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How and why I’m becoming a dictator

My dictation strategy in 3 easy steps

I dictated this entire post today while walking in the park. It was revelatory. Until I tried to save the post—and lost it. Instead of losing my sh*t as well, I decided rather calmly to proceed home and figure out once and for all how to dictate. Because I’m not letting technology rule me. No way. I’m going to wrestle it into submission, despite a lifetime of evidence that I’m technically inept.

So how did I solve the mystery of dictation in 3 easy steps? Thanks for asking. With no further ado, here is the fascinating tale of my evolution from a pure typist to a budding dictator. And no, I don’t mean THAT kind of dictator.

How to become a dictator

First I must take you back to the beginning, to my infancy as a dictator. Being a rampant over-listener of author podcasts, I’ve heard countless writers extoll the virtues of dictating. I hemmed and hawed for years about joining them on this mysterious journey into talking instead of typing. About six months ago, I decided to throw my hat into the ring. But how to do it? Many authors use Dragon Anywhere and love it, but just as many seem to have tried it and hated it. Also, it’s expensive. So I hunted around for other dictation options.

I found the best advice on the Facebook 20 Books to 50K author group. Side note: if you are a budding indie author, you should really check out that group. I waited way to long to do so myself and found a goldmine of information and support for people like us. Anyhoo, I scrolled through the group’s discussions and files hunting for tips about dictation. I decided to follow advice to use DictatePro, an app for the iPhone. It cost $17.99. I downloaded it onto my iPhone 6s.

But does DictatePro really work for dictation?

My first trial run with DictatePro bombed because I attempted to do it in a moving vehicle while other people were talking and the radio was playing in the background. Lesson learned: No. Ambient. Noise. My second attempt was today during my bucolic walk in the park. As long as I was in a relatively quiet area, the app transcribed my words astonishingly well. It understood punctuation and line breaks. I didn’t have to do any major edits. The only slight annoyance was when my screen saver ruined everything by cutting off the voice recorder. My work-around: just randomly tap the screen with a finger to keep that from happening. Boom! Step 1, completed.

The dictation is working—now what?

Now for Step 2. I had to get whatever I dictated from the DictatePro app into the writerly haven known as Scrivener. I have used and loved Scrivener on my Mac for years. Because the iOS version is different than the Mac version, I had to pay $20 to download it onto my phone. It’s money well spent. Scrivener for Mac only cost me $45 one time several years ago, and it is hands-down my most valuable writing tool evah. Step 2, done.

But how do I keep it all safe and organized?

Perhaps most important of all was Step 3. I had to get my dictated Scrivener text file into a safe place far, far away from my phone. I scratched my head, looking up into the sky for inspiration. Of course! The cloud. Easy enough to do by installing yet another storage-sucking app on my phone. I already use Dropbox Pro and it was a snap to download the free app on my mobile. It did take me a while to figure out how to get it to sync with Scrivener. I followed the advice in this article to do it. And voilá—step 3 was in the bag!

Here’s a handy recap of my dictation strategy in 3 easy steps:

  1. Use Dictate Pro to dictate text.
  2. Copy and paste the text into the Scrivener app within Dropbox folder.
  3. Sync the dropbox folder with the Mac/Cloud via the Dropbox app.

Why did it take me so long to do this?

You might be wondering how the heck I got motivated to make this happen today of all days. A Monday, no less. On the tail-end of a migraine, I might add.

Well, let me explain. No, let me sum up. I am going on a research trip soon that requires me to travel light, plus I frankly don’t want to bring a laptop or tablet or anything that requires me to type and stare at a screen more than absolutely necessary. Yet I need to be able to take notes and do some drafting/outlining for my next book series during the trip. Hopefully my new dictation set-up will be just the ticket. Of course, if my phone goes missing on the journey, all bets are off. However, I do still know how to use a pen and paper, so in case of disaster I’ll just go to a store and buy the necessary materials to write the old-fashioned way.

My other reason for turning to dictation is simply that I want to get out of the house more. I work at home and I am lucky to have a quiet place to write. But I love being outside. I’m energized and inspired by the outdoors. And I need a lot of exercise to find balance in my life. Combining writing and walking ticks several boxes at once.  I know it’s a different way to write and it will take a while for my brain to get the hang of talking instead of typing. But now that I have a system in place for dictation, I’m excited to dive into this brave new world.

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