Dragon Naturally Speaking will enable you to quickly and easily dictate to MS Word, your internet browser, your e-mail and a host of other writing and word processing programs.
Now, I’m going to be honest here: I’ve used Dragon consistently for the last couple of years BUT more for my copywriting business than my fiction.
However, I AM a genuine user and I want to offer a review to users looking to use it for fiction.
(Which many people do).
OK, so let’s get cracking.
Dictation software used to be terrible. Inconsistent, unreliable, unstable, and so forth…
It was basically unusable.
The difference between the software I tried to use back at university and the modern incarnation of Dragon Naturally Speaking today is crazy.
Here’s the problem:
Writing takes time. And in today’s mad world, there’s not a lot of time going spare.
Most of us writers have other commitments, whether it’s a day job, kids, a family, a spouse, a spouse and a side man/woman (naughty you), a side job, hobbies, friends and so on and so forth.
I purchased Dragon Naturally Speaking because I wanted to save time.
Editing takes me more time than writing a first draft. EVERYONE makes mistakes on a first draft.
Unfortunately, I often end up with deadlines that pretty much ONLY allow for a first draft. I don’t want disappointed clients or readers.
Dragon is the most effective way I know of creating a first draft that doesn’t need editing.
Nope, here’s why:
When you write, your hands are dictating directly from your brain: they’re taking your thoughts and putting them down on paper.
Trouble is, they don’t half get stuff wrong. You’re thinking one word, and they put down another. You’re thinking one spelling, they’re hammering out something different.
Here’s the key to Dragon’s success:
You don’t speak incorrectly!
Most writing tutors will tell you that you should read your writing out loud: do this, and you’ll discover where your writing is slow, or inconsistent, or jarring.
By using Dragon, you bypass the first draft entirely and do the ‘read out loud’ stage first.
From there, all you need to do is polish and you’re good to release your writing into the world.
Dragon Naturally Speaking: what you’ll actually get
Once you’ve purchased and installed, you’ll load up Dragon and register your chosen microphone. The software will then do some other boring install-y stuff.
(I won’t lie, I never pay attention to this!)
Once it’s installed, you can load up the software and you’ll see this toolbar at the top of your desktop.
When the mic picture is green, that means that Dragon is ready to dictate.
I use the software predominantly in Word itself, and dictation is VERY good. The speed at which I can ‘Write’ is nuts. On a good day, I can generate around 3,000 words an hour, which is way more than I can genuinely type.
(And I’m a quick writer!)
As long as I’m vigilant in watching what’s appearing on my word document, these words don’t NEED editing.
You can edit them, of course, but if you want perfect English written quickly and more accurately than any ‘typed’ first draft, Dragon is the way to achieve this.
What’re the catches?
I wouldn’t call them catches, but there are few things you need to bear in mind.
Here they are:
- You’ll need a good microphone. Because I’m a hobbyist musician, I already had a good couple of microphones in place. You don’t need to spend LOTS, but a bad gamer headset won’t get the job done. I’ve written pieces about the equipment I use here and here.
- You’ll need a quiet working space. Dragon Naturally Speaking is excellent precisely BECAUSE its tracking capabilities are excellent. The bad side of this is that if your kid runs in asking about dinner, his voice is going to be picked up too! You’ll need a quiet working environment: loud noises will interfere with the software. I was unable to use Dragon for two weeks because my neighbours were drilling a new bathroom next to my flat!
- You need to be disciplined in the early days. In the early days, you DO need to make sure you update the software and correct it when it goes wrong. This is a bit time consuming but Dragon learns VERY well: these days, it tracks me almost perfectly.
- Dictating takes time for YOU to learn! It might seem obvious, but dictating is a strange thing to do when you’re not used to it. For the first few weeks, I dictated slower than I could actually write, just because the link between my brain and my hands was far better trained than the one between my brain and my mouth! Once you’re used to it, though, you’ll be able to get thousands of words done each day with ease.
- The more complicated your uses, the more you’ll have to adjust. The more varying commands you want to use, the more complex training Dragon will be. I use it for straight writing, so it’s very easy to use. If you’re going to use it for opening programmes, surfing the web and flipping between different software, it’ll take more work to train. It WILL work – there are many happy reviewers out there – but you’ll have to be more patient. For fiction writers, though, you’ll be able to get going within an hour or two.
- It costs money, Now, Dragon is an upfront payment, but to me it’s worth it. Think of it in terms of time saved: sure, I might have spent a hundred on the software, but it’s saved me HUNDREDS of hours in writing time in the 18 months or so since I bought it. Even if I was only earning a pound an hour from the work – thankfully that’s not the case – I’d have made my money back.
If you’re a writer who wants to work fast, and get perfectly usable first drafts in hardly any time, Dragon Naturally Speaking is by far the best dictation software available on the market today.