Dictation For Authors: Writing A Novel By Speaking It

As a busy mom author, finding time at the computer to write is sometimes difficult. I discovered dictation when I had my third baby and didn't have free hands, but I had a story that I had to get out, and it changed my writing life. 

Here's a few tips and tricks for dictating a novel!

Assume that your output won't look like a novel.

Depending on the program you use, it may or may not have punctuation. It may not have any description. It might simply be dialogue. Whatever happens as you're dictating, you are creating words on the page, and it's always easier to edit words than it is to edit a blank page. 

Try thinking of dictation like creating a really long outline. 

My finished first drafts are usually around fifty thousand words. My finished dictation drafts? Around thirty thousand words, full of plot holes and missing punctuation, and very, very rough.

But my time at the computer is cut almost in half for editing those words into second draft form, and that's a huge help!

Try different activities while dictating.

I do a lot of my dictating while I'm folding laundry or emptying the dishwasher, but everyone's preferred activity while dictating will be different. You may prefer dictating while out on a walk, or while driving, or 

Know that dictation is a skill that requires practice.

Just like you weren't instantly a great writer when you first started, you won't instantly be great at dictation. It is a skill that requires practice, and you will get better at it with every book! 

The Nitty-Gritty of Dictating

My Statistics

I am a data nerd, so I have some statistics here for you.

  • My average words-per-minute (WPM) while typing is 33.
  • My average WPM while dictating is 50-60. 
  • My average time to edit 1000 words of dictation is 20 minutes, or 50 wpm.
  • My dictated drafts, once edited on the computer, are 2nd draft quality.
  • So my computer time to get 2nd draft quality words is less than half the time of typing.

Since computer time is my holdup, for me, dictation is completely worth it.

If computer time isn't hard to come by for you, it may not be worth it for you. I would encourage you to track your output for a novel and see what you think! 

Tools I Use

I use the Otter.ai app for dictation on my phone. 

I then export the output, email it to myself, and copy that into my Google Doc. 

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