Author Karen Vaughan Shares her Journey from the Keyboard to the Mic
An Interview with Dora Machado
Have you ever considered abandoning your keyboard and dictating your stories instead of typing?
Many of us have, but making the leap from the keyboard to the mic is no small change for a writer. Our creative processes are often intimately intertwined with our mechanics and changes to our setups can affect not only our productivity, but also our thinking processes. So I was intrigued when I heard that my writer friend, Karen Vaughan, was attempting the transition. "She's got guts," I said to myself. I wanted to learn more.
Karen Vaughan is the author of the humorous comedic mysteries Dead on Arrival, Dead Comic Standing and Daytona Dead. She's also the host of Writers Round Table, a popular internet radio show where she explores the ins and outs of the writing life. In her own words, she enjoys "helping her fellow writers to get their work done and put it out there." So today, Karen has graciously agreed to answer a few questions about her migration from the keyboard to the mic.
Hi Karen and welcome to MB4. Tell us your story: When and why did you decide to trade out the keyboard for dictation software?
I have been seriously thinking about dictation software for the last few years but put off purchasing it. I had heard from a friend whose son was using it to help with his school work. It was expensive at the time—over $300. I wanted something that would ease my hands as I get arthritic pain. That was the first reason I chose to go this route. The second reason was that I found that speaking as I wrote would improve my concentration on the project and allow me to work longer per session with twice the output. We finally purchased the software at the beginning of this year.
Which dictation software did you chose and why?
I had tried a few free programs, one of which had come with my laptop. I really didn’t like them. I went with DRAGON SPEAK NATURALLY BY NUANCE. It is more widely known and I found the home edition to be reasonably priced. ($75 USD-$90CAD)
Would you describe the transition as hard or easy?
I am still training the program to accept words I say regularly and find it to be accurate for the most part. I had no trouble downloading the software and was able to adapt from typing to speaking quite easily.
What are the advantages of dictating your novels instead of typing them?
I can give my hands a rest from typing. The productivity is also slightly higher in that I can get more done per writing session. I can concentrate on the writing and I am finding I have fewer issues with writers block once I get started.
I now make a point while dictating dialogue to include open and end quote marks as I go whereas before I did forget a lot of them and punctuation.
What are the disadvantages?
The software is limited as you should have only one user who’s dictating with the program. I could see some major confusion occurring if more than one user was dictating. Another thing I found was that you have to either turn the mic off or tell it to go to sleep between dictating sessions. If you don’t do this you may find the software will capture a regular conversation in your document. This will require a lot of editing. The good point of this is it does not know how to swear, so you have to teach it to cuss. I can just picture a certain writer I know taking the time to train it to capture the endless amounts of verbiage he uses in his writing.
I can picture quite a few of my writer friends doing that too. Oh, to be a fly on the wall. LOL. Are there any other disadvantages when you use the software?
If you have a cold and do not sound like yourself, it might not recognize your speech. You need to keep your voice lubricated as your vocal cords get tired easily. Either that or just write or dictate in shorter sessions. Otherwise, the process cuts down on productivity. My suggestion would be to dictate for a while and then type for a while or alternate days for each.
Training the software to learn your words takes time and is not for the impatient. It can be frustrating if there are days it just doesn’t want to listen to you (like a spouse, in-law or stubborn child). Those are the days I give it a time out and let my fingers do the walking. On those days, I also have to edit more myself and that takes time.
How has the change affected your creative process?
I am finding that my creative process has changed. I usually start each writing session by taking notes or just writing long hand to get me started. Then I can dictate from my notes and/or adlib as I go when a new idea comes to the surface. In short it keeps me focused, and I can go back and add things to other areas as I think of them instead of having to take notes and perhaps forgetting all together.
Would you recommend the change to your fellow writers?
Absolutely! If you hate the thought of long typing sessions and use a voice recorder to capture your thoughts and listen and then type, this will cut out a step in the process. Like I said before it has cut down on writers block for me in a big way. I would suggest shopping around for the software that best fits your needs for versatility and price. I talked to the staff at my local store for what they recommended and I just found that DRAGON NATURALLY SPEAKING met my needs for price and features and benefits.
Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us, Karen, and good writing to you.
About Karen Vaughan
Karen Vaughan lives in Peterborough, Ontario with her husband Jim and a cat named Sugar. She is the mom of a 24 year old daughter and four grown step children and a 4 year old grandson named Izak who could very well be smarter than a fifth grader. DEAD COMIC STANDING is her second novel. Her first novel DEAD ON ARRIVAL garnered praise from friends, family and online gamers. She also enjoys doing crafts and other hobbies. Her third book and sequel to DEAD ON ARRIVAL is called OVER HER DEAD BODY. DAYTONA DEAD is the third in that series and was released in May 2013. Other than writing Karen loves to read, do crafts and play online games. Currently she hosts an internet radio show called WRITERS ROUND TABLE. She has a quirky sense of humor and shows this in her mysteries and her side hobby of stand-up comedy.
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Fascinating, Karen! I often thought of doing this but I find my writing brain only works coming out of my fingers. Isn't that odd? It doesn't come through my mouth properly, lol. So glad you found this solution and that it works for you! Kudos!
Hi Karen! I like my Dragon Naturally Speaking as well. A friend of mine gave me hers, brand new, because she decided not to write anymore. That was a decision that made me sad, but I like the software. I have found that, although I've trained it, my Dragon doesn't always understand me -- kind of like my husband and kids, what can I say? I read through and find funny mistakes that I have to correct. I do like it, though. Some of my stories present themselves via paper and pen and dictating is much quicker than transcribing by hand! (By the way, I had to train it to cuss too.) ;)
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