Today, I thought I might pull back the curtain a little bit, as some people have been curious about how the sausage is made, as it were. I may or may not have mentioned before (depending on which blog posts you’ve read) that I dictate my work. Because of how I write, I have a lot of freedom to choose where I write. And if there’s one thing we love and appreciate at the Freehold, it’s freedom.
How I write
You can get into the details on how I dictate, why I chose to dictate, and how I got started and learned (hint: it ain’t easy) by reading THIS POST. For now, it’s sufficient to say that when I’m ready to add new material to a book or story I’m working on I really need only two things: my digital recroder (I’ll put links in at the bottom if anyone is interested) and a clip-on mic. Once I’m done writing/speaking, I dump the files onto my computer and let Dragon Naturally Speaking transcrbie everything. Yes, you can actually train your Dragon and it’s defintely recommended. More details on that topic can be found HERE.
After the words are trasncribed by Dragon and shipped to the cloud (Dragon works infinitely better on PC and I literally use Macs and iPads for everything else I do so…yay, Dropbox!) I can pull them into Scrivener on my Mac (or the aforementioned iPad) and get to work.
Okay, but WHERE do you write?
Because the digital recorder isn’t tied to a computer unless it’s transferring data (after I’ve completed a writing session) I don’t have to sit in front of a computer or glowing screen and hammer away on a plastic keyboard with my finger tips. That’s so…20th century. I let the power of my voice — and I try to not mimic He-Man and raise my recorder yelling “I haaaaave the powerrrrr!” — do all the work. And it’s way faster. Like, three times as fast…and I’m a decently fast typist (hello…writer?). I can type about 90-95 words a minute, going all out, sweating, and cramping. I can dictate 100 words a minute, no sweat. And I can keep that up for hours.
For comparison, the best single hour of writing I’ve ever pulled off — when I was truly inspired, in the zone, and just burning up the keyboard — was about 2000 words in one hour that left me exhausted, mentally and physically. The best I’ve ever done while dictating was about 6,600 words in an hour. I average around 4-6,000 words an hour at a reasonable talking pace. I can dictate about three times as fast as I can type on my absolute best day.
That’s a big difference.
I have found that moveing stimulates my creativity like nothing else execpt maybe dreaming (more on *that* topic later). So I do some of my best dication while moving. In fact, I wrote about 95% of the second book in my Wildfire series, The Shift, while on the treadmill in the basement of our old house in Wisconsin. Yep, I went down there in shorts and a t-shirt in the middle of winter, cranked up the fireplace, jumped on the treadmill and started talking to myself while the cat watched me suspiciously.
I like a pace of about 3.5-4.5mph. I can maintain that pace for over an hour and not only produce about 6,000 words (roughly 3 of my average chapters) but get a great workout in as well. Talking for an hour straight is no joke to begin with, but if you maintain a steady clip while doing it…yeah, you’re gonna sweat and be out of breath when it’s over. At least I was!
I also enjoy dictating while going on walks, but in my neck of the woods, it’s just so much more convenient to head out to my office (in a sperate building on our property) and hop on the treadmill or exercise bike. We have a reclining exercise bike that I either use to dictate or play video games while exercising. It’s pretty great, but if you’re gaming, it’s hard to maintain a steady pace. I’ve done it on the treadmill before, too…but that’s even harder because one false step and you get kicked off. Ask me how I know.
In the summer months, I write almost exclusively on the treadmill. However, when school is in session, I shift to my mobile office.
And by mobile office, I mean my car
When we first moved down to Illinois from Wisconsin a few years back, I made a lot of trips back and forth to the new house, hauling kids toys, clothing, etc in the back of our old 2008 Ford Expedition. I loved that car. I knew I’d be gone for hours at a time (I had just enough time during the school day to drop the kids off, load up at the old house, drive to the new house, unload, and race back to pick the kiddos up after school) so I brought my dictation kit with me an dictated in the car.
I will warn you right now, this is not something to take lightly. A lot of people do this, and if you’re careful, you shouldn’t have a problem. After all, it’s no different than talking hands free in a car if you use a mic that’s clipped to your shirt. I have a few rules that I never break though:
I never dictate while the kids are in the car…it’s just common sense. I want 100% of my attention focused on the road when I’m hauling the littlest Richardsons around
I never dictate at night or in low light conditions…deer like to commit suicide far too often around us and when the light gets dim, they get stupid.
I never dictate on busy roads with lots of traffic and stop lights. Again, your attention is split too much when there’s lots of cars and stop signs and traffic lights. There’s just too much going on. The story will suffer and you might too, if you get in an accident
I only dictate on long stretches of open road…like highways where I can set the cruise control and just hang in the right lane and keep tabs on the other people going about the same speed…or on the inumberable back roads that are rarely traveled at the times of day when I’m out and about around my area of operation (once the kids are in school, the traffic just vanishes until rush hour in the evening)
That being said, on those long trips between states, I was racking up the words and cranking out the chapters. I did a lot of interstate driving.
I also discovered that just stiting in the car will activate the same ability. I discovered a great little park by a river nearby our house when we finally moved. There was an awesome view of the water and the wildflife, and I could drop the kids off at school, park, and sit there in nature (in my car) and dictate for hours.
This was a rather shaky attempt at a panoramic shot, one of my first with my old iPhone…but you can clearly see the expansive view…and one of the resident Canadian Cobra Chickens there on the right.
The view was inspiring and still makes me want to write, just looking at the pictures! I couldn’t go there in the hear of winter because the park service closed the park due to snow and ice….and whenever the river went into flood stage, the park was closed. It’s really low-lying and maybe a foot above the water. It doesn’t take much to flood the whole area, but when the weather’s good and the conditions are right, that’s where I love to go.
Writing…it’s not just for a desk anymore…
If I’m not in my office (used to be a seperate garage at the house we bought) where I can escape the kids and the house and just think, then I can also retreat to my bedroom. That’s right folks, I can clip the mic to my shirt and wander around in circles in my bedroom, talking to myself and the characters in my head. It’s the same thing as being on the treadmill, only I don’t even have to leave the house…which is awesome on days where I don’t feel well (dictation in bed is a poor substitute, but it works…sometimes I fall asleep though!) or it’s just nasty out.
Like today. With the wind chill, it’s -27º as I write this. Yeah, I’ll take a cup of tea up to the bedroom and dictate up there, thanks very much.
Thanks to the Pandemic, and being trapped in the house with my wife, three kids, and two dogs, I had to get creative about where and when I could write. So I had take the iPad and keyboard down to the basement at times, or on the sofa, or a few times, I simply sat out in the car in my garage (in the morning before it got too hot).
So there you have it…when you read my books, now you know it could have been writing while I was driving around, or walking on the treadmill, or staring at a river…maybe even laying on my back on the floor or in bed. But I probably didn’t sit at my desk and write it (I *did* sit at my desk and edit it, but that’s another story).
As always, we live in interesting times, my friends. Keep your heads down and your powder dry! Until next time…
Products mentioned in this post (may be affiliate links)
- Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 Premium (what I have)