How I Use Dictation to Write My Books

Photo by Daniel Schludi on Unsplash

Let’s do this. 

Dictation, baby! 

I’m going to master it. I’ve been fiddling with dictation on and off … and my efforts have all tanked. 

This year…

Mark my words. 

I aim to succeed. 

Why dictation?

1. My wrists are begging for a break 

Between working on two novels, multiple blog posts, and my day job as a copywriter, I’m busier than a one legged man at an ass kicking contest. My occupational hazard: non-stop typing. Something’s gotta give. I have a minor case of carpal tunnel and I sure as hell don’t intend to type myself into a major case. How can I write without wrists! Your health is your #1 career. Do not take it for granted! 

2. 10X Output

I can speak faster than I can type. That’s a fact. There are stats supporting this, but I’m too lazy to pull up said stats. Suffice to say that I’ve doubled my word count quota while roaming around my apartment, lounging in bed, during my daily walks, etc… I’m in motion and no longer tethered to my desk. Win win. 

3. Master my perfectionism

I know your 1st drafts are not supposed to be perfect. That’s also a fact. I’ve known this fact for ten years and over the course of writing multiple novels.

Alas, like a dumb hamster who zaps herself repeatedly because she can’t learn an important lesson, I still struggle over a blank page and fiddle over every line, word, and paragraph. 

Sigh, no matter how much I tell myself that your first draft should be sloppy, I still labour over the perfect way to describe the sunset. Dictation eliminates all of that. Trust me, there’s no such thing as perfect transcription. My words are shit. Just… shit. And shit, my friends, is a good thing in my case. I need to give myself permission to create shit, then spin that shit into gold.

4. My speech could use some work

It’s not surprising that as a writer and introvert, I don’t have an opportunity to speak very much. My speech is awkward. I’m awkward. I use ‘Like’ like a Valley girl on steroids. Dictation will help me practice speaking so I can sound like an intelligent human being. Like totally. 

My Personal Dictation Method

After two years of trial and error, the following is the method that works best for me.

It’s easy and FREE. Emphasis on free.

Seasoned dictation veterans will say that Dragon Naturally Speaking is the best program out there, but Dragon is not free. It’s costly and buggy. Word around the Dragon Facebook group: Dragon no longer supports Mac updates.

So eff that. 

Here’s my work around

1. Dictate in your Notes app (iPhone)

I’ve found the voice recognition software in iOS is more accurate than in Google Docs, but that’s just me. The voice recognition is not foolproof. When I said “Lucy” it transcribes “Pelosi.” Do not break your flow by correcting. Continue to a new line. Move onward. Fix later. Also, if you have unique fantasy names in your novel, you will have mistakes. Just substitute “Aeique” for “John” during your dictation session and Find Replace later.

2. Share ‘Notes’ document to Google Keeps

Okay, this is personal preference. You can ‘Select All’ + Copy +Paste to the word processing document of your choice. For me, selecting text is a lot of thumb intensive work whereas Sharing is just a tap away.

3. From Google Keeps, send a copy to Google Docs

This function will create a brand new Google Docs document. 

Edit immediately

Do not wait a week to spruce up your text because you will forget what you meant to say. My first edit round is basic. I suppress the urge to beautify and finesse my sentences. My aim is to fix the text so it reads like basic English. I skip description, punctuation, tabs. This edit round is 100% slash and burn with the end goal of getting to the gist of your idea so you don’t come back to the text later and go “Huh?”


That’s my method. I think it’s easy, but if you have an easier (and free) dictation method, please let me know in the comments below. I would love to record my words in Voice Memo and find a program that could transcribe my MP4 file.

So far, I’ve whizzed through five chapters on two separate novels with dictation. The old me would still be stuck on Ch. 1, fiddling with the perfect first line.

90% of the words I dictate are still garbage, but it’s easier to polish garbage than a blank page. There are, as they say, diamonds in the ruff. 

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