to Dragon.
I thought about the transition from handwritten first drafts to wordprocessed first drafts.
I thought about the transition from hunt and peck typing to touch typing.
Both involved a learning curve. Both involved a period of time where I forced myself to use the new methods rather than the old. I needed to give myself time to form a new habit.
That’s what I’m doing this time. When I sit at my desk, I’m going to use DNS to create emails, blog posts, and first drafts of my novel. I already know that the more committed I am to learning something new, the easier it becomes.
After just one morning of using Dragon to write a scene from my novel, I have already found that I find it easier to think my way through this scene and dictated the same time, if I swing the chair away from the computer, close my eyes, and talk.
As a test (having already jotted down points I wanted to cover in the scene) I kept a record of how many words I was able to complete in one hour using Dragon. The result: 1390. Since this was a very new experience with fiction, I expect that I will be able to increase that substantially.
I’ll keep you posted.
Using DNS to create a blog post for WordPress