writing for the people who can’t type

I’ve been pretty much unable to type any longer than about 20 minutes since April. Which makes writing kind of a hard job/hobby to have.

But I have found a way to write without typing. I don’t think I’ll ever be as prolific as I was, but desperate times yadda, yadda, yadda. for me, there are three basic input methods. They do however need about the same level of training that learning to type first did back in the day.

1. The tablet: Accept no substitute. those little pen and tablet things you can buy where the computer store sells mouses are no real substitute. You can’t see what you’re writing, which makes it very difficult. It’s also difficult to write in a straight line, you need handwriting recognition software (which technically is included in Vista) and it’s awkward to balance. My tablet, when I had it, was absolutely brilliant. It really captured the pen and ink feel that writing in a notebook has. the input panel recognizes everything from perfect penmanship to a chicken walking across the screen. It’s a bit slow, the most you could write in an hour with your head down and your pen flying is about 2300 words. If you were typing, you could do twice that. Tablets are usually smaller than the average laptop, and it’s very easy to set up in a coffee shop or in the library.

Cons: very expensive. It’s very hard to justify bringing yet another computer, but should your old laptop die or “die”, and if you have the means, I highly suggest picking one up, to quote Ferris Bueller.the tablet screen will get scratched to hell if you write a 50,000 word novel on it, and the screen is far less forgiving importable settings than any coil notebook will be. don’t scrimp on the extended warranty plan. I can almost guarantee that it will not last the full three years inside of warranty.

2. Voice recognition software: you can either buy a program like Dragon NaturallySpeaking or you can use the voice recognition software that comes with Vista. I like the paid for program because I think it can be trained a lot more the Vista version can. either way, prepared to used the first three months or so to religiously train the program to your own little quirks. As tempting as it is to just type the damn word especially when it misspells it six or seven times, the program has to be trained like a puppy who piddles on the carpet. Not only is the program expensive, a really good headset is also needed. And the program will make mistakes even once it has been trained and even with the best headset. You can justify it because it never spell words like extraterritoriality incorrectly, even if the occasional ‘an’ is spelled ‘and’.

But you also have to train your brain to think fiction out loud. Which is a lot harder than it looks on paper. You can always sneak words past your internal editor when you’re typing it, but speaking the words out loud makes the little voice in your head cringe, throw up his/her metaphorical hands and abandon you to your fate. which leads to

3. writing the story in a notebook and dictating it back into the computer or tablet using voice-recognition software: the most Luddite of all three methods. It does however have distinct advantages over the other two. The first is a coil notebook can go anywhere. It is impervious to drops, there is almost no cost involved if you leave it behind somewhere (besides the mental anguish of all the lost, obviously not backed up words) and it laughs in the face of spilled coffee or any other drink — as long as the ink doesn’t run.

It also lets you edit on the fly, something that creating perfectly looking text doesn’t often do. Reading something out loud, even if it’s just the headset, allows you to fix awkward phrasing you wouldn’t ordinarily have the chance to actually hear. I find that if I’m dictating back a scene that bores me after I have already written it, it lets me see there is something wrong with the scene. Read out loud catches wrong words, run-on sentences, and plot points you meant to go back and fix but haven’t gotten around to doing it. It sucks having to go back and work on bits you’ve already wrote when all you want to do continue on to the new bits, but it’s a lot easier to dictate the 5000 words into the computer than it is to transcribe them. I don’t know why.

This entire post has been dictated by Dragon speak, which might explain the odd weird phrasing. It was also dictated while fighting off the advances of an 18 pound tabby slug. So at times my attention was elsewhere. I do have to say, as a mark against the tablet the reason this post was dictated with dragon speech rather than written on a tablet is that my tablet is in the shop, again. Because Best Buy does things to livestock I’m not allowed to mention if I want to be published in North America. But let’s just say, goats are involved.


  1. Nothing to do with this post, but I am loving your books (ebooks) – all of them. Just finished “Raven,” and it’s in my favorites stash.

  2. Hey, it’s Karen from the cult of pain. Glad to hear things are going well for you, but not glad to hear you are still struggling with the physical act of writing…that said, I got the most interesting thing for xmas this year that might help you out if you got one…it’s a computerized pen that you write with, but then stores what you have written in it’s memory so you can load in onto your comp….lemme try to dig up the name….

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