Using Dragon Naturally Speaking to Increase Productivity

Dragon Naturally SpeakingIn 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.

Dragon Naturally Speaking Dictation Box

Using DNS to create a blog post for WordPress


Using Dragon Naturally Speaking to Increase Productivity — 30 Comments

  1. Hi Marg, I’ve tried Dragon a couple of periods over the years and usually ended up frustrated with it, even though my current version is only a couple of years old. I will be interested to hear how you get on and you have made me enthused enough to drag it out again.
    Cheers Lynn

    • I think a lot of people got frustrated with the early versions of Dragon, but it really is a top quality product. Keep at it, and let us know how you go with it.

  2. Well, you’ve convinced me. I’ve just ordered a copy. Thanks, Marg.

    Like you, my earlier attempts left me laughing at the resultant gobbledygook on the screen. Wish me luck. 🙂

    • Vicki, I think you’ll be impressed. Give it time, and keep on with it – especially doing corrections via voice as well, even when it’s tempting to jump in and correct it via the keyboard! It gets better and better as it becomes accustomed to you as the user.

  3. Hi Marg, just invested in Dragon Naturally Speaking to do a really long piece of coursework full of laborious typing of technical terms. It did brilliantly and gave me a few laughs to cheer my way.
    But you’re right. I must stop jumping in to type my corrections–sighs. Shall make it part of my 7 week challenge, along with updating my sadly neglected website.
    The only downturn: its Internet plug-in keeps freezing Chrome if there’s a video on the webpage I’m browsing. I’ll have to tackle that somewhen too.
    Annie recently posted…G is for Ghosts and GradatioMy Profile

    • I’m not surprised to hear that it performed so well – it gets great reviews from most users who persevere with it. And I know how hard it is not to just reach for the mouse and the keypad to correct – even though I know that every time I do the corrections via voice, it’s teaching Dragon more about the way I work!

    • I think from memory, Bev, that I just had to specify which country I was from when I was installing it. I don’t think there’s a separate product for different countries. It certainly had no trouble understanding me! (About the only problems I’ve had is in it substituting odd things when I say ‘full stop’. If I say it very definitely and clearly I don’t have a problem. I think Americans say ‘period’ instead.)

  4. Like so many others, I had a problem with the earlier version and, until now, had not considered using it again. I’m like you, I write my first draft with pen ( and I’m really anal- it has to be a blue, needle point roller ball) and notebook. I’ve tried typing the first draft of scenes on my laptop and my creativity is stifled . When I read back over the typed work, my voice is missing and the scenes seem to lack am emotional connection. Maybe as I become a better writer and more skilled in the craft, it will work for me, but until them I’m sticking with my favorite notebooks and pens. It is a hassle, I have to admit, transferring my handwritten scenes to Scrivener. I just look at it as another opportunity for revisions and a chance to spot plot holes and other errors. When I try to type a first draft, I can’t help correcting every word and I seem to try way too hard to write the perfect sentence- paragraph etc., and it cuts into my creativity.

    I signed up for your combo course so completing it is at the top my list of goals for your seven week challenge . Thanks for offering the challenge and for reducing the cost of your courses. I’m psyched to see what I can accomplish during the next seven weeks. Enjoy your working vacation and best of luck to everyone who is joining your challenge .

    • It definitely does take time to get used to Dragon – to me it sounded so weird to dictate fiction! But I persevered, and I was surprised at how well the first drafts turned out… and it was definitely quicker.
      I’m looking forward to seeing your take on the writing tasks for the combo course!

  5. Hi Marg,

    I’m typing this using Dragon. The accuracy straight out of the box is amazing. Really impressive. Thank you for recommending it.


    P.S. I typed this comment without any corrections. Dragon has come a long way since I last tried. Thanks again.

    • I thought anyone who bought it would be happy with it. Every time I use it I’m still stunned at what it can do! After you’ve used it for a while, I’d be interested to hear (a) whether your style has changed (and if so, how) and (b) whether your productivity has increased. (I’m sure I won’t be the only one interested to hear this!)

      • Four months down the line and I’m still in love with Dragon. It has helped me no end. I certainly “type” faster.

        Thanks again, Marg. Wishing you all the best for the festive season and beyond. xx

        • I love it too, Vicki. I’ve been using it quite a bit over the past couple of days. Sure saves time! I was worried that my writing style would change, but it doesn’t appear to have done so. And to think I resisted it for so long…

  6. I just sent you an email asking about Dragon software and then seen it hear so I answered my own question. I think I will give this a try. I am wanting increase my productivity and have always wondered how others were able to get so much work done and prublished. Thanks for the great posts.

  7. I use Dragon NaturallySpeaking also but I find that dictating dialogue, such as:

    “what are you saying, the people.” said Mike.

    is just a pain in the butt because you have to dictate all the punctuation. I did get around this by recording macros using the Dragon tools. So now I have several new commands that help me dictate dialogue.

    • I found dialogue really clunky at first, but I’m used to it now. I didn’t realise that you could record macros with Dragon. I’ll Google it to see how to do it. Anything that saves time and angst! (If you have a handy web link for the ‘how to’, that’d be great, Mike.)

      • if you have the professional version (as i do) its under “tools/add new command” there are several ways to go, you have to experiment with it. but now I don’t have to say “open quote/close quote” 9000 times, which was just irritating to me.

        • Thanks Mike. I’m going to play around with this. If only there were a YouTube video on it! (Specifically for open/close quotes I mean.) But thanks to your email, I have enough info to play around. Can’t wait to see how it works. 🙂

  8. I still don’t get how to use Dragon (12) in Scrivner. I try and annother textbox opens where what I’m writing appears. Do I have to write in the other box and then transfer it back Scrivner? Or does it work directly in Scrivner — but I’m just doing somethin wrong?

    • To avoid having to use the DragonPad box for DNS (version 12 Premium), into Scrivener (version, try this:

      1.) Open Dragon “Tools” menu, then “Options”
      2.) Open tab “Miscellaneous”
      3.) At the bottom of the box, Un-click “Use the Dictation Box for unsupported applications” and then hit “Apply”
      4.) Save user profile
      5.) You should be able to speak directly into Scrivener now.

      I was also able to use DNS 12 directly in other very unconventional software after this change.

  9. Hi Marg. Thanks for your blog post! I’ve been considering Dragon NaturallySpeaking for some time. I’m hoping it will help with my fiction writing. Can I ask, do you use the Home or Pro version? Are you using the Mac version or the one for PC?

  10. I started using dictate in Scrivener and am having these issues:

    1. The first word in and open quote won’t automatically capitalize.
    2. Dictate doesn’t pick up my contractions (eg: “It’d”
    3. I don’t know how to set up specific spelling commands or capitalization commands for names. (eg: spell Katherine instead of Catherine, or capitalize a character’s nick name)

    I can’t find any information to help on the web. If someone would kindly help me out, I’d really appreciate it!

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