A while ago, I heard about authors dictating their works, specifically Terry Pratchett, who I adore, as you may know, if you have been following my news entries so far.
Sir Terry used Dragon to dictate his books, after his Alzheimer had made it increasingly difficult for him to type. His brain became unable to discern certain letters, sometimes blocked out whole words, even though he could think clearly, plot and write books without a problem. It was just the technical process of hammering on keys to put words onto the page that didn\’t work, because the disease had hindered certain functions of his brain that were necessary to perform the task. As an author, that must have stung, but Pratchett was bigger than his Alzheimer. He accepted the challenge and found a way around it: Dictation.
Some ten years ago, I had a herniated disc, which led to me being at home, on painkillers, perma-high and bored. It also made me study Japanese, which later brought my wife and me together and ended in me moving here. As things stand, the spleen can\’t heal. Once it\’s damaged, that problem is permanent, and no amount of time can fix it. Quite the opposite actually, once your backbone takes damage, it all goes downhill from there. Anyway, as a result, I can\’t sit down for extended periods of time, which makes typing, hunched over a keyboard, an exquisite challenge, so when I heard about Pratchett and his dictation success, I was quite intrigued.
At that point, I was already deep in my NaNoWriMo project and doing \”sprints\” on (a chat tool called) Discord, where you can tell a bot to count down whatever amount of time you define, and record your word count. Turned out my typing speed was at around 20WPM, which is really slow. I think I could have made 30WPM, had I prepared myself better, and now I might be able to hit that speed regularly, but even 30WPM is very bad still. Compare that to the 150WPM an average speaker of English produces, which would be 9000 words per hour, if they talked without being interrupted (obviously not a realistic goal, but man!).
So I got Dragon, bought a book called \”The Writer\’s Guide To Training Your Dragon\” by Scott Baker. Reading that, I promptly also bought a microphone and a dictaphone from Amazon, then set it all up.
The start was encouraging: Using my webcam\’s microphone, Dragon ran at 95ish percent accuracy out of the box. With a new mike, surely that accuracy would go up, right? And with my dictaphone, I\’d not be chained to my PC anymore, I could dictate my book while walking my dogs (I have two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, they\’re my writing buddies). A week passed with mixed results, tempting me to abandon the whole project multiple times. Starting with the need to dictate punctuation, too (Deirdre frowned period Brilann\’s words hadn\’t convinced her at all period she turned her head comma looked him in the eyes comma and said open quote you\’re not telling me everything period what are you keeping secret from me question mark close quote new line), which felt odd the first day, but was, in the end, just a matter of getting used to, and is now as subconscious a process as hitting punctuation keys while typing, I suffered from technical problems. My recordings lagged behind or cut off or produced bad results, both at the PC and especially while using my dictataphone. I was on a downward trend and reached he famous \”all is lost\”, followed by my personal \”dark night of the soul\”.
Turned out, both the microphone and the dictaphone I had bought were rather bad, my trusty old Logitech webcam (the brand is called Logicool here in Japan btw, kinda lame) was still superior, and so was my smartphone as mobile recording device. I bought a small clip microphone, and now it all works like a charm.
All that being said, my point being, I am now well on my way to making my whelpling turn into a proper dragon, spread its wings and lift off the ground. My worst hurdles are behind me, and the rest is training, both the software and myself, even though I\’m already very happy with the results I\’ve seen so far.
Anyway, that\’s it for today. Next time, I\’ll talk a bit about the magic system I designed for the Aos Sidhe.