The Journal: If I Could Dictate

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* Topic: If I Could Dictate
* Today
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Note: I had this post all ready to go yesterday, but forgot to hit Publish, so here it is today. I’ll publish another one later today (as an experiment) to see whether both of them post at 5 p.m. this afternoon.

Quote of the Day

“I tend to fly and finish a lot of words… I don’t like to stop.” Diane Darcy, USA Today bestselling romance novelist

Topic: If I Could Dictate

Diane Darcy brought up an interesting question in a quote on yesterday’s Journal post. How can she dictate a novel but still finish it in one clean draft?

If you haven’t read her comment, I suggest you go read it now, then come back to this topic.

At least one other reader of this Journal uses dictation, and the question interested me, so I thought I’d respond to Diane in a topic.

I know a few other pro fiction writers who swear by dictation. They dictate into a separate voice recorder, then type-in the dictation (or flow it into their computer automatically). At least one has a typist type-in the words for him. I’m not sure of their process after that, whether they send it to someone else, go over it themselves, or what.

I’ve tried dictating into a voice recorder. Writing while I walk would be the best of two worlds to me, but I’ve never been able to pull it off. I think I “need” the sensation of typing as I write. That’s probably why I’m still writing on the same little laptop I used for my first novel. (grin)

As a side note, I think it was Erle Stanley Gardner, an old pulp writer (Perry Mason and much more), who wrote up to 10,000 words per day via dictation. I think his secretary typed it in for him.

Now to Diane’s comment—

First, maybe don’t mess with what’s working for you. I wouldn’t want anything to interrupt that flow. I too love to just keep writing, and sometimes I’ll write two or three sessions (scenes) without getting out of the chair. (Not good for health.) I try to remember to get up and move around about once an hour.

If you’re sending that draft to your publisher and letting a copyeditor fix problems, you’re effectively writing a 60,000 word novel in 40 hours. (grin) If not, maybe you could hire an English major from the local college to proof your draft for you.

I don’t know your schedule or whether you dictate to a voice recorder or directly to your computer. But if I could do what you do and wanted to finish in one clean draft, I think I’d try this:

1. When I was walking a lot, my short walk was 6 miles (so 2 hours), my medium was 9 miles (3 hours) and my long was 12 miles (4 hours). I alternated days, short, medium and long, and took one day off a week.

So say I carried a voice recorder and wrote via dictation during my walks. And say at the end of each walk, I’d transfer what I’d recorded into my computer so I wouldn’t have to type it in. (There are programs that will do that.)

2. I’d want to shift my walks to later in the day by an hour or two. (Adjust this as necessary. It doesn’t take nearly as long to read something as it does to write it in the first place. So if I was walking/dictating only 2 hours per day, I’d make my cycling session 1 hour. I’d leave just enough time to read for pleasure what I’d written.)

Then I’d develop a new habit. I’d use that hour or two to read (for pleasure, in creative subconscious mind) what I’d written the day before.

But as I read, I’d let my fingers rest on the keyboard, and I’d allow my characters to touch the manuscript as I read through, fixing typos, replacing words with better words, etc. That’s cycling.

3. Being “unstuck in time”—As I read, if I encounter something that doesn’t quite make sense (Aunt Mary pulls a revolver out of the pocket of her housecoat, but I don’t remember her putting it in her pocket in the first place), I would cycle back to earlier in the story and “plant” the revolver. Maybe write a sentence or two showing her taking the revolver from the drawer of her nightstand and putting it into her pocket.

4. The self-imposed time limit on reading would help keep the critical mind at bay. It would drive me to “just read” the manuscript and fix what pops out at me as a reader, not “edit” it. Then I’d send it to my publisher (if I were you) or to my first readers (since I’m me) and be done with it.

If you decide to try your own version of this, please let us know how it turns out.

And if anyone else has any input about dictation, please feel free to chime in.

Today at noon I finished the short story with a little over 2300 words. The ending came out much different than I thought it would, and the story morphed as it went.

I read this one over again, cycling, with the thought in mind that there was excess, things that didn’t fit. So I allowed myself to touch it.

And there was excess. After I finished it, I went back through and cut 500 words. (grin) If this ends up being a novel later, some of that will probably make it back in.

Today I also adjusted my goals a bit. Well, the rules for my goals. I made two mental adjustments:

First, my overall goal with short stories is to write one per week for at least the next 78 weeks (a year and a half). I’m sticking to that.

But if a short story idea occurs to me and I start more than one in a given week, that counts toward the overall goal. In other words I’m not holding myself strictly to the Sunday to Saturday timeframe. I just have to have a new short story finished by Saturday every week.

Second, when a short story wraps, of course it counts as a short story for that week. But if it also wants to be a novel (it happens sometimes), I’ll allow myself to bring it back in another month to count for the novel for that month.

My reasoning? It would be insane to set aside a short story that wants to be a novel until after my novel challenge is completely over. After all, the reason for the goals in the first place is to drive me to write, not to thwart me in that endeavor. (grin)

So same challenges, but with slightly adjusted rules.

I brought this up (and made these adjustments) because this morning as I started Chapter 3 of the current short story I realized it wants to be a novel. (That’s exciting to me because as far as I know it’s a brand new concept in SF.)

I might bring it back next month (or two or three months down the line) and I might not, but I want to leave myself the option.

Oh, I also renamed this story “Fifth Mind.” It was originally “Where the Music Goes to Die.” Now I’m going to get it out to my patrons and to my business partner for submission to pro markets.

I decided not to go back to the novel today. I’ll get back to it tomorrow. Taking off about an hour early today. (grin)

Talk with you again soon.

Of Interest

See “Yes I Can” at

See “2021… Oh, My….” at

See “First Page Critique (sort of): The Writer I Was” at Hmm. The excerpt really interested me. How many readers might have been entertained by her story had indie publishing been available and had she published it? Food for thought….

See “Dating apps need women…” at

See “2020: Zero year thoughts about the changes in book publishing” at

See “Your Hero’s Journey and Mine” at

The Numbers

Fiction words today…………………… 2370
Nonfiction words today…………… 1320 (Journal)

Writing of The Cazadores Lounge and Lonely Place (novel)

Day 1…… 3044 words. Total words to date…… 3044
Day 2…… 3189 words. Total words to date…… 6233
Day 3…… 2145 words. Total words to date…… 8378
Day 4…… 1301 words. Total words to date…… 9679
Day 5…… 3248 words. Total words to date…… 12927
Day 6…… 3180 words. Total words to date…… 16107
Day 7…… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Writing of “Fifth Mind” (short story)

Day 1…… 1343 words. Total words to date…… 1343
Day 2…… 2479 words. Total words to date…… 3822
Day 3…… 2370 words. Total words to date…… 6192 (done)

Total fiction words for the month……… 19255
Total fiction words for the year………… 19255
Total nonfiction words for the month… 8830
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 8830
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 28085

Calendar Year 2020 Novels to Date…………………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Novellas to Date……………… X
Calendar Year 2020 Short Stories to Date… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)…………………………………… 45
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 8
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)………………… 198
Short story collections……………………………………………… 31

4 thoughts on “The Journal: If I Could Dictate”

  1. Thanks for the great ideas. I guess I did need to hear ‘don’t mess with what’s working.’ It’s reassuring to get another opinion. I actually have tried sending to editors, but end up with so many ‘fix this’ comments that it stalls me out. I do have a writer friend that told me she hires a copywriter to fix what she calls a ‘dirty draft’ so it’s easier for her to go back over, but I’m actually holding out hope for a clean finished draft at the end.

    I dictate into my phone using the app Dragon Anywhere, and the writing transfers easily to my laptop. I do need an internet connection, but thanks to T-Mobile, I do have one, even if I’m walking around the neighborhood. (I actually pace the length of my house most days)

    That was a lot of walking you were doing! I do write and walk, clocking in about 5000+ steps per session depending. I’m going to take your advice and try cycling first thing in the morning. I’m also going to change my mindset to ‘just reading’ rather than editing. Thanks for your help. I’ll let you know how it works out.

    • Thanks, Diane, for letting us into your process a little and for agreeing to let us know how the new schedule works out for you. I’d love to help you get to the one-clean-draft stage. It is SO cool to know when you’re done, you’re just DONE. (grin)

      The trick for me in walking that far was doing it strictly to see new territory (and feel good physically). I’ve walked most of the desert part of Cochise County AZ at one point or another. I’d drive to some new place each day, then get out and walk away and back. Even put a sign in the window of my pickup: “Out walking. Back soon.” But if I’d looked at it as a “workout” I wouldn’t have done nearly as much. (grin)

  2. Lol! I love the sign!

    Cochise county. I’ve been there. Stark, beautiful countryside. My husband was working over the border in Nogales and we stayed at the Rio Rico. We went to see Tombstone afterward as we’re such fans of the movie. I was going to set a western romance there, but it ended up in Butte Montana for other reasons. That must be some great scenery for walking. I’ll have to try the ‘going to see stuff’ vs. exercise. Brilliant!

    • Yeah, the sign kept anyone from knowing how far away or close I might be and kept the sheriff’s deputies from thinking maybe my truck was abandones. It is really great scenery, especially if you love the desert. Often I walked washes. Really beautiful stuff that hardly anyone else ever gets to see.

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