How to Dictate a Book: A Comprehensive Guide for Authors

It's easier than you think to dictate a book with the help of software like Dragon Professional Individual. If you are an author who has been struggling with how to write your next bestseller, this is for you!

By dictating your book, you can produce a more polished manuscript that will be ready for publication sooner.

This article will walk through how to prepare before beginning dictation and how each stage differs when compared to typing by hand or using another word processor. It'll also discuss how the editing process is different when dictating as opposed to writing.

And by the way, this article was written via dictation.

In this article, you will learn:
  1. What dictation is
  2. Why you should dictate a book
  3. Excuses for not dictating
  4. How to dictate your book
  5. How to edit your work after dictating

What is Dictation?

Dictation is putting words on the page using your voice. It can be done with speech-to-text software like Dragon Professional Individual or other free tools that are not quite as accurate but still work well for blog posts, book chapters and other short text documents.

Dictation software makes writing easier because it frees you from your keyboard and allows you to focus on the story that's in your head.

Once you've written the first draft of your book or blog post using speech recognition, creating a more polished version is faster than ever before.

Why Choose to Dictate?

There are a number of reasons why you might choose to dictate instead of typing or writing by hand. I found that most authors begin using voice recognition for one of the following reasons:

1. Health Reasons

If you suffer from carpal tunnel, arthritis, or any other physical ailment that makes typing difficult for your hands and wrists, dictating is the solution.

Dictation also helps with repetitive stress injuries (RSI) because it reduces how much time you spend using a keyboard. This will allow the muscles in your arms, shoulders and hands to heal.

I haven't had any of these health concerns, but I know people that do, and earlier in my writing career I really set out to avoid them. I got ergonomic keyboards and tried to get up and stretch my limbs every half hour.

These things will help, of course, but I might've saved myself some time and money by just getting a dictation software earlier, and really doubling down on that strategy.

Regardless, if you suffer from any of these health concerns, speech recognition can make your life easier. You don't have to stop writing just because you got carpal tunnel.

2. Writing Speed

For some, writing speed is the most attractive aspect of dictating a book.

I think we all like the idea of churning out a book a month, a blog post a day, or any other ambitious writing goal. And when you truly try to research what is possible, dictation always comes up as a strong solution.

And guess what? Evidence does suggest that dictation does improve your speed. It does sometimes take some training, but so does anything else worth doing.

3. Lowered Barrier of Entry

One of the most attractive aspects that I found when I began dictating was that it lowered my barrier of entry.

Often I would sit down at my desk to write, and it would just feel like this enormous task. This made it harder to get into writing, because I knew that in a couple of hours my wrists would be sore, I would be tired, and at most I would have a couple thousand words.

With dictation I can just start talking which is a lot easier than typing. I don't even need to look at my computer most of the time. I can just stare out the window and open my mouth, so it is much easier to get started.

4. Decreased Critical Voice

I know for myself, when I type out a book, I'm constantly judging what I'm writing.

We all have that inner critic, the little voice that says we're no good, the source of our imposter syndrome.

While there is more to solving this problem than just dictating, I found that by dictating, that part of my mind goes dormant, and I’m largely able to get over writer's block. I spend less time looking at my words, and more time just thinking through the story, speaking my words out loud, and this prevents my brain from dwelling too long on the critical voice.

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Why People Don't Dictate

There are many excuses why people don't dictate their books. And let me first start off by saying that some of these may be legitimate for you. I can't tell you that dictation is the way to go for everyone, because that would simply not be true.

Nevertheless, I think many of these comments are true excuses, and if you pushed past them you would be surprised at the positive results. So let's take a look at a few of these:

Excuse #1: “I tried and it didn't work for me”

My first reaction to this excuse is, “did you really give it a try?”

There's a difference between trying for an hour or two, or trying for weeks. If you haven't yet tried to write a full book, troubleshooting your problems with much of the free and paid online training out there, then I don't think you really gave it a try.

It may be that dictation is not right for you, but you will really know until you truly give it a run for its money.

Excuse #2: “Saying the punctuation is so awkward”

Okay, so this is true. Saying punctuation out loud is awkward.

But you know what is also awkward. Typing. But we don't think too much about it because it's a skill that most of us learn in adolescence. By the time most of us get to adulthood, we're used to typing.

The same is true of speech recognition. I've actually found that it does not take long for the punctuation to come naturally as I speak.

Excuse #3: “I write fantasy with weird names, so dictation doesn't work”

This may be a legitimate obstacle, if you are using the wrong software. Thankfully software like Dragon Professional Individual is built to handle things like this. All you have to do is train it to recognize certain words, specifically how you speak them, and you should have little trouble in the future.

Excuse #4: “I write in public so dictation doesn't work well for me”

There's a good chance that if you are dictating in public, people will start to look at you weird. But these days, it's common to see someone talking on the phone using a Bluetooth device.

If I had to guess, I say most people just assume that you're talking to someone on the phone. It's certainly something that is less taboo than it used to be.

Excuse #5: “Dictation is too technical”

It's true, dictation is technical. But thankfully, most of that technicality is on the backend. Once you get set up and working, there is very little that you will need to do. All you need to do is speak, and the words will flow. Even advanced software like Dragon Professional Individual, only requires a minimal amount of technical knowledge.

As someone who loves dictation, I recommend that everyone at least give it a try. Give it a solid chance, and by that I mean write the equivalent of at least one book.

By the time you get to the end of that book, there is a good chance that you will be comfortable enough with dictation that you will not want to look back.

The Different Ways to Dictate

In this post, when I talk about dictation, I am usually talking about a voice to text program. But there are actually several ways of dictating a book. In this section we'll go over a few of those:

1. Voice to Text Software

The most common form of dictation is using a voice to text software. There are free versions and paid versions, and I recommend my post going over the top dictation software here.

If you're willing to pay, for most people I recommend Dragon Professional Individual, because it offers the most enhanced dictation, the most accurate engine, multiple languages, and will save you the most time in the editing process.

But if you’re looking for a free voice recognition software, you can find them with basic Windows/Mac operating systems, Microsoft Word, and Google Docs.

2. Record and Transcribe with Dragon

If you're using Dragon Professional Individual (this is not an available feature with Dragon Home), then you can record your voice typing separately as an audio file, then plug it into Dragon for transcription.

I recommend this method if you want to go out hiking, or want to dictate anywhere away from your computer.

3. Record and Transcribe with a Transcriptionist

The third method of dictation involves recording the audio file with a dedicated voice recorder, then sending it to someone who can transcribe it for you.

There are plenty of places where you can find a transcriptionist, but they will all cost money. My recommendation would be to find someone on Upwork or Fiverr, though I've heard good things about as an accurate transcription service.

The downside to any of these services is that it will cost money. The upside is that the accuracy is likely to be far higher, and you don't have to worry about saying punctuation out loud. If you have the money, this can be an attractive option. Authors like Kevin J. Anderson are among those who dictate in this way.

That said, prices can add up, and the price of Dragon Professional Individual would easily be cheaper than transcribing a couple of novels through a service.

How to Dictate a Book

Alright, now that I've got your attention, let's talk about how to actually dictate the book in four simple steps.

Step 1: Select Your Software

Your software is going to be your biggest friend. Choose the wrong software, and you will be editing for far longer than you should. Choose the right software, and not only will your transcription be cleaner, but it will get better over time as it learns from your voice.

As I mentioned above, I recommend Dragon Professional Individual for those who can afford it. But there are other options as well, and I recommend checking out my post on that.

Step 2: Select a Recording Device and/or Microphone

Your microphone or recording device can be just as important as your software. A bad microphone will lead to poor quality audio, which means that your transcription will probably not be as clean.

There are a multitude of microphone options available, and I recommend looking at this post for some of the best.

Part of your decision should be based on where you plan to dictate. If you plan to dictate at your computer, the microphone you need will be slightly different than if you plan to walk around the neighborhood. Keep this in consideration.

Step 3: “Train” Dragon Dictation

Other tools do this as well, but I'm going to use Dragon as my specific example.

The AI in Dragon digital is an adaptive AI. It learns from you as you go.

When you are just starting out with dictation, it's a good idea to spend some time specifically training your software. This means watching what it dictates, and instead of manually fixing any mistakes you see, use the software to select those mistakes and correct them.

Doing so will let the software know what you really meant, and it's less likely to make that same mistake in the future.

You also have the option of adding new vocabulary to Dragon. This is useful if you have unusual names or words. All you do is spell out the word you want to train, then say it into your microphone. Dragon will take care of the rest.

Step 4: Get Into a Habit and Don't Stop

The key to dictation is practice.

Just as typing was a little awkward when we first started learning how to do it, dictation also takes time to master.

But like typing or riding a bike, it soon becomes second nature, and the words just start to fly out of our mouths.

I started dictating not too long ago, and I can already see an improvement after having written approximately 20,000 words with the software. Not only have I improved in speed, but the software has improved in accuracy.

Just as you would cultivate any writing habit, schedule time for yourself to dictate, and make sure you meet that commitment.

Over time, you will be amazed with the results.

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The Editing Process

Lastly, let's talk about the editing process. Editing is often more essential after dictating, because a lot of grammatical mistakes and spelling errors usually make their way into your manuscript.

So what can you do to improve your editing process? Let's take a look at a few options:

1. Edit when Training Your Dragon

While I don't recommend editing as you go for most cases, it can be useful when you're just starting out using Dragon. The reason for this is that it will learn as you edit your mistakes.

However, this isn’t necessary all of the time, and perhaps you can limit it to just a few minutes of dictation every session for just the first few sessions.

The rest of the time, I recommend waiting to edit until after you've finished your writing.

2. Measure the Time it Takes to Edit

If you discover that dictation is causing too many errors, it might actually not be worth it for you (although you may also have a problem with your microphone or setup, so check that first).

A good way to measure this is to time yourself when editing. If the time that you save in writing is outweighed by the extra time you spend in editing, then you're still spending the same amount of time working on your novel.

With the right software program, this can be avoided, but it's good to check how long it takes to edit if you find yourself editing too much.

3. Expect Extra Editing

Don't let a little extra editing scare you. With dictation software, this is normal.

Don't give up, allow your software's AI to improve, and stick with it until you know for sure how much extra editing it gives you.

4. Use ProWritingAid or Transcriptionist to Help

If you have a hard time catching all of your mistakes, a good resource is ProWritingAid, which can greatly help you catch all of the errors.

If you find yourself making too many errors, or the amount of editing you do is too high, consider hiring a proofreader who is willing to forgive many mistakes, or hire a transcriptionist to do the transcription for you.

Both options will result in cleaner manuscripts.

The Bottom Line: Is Dictation Worth It?

I started dictating because I knew I was going to write this article. By the time I wrote this article I had written over a dozen other articles using dictation software.

I then became so excited to share this article with you, because dictation has really improved my writing process. And my experience with the software is still relatively small.

However, I know enough to recommend it to anyone who wants to increase their speed, word count, or want to increase the time they have in the day.

If you found dictation to work for you, I recommend sharing this article with a friend.


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