Dictation is one of those things that I have been wanting to do, but have been hesitant for many reasons. The first, and most important of these, is cost. Transcription is not free. Yet, the cost seems, to me, justifiable if I can get a first draft in hand.
A first draft is like an already built house. You can do a lot with an already built structure. Knock out a room? Sure. Paint the walls a different color? Go ahead. Make the kitchen a bedroom and the bathroom a gym? It’s your house. Which is what a first draft is, it’s yours. Having one is often all a writer needs to get their butt in gear. If you have a first draft you have a chance. Blank paper is worthless.
So even though I am a fast typist and good at organizing my thoughts dictation seems like a good way to really get the ideas down. Whether those words will build a good story are up to the editing process I employ more than what the first draft means. NEVER, EVER, show people your first draft of anything! At least give things a once over, or thrice over or whatever until you feel the ideas are at least polished and not the gravel of your imagination. Show people at least pebbles, smooth things out as best you can.
The trouble with dictation-as I started out saying in paragraph one-is cost. Someone or something has to transcribe what has been said. Software has come a long way in both price and performance, that I can not deny. The caveat is that software relies heavily on the internet, is a big expenditure initially and you have to be around a computer in order to do it. I don’t have a smart phone (what? You don’t have a sma—-are you serious? My father has a smart phone-why not?……), no I do not. So there is a chain which means I have to be at a compy.
Transcription services use people to type down what you say verbatim. I am sure they are not 100% accurate, that would be hard to believe, but they are still higher in accuracy than software (don’t argue, it will be true even for the next few years I think). They are a bit easier on the funds initially because they are pay as you go. They will use any audio format you can upload, which means you can use an IC recorder, a phone, a tape recorder and transfer to a file. Then they do the rest for money of course.
What about transcribing yourself? Good idea, but there is a time issue. I can talk longer and faster than I can type and let’s face it-paying someone saves time. I know: I have been transcribing a trip I took with my niece and nephew to Kyoto this summer, 7 hours of audio, and after weeks of transcribing I have only gotten an hour and change finished. I should probably do what people in the country side do-farm it out to others!
So that transcribing experience was not all negative. It showed me that audio has a lot of power and is useful. Also I have been reminded through the examples of others. Winston Churchill dictated everything he ever wrote. Dan Brown dictates his first drafts. In the Magnum PI first season Episode they portrayed Robin Masters, the fictional writer in whose estate Magnum lives, as dictating all of his stories. This reminded me of trying to do it again.
I’ve heard good things about the web sight iDictate and am looking at trying their services. They seem pretty competitive and are very helpful from what I have heard. I may have to bite the bullet, it’s better than leaving it in the chamber anyway. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
What do you think about dictation? Good, bad, tragic? Leave a comment, would love to hear from you.