Writing Tools

Motivrite 2: What makes a career author?

In the second episode of Motivrite I do a dive into what it takes to be a career writer. There’s no one path to making a writing career, but there are some skills and habits that will make it a lot easier for you to take your writing from hobby to career. I talk a little bit about what it takes, and how you can get there!

Show Notes

0:27 – What makes someone a practitioner of an art?

Is it the act of doing, or is it getting paid? Is it getting paid or is it getting paid enough to do full time? Which gatekeeper is right?

1:40 – What is a career writer?

Career writers are working towards or making enough money to do this as a full time job. What does it take to hit this goal?

2:50 – What makes a career writer?

I talk about some of the skills and habits that career writers all have in common.

  1. Be a reader
  2. Be able to write
  3. Be disciplined
  4. Have a desire to learn
  5. Have ambition that’s paired with a work ethic and a desire to make it
  6. Treat writing like a job if you want it to be your job

13:20 – It’s not as difficult as you might think!

If you’re listening to this podcast then you’re taking the first step towards achieving what you need to make writing your career.

 

Introducing Motivrite

I’ve been wanting to do a podcast about writing since I first went full time back in 2015. I’ve dabbled in it here and there, but a variety of things kept me from actually hitting the publish button. Until today.

That’s right! I’ve finally got the time to put together some podcasting, and after a year of spending time here and there putting together a home studio, Motivrite is finally ready to go! You can hit play up above to listen to episode 1, or have a look at the show notes below. Thanks for listening!

Show notes:

Episode 1 is a quick introduction to Motivrite that talks about what I see the podcast covering, including:

Business tips

The career indie author has to be a businessperson on top of being a writer these days, and Motivrite will help with that.

Advice for newbies and pros

There’ll be advice in Motivrite that will help people just getting started and people who have been doing this for a few years and are old hands at the business.

Health advice for writers

Writers aren’t slaving away in the word mines, but there are health pitfalls associated with this sedentary job. I’ll have health tips, tricks, and advice for the career author.

Inspiration

Everyone needs a little inspiration, and Motivrite will occasionally feature inspiring stories of authors who made it!

Productivity

Productivity is tough. Motivrite will help with tips and tricks I’ve learned doing this full time for four years that will hopefully help you out and help you avoid some of the mistakes I’ve made!

Writing tools

Sure writing can be done with a pencil and a notebook, but the modern indie author is going to have to be a lot more high tech than that. Motivrite will cover all sorts of nifty tools from the absolutely necessary to the stuff that’s nice to have but not a must have.

 

Dragon 13 discontinued, Dragon 15 discounted

Do you use Dragon Naturally Speaking? Specifically are you on Dragon 13? Well I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news for you.

The bad news is Dragon 13 is being discontinued. Nuance is no longer going to support it after 2018. It’s pining for the fjords, and at some future date a Windows Update is going to break functionality and Nuance isn’t going to fix it.

Now for the good news. If you own Dragon Naturally Speaking 13 Professional they’re offering Dragon 15 Professional at a steep discount of $99. Check the software notifications you probably ignore every time you open Dragon 13 and you’ll see a notification and a link to where you can get the discounted rate.

It’s only good through October 31, 2018, so be sure to act fast. This is a great deal on 15 and well worth the upgrade. Especially if you’re using it for a business purpose!

Get Book Report

Are you an indie author? Primarily publishing your stuff through Amazon? Are you interested in up to date reporting on what you’re earning?

You need Book Report.

What is it?

Book Report is a third party reporting software that takes all the sales and page read data Amazon gives you and puts it in a readable format going back for as long as you’ve been at the self-publishing game. It looks a little something like this:

As you can see it gives you a nice daily readout of what you’ve earned that is way better than what Amazon offers. It also gives a dollar amount based on sales and page reads. The good people at Book Report update the page read amount very month to reflect last month’s number, or you can go in and custom define the page read payout amount based on what you think Amazon is going to do.

What does it do?

I remember the bad old days of trying to figure out my numbers. This was in the 1.0 days of Kindle Unlimited when there was a fixed amount paid per borrow. Back in the Wild West of KDP when erotica and short serials reigned supreme and authors of longer works griped mightily.

Every month when the sales numbers came out I’d go through my spreadsheet and then type in the amount I got into Google so it could do the conversion from all the various currencies into USD. Which was, understandably, very annoying and inconvenient.

Book Report eliminates the need for any of that. It allows for a ridiculous level of customization in reports. If you want to know what you earned daily, weekly, monthly, annually, or going back to when you started writing that information is all there based on existing Amazon reports. There are a large number of customization options beyond date ranges including by book and pen name. Mostly I just use it for the current or previous month, but there are times when it’s useful to go back and learn at earnings over all time or for a particular month and pen name.

What does it cost?

The great thing about Book Report is it’s free! Or at least it’s probably going to be free if you’re just starting out. Anyone who makes less than $1000 a month gets to use it free of charge, and if you make more than that then you’re charged the very reasonable $19 a month. That’s up from $10 a month that it was until June of 2018. Either way, it’s a steal for the reporting information you get.

I remember the bad old days when you had to dig through spreadsheets and do currency conversions yourself. The small cost of Book Report compared to the annoyance of having to do that mental conversion and never being quite sure exactly what I was making in a month is well worth it. If you’re at all interested in becoming a working indie author then you need Book Report.

So what are you waiting for? Get Book Report!

Note: I’m not being paid by the good people at Book Report. I’ve merely been using it since some of the early builds and find it to be an invaluable tool that everyone should be using. This is all a personal recommendation based on how much I love this thing.

A year of Dragon Naturally Speaking

There are times when I feel like I’m not giving Dragon Naturally Speaking a fair shake. I see so many people out there who swear by it. Who think it’s the best thing since sliced bread.

My experience with the software has never backed up those glowing recommendations, but I figured maybe I should give it a try. So I was going to do a new feature. A year of Dragon Naturally Speaking. A year where I used the software and really dedicated myself to getting the most I could out of the software. See if it made a difference in my productivity.

So with that in mind I busted out my recorder over the weekend and dictated some stuff. I did it in four minute increments which I’ve discovered yields about 500 words when I transcribe the file. I plugged those in and got to trying to correct them.

The only problem? Nothing was working correctly. I started correcting one four minute file and everything was fine. Then I did a second file and started working, but the whole thing froze. Dragon refused to respond for a couple of minutes. Everything else in Windows worked fine, and clicking out of Parallels showed that my Mac was working just fine as well. It was only Dragon that had completely shit the bed.

Finally it came back up and ran through all the commands I’d given it while it was frozen and I was trying to get things to work. Which resulted in a mangled mess. Dragon told me it had encountered a problem and I needed to restart.

No fucking shit.

So I restarted Dragon. I tried using it again. Only this time after doing some transcription I ran into an issue where I couldn’t correct anything. A weird error manifested that I’ve seen a couple of times now. The upshot is that I’ll tell Dragon to select text, but it selects the wrong text. It’s as though where Dragon thinks the dictated text is and where it actually is in Dragonpad gets out of sync because it always selects a part of the text that is the same distanced away from what I’m trying to select.

Needless to say this renders any corrections completely useless.

I figure maybe the problem is that I’m trying to do all of this in Parallels on my Mac. Maybe there’s something about the virtual machine that isn’t playing nice with Dragon. So I dust off my old Surface Pro and try to get it working, only to be confronted with the same out of sync text/dictation error I was getting on the Mac in Parallels.

Huh.

Finally, in desperation, I trued running Dragon for Mac. It gamely loaded up and then promptly crashed and asked if I’d like to send in an error log.

The one bit of text that I managed to go through and edit/correct using Dragon took me about twenty minutes to get through on top of the four minutes I spent dictating it into a recorder in the first place. I could’ve typed that out in twelve minutes. The errors and troubleshooting I went through trying to get Dragon to work correctly on my Mac and Surface ended up wasting a whole morning.

Needless to say my “year of Dragon Naturally Speaking” has ended before it could really get started.

Calculating the time I would’ve lost using Dragon Naturally Speaking

Someone was asking about Dragon Naturally Speaking in an author group this evening and I was the dissenting voice urging caution. As part of that I sat down and figured out exactly how much extra time I would’ve spent writing if I’d used Dragon Naturally Speaking rather than typing a draft.

I wrote close to two million words in 2016 and again in 2017. Let’s just round it up for the sake of simplicity.

I’ve calculated that I add ten minutes of production time for every thousand words written using Dragon Naturally Speaking.

Take two million and divide it by one thousand to see how many thousand word increments I wrote. The math is easy and we get two thousand. Now take two thousand and multiply that by ten to get how much extra time would’ve been added by using Dragon instead of typing.

The result? Twenty thousand wasted minutes. Divide that by sixty and we get roughly three hundred thirty-three hours that would’ve been lost in a year. That’s almost fourteen days. Two weeks of time.

The ability to write fast, clean drafts is one of the superpowers that has allowed me to make it as an indie author. With a little simple math it’s easy to see that Dragon would’ve cost me a lot of that time rather than helping.

Dragon might work for you. All I ask is that you sit down and figure out how much time you’re actually saving by using it. You might be surprised at the answer you come up with.

Why I don’t use Dragon Naturally Speaking for writing

The way you hear people talking about Dragon Naturally Speaking in writing circles, you’d think it was a magic productivity bullet that lets people write tens of thousands of perfect words a day. Well I’m here today with a dissenting opinion.

My Dragon background

Let’s get something out of the way first. I’ve been using Dragon Naturally speaking for a long time. Like we’re talking my dad used the first versions of Dragon back in the late ’90s for dictation in his law practice. From those early days and on through college I worked with the program fixing transcriptions for extra money here and there. When I started self-publishing in 2014 I used Dragon as a productivity booster that allowed me to bang out rough drafts by dictating into a recorder on my commute.

The point is I’ve been using Dragon Naturally Speaking for a long time. Whenever I say a bad word about the program there are inevitably people who come along and tell me I’m not using it correctly or I’m not training it or blah blah blah. I’ve been using this program since the beginning, and I spent a good year training it when I first started making money from my writing.

And I’ll never use Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate something that will eventually land on someone’s ereader as a finished draft I’m selling.

Why not Dragon?

I have a few reasons. Some are particular to me. Some are things that every writer should think about before using Dragon to create a finished product.

Dragon will never be perfect, and you’ll never catch all the errors it introduces

This is the big one and this is the dealbreaker for me. Dragon is great and it’s always getting better. What you get today is so much better than what it was back in the good old days. It is impressive.

The problem is it still isn’t close to perfect. I spent a year working with Dragon and training it. I’d dictate on my drive to and from work and then I’d spend my lunch hour and evening hours after the wife and kid went to bed going through and painstakingly correcting all the errors Dragon made.

I’m not talking about things like homonyms either, though that was an annoyance. No, Dragon had an annoying habit of inserting random articles into the text. So I would say “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” and Dragon would give me “the a quick brown fox the jumps over the lazy a dog.” No matter how many times I corrected these errors, no matter how clearly I enunciated into my mono mic placed at a uniform distance from my mouth attached to a recorder with six stars of compatibility on their list, they cropped up.

Errors like that are a real bitch to ferret out on an editing pass. I have stories that I’ve gone over a couple of times, sent to alpha and beta readers, had an editing pass done, and I can still go back and look through them and find Dragon’s random words inserted here and there. Compare that to typing where I can bang out a clean draft on the first try and it’s a no-brainer to move away from Dragon for anything that’ll ever see the light of day on a paying fan’s ereader.

Are you really saving time?

I’m meticulous about tracking everything I do for work. I’m constantly looking to improve my process so that I can maximize the amount of work I get done when I’m writing. I’m usually juggling a couple of projects at once and writing thousands of words a day so a good workflow is a necessity for me.

So I tracked how long it took me to dictate something via Dragon versus how long it took to type something out. With Dragon I spent roughly eight minutes dictating for every thousand words put to the page. I dictate into a recorder because I find it’s better to get my thoughts out without worrying about going back and correcting them, and that going back and correcting adds about another ten minutes per thousand words.

So already we’re talking eighteen minutes spent to get a thousand words down on the page. Then there’s another editing pass eventually which takes roughly another ten minutes per thousand words. So I’m spending roughly a half hour for every finished thousand words of product before it gets sent off to readers.

For some people that might be fast. For me it’s not. I can bang out a thousand words on my keyboard in ten minutes, and I know it’s clean copy that doesn’t have any of the aforementioned Dragon-induced typos or homonym errors. Add on another ten minutes in an editing pass and it’s twenty minutes per finished thousand words. An extra ten minutes per finished thousand words might not seem like much, but if you’re doing this as a living day in and day out for years that starts to add up and hit you right in the productivity.

Of course I’ll be the first to admit I type ridiculously fast and I write very clean first drafts. That’s not going to be the case for everyone and there certainly are authors who would benefit from Dragon. If you’re a fast typist then you’re probably not one of those authors. Getting your butt in the chair and hitting the keys will be a far greater productivity boost than using Dragon.

Dragon for Mac is a terrible overpriced alternative

I switched to Mac a couple of years ago. Most everything in the creative-industrial complex seems designed for Mac first, plus I love Vellum, so it was a no brainer. I love my Mac and for the most part everything is better than the PC version.

With one exception: Dragon for Mac. It sucks. It’s overpriced at $300. It’s not even a shadow of the program that’s offered on PC for twice the price. I got it for $150 since I called Nuance and told them I’d purchased a previous version for PC and switched to Mac, and even then I feel like it was too expensive.

Here are a list of some of the frustrations, though it’s not a comprehensive list by far:

  1. Dragon for Mac won’t accept DS2 files from digital recorders, which is pretty much the standard for dictation.
  2. Dragon for Mac doesn’t have the ability to train a mobile voice profile so your recorder transcriptions are never going to get better.
  3. Dictating directly into the computer is slow and prone to errors. I have a top end MacBook Pro with plenty of RAM and a powerful processor. Nothing should be lagging on this machine, yet Dragon does.
  4. As of their most recent update (from 2017 to when I’m writing this in mid 2018) the transcription functionality is completely broken and the program crashes every time I try to transcribe something. Yes, I’ve done all the usual troubleshooting stuff including reinstalling. It doesn’t help.
  5. The correction learning process when you’re dictating directly into the machine isn’t nearly as robust as the version you get on PC.

Seriously. If you have a Mac and you want to use Dragon Naturally Speaking you’d be better off buying the latest PC version and investing in Parallels. It’d still be cheaper than buying the seriously hobbled Mac version.

What is Dragon good for?

After throwing all this shade on Dragon I feel like I should give it some props. I still use Dragon, but as I said up above it’s never used for anything that’s going to make it to someone’s ereader. No, I use Dragon for doing outlines.

Dragon is great for outlines. I can talk into my headset while I’m driving and squeeze a little productivity out of my drives instead of listening to podcasts. The stream of consciousness stuff I get from dictation is perfect for working out an outline. I try to dictate at least a couple of chapter outlines a day, sometimes more, and being able to do it via recorder is great.

The beauty of that is no one is ever going to see my outlines, so I don’t have to worry about errors being introduced to the draft. I don’t even bother to go in and correct them. Sure some garbled Dragon speak is output when I do the transcription, but why do I care if that text is never going to see the light of day?

The takeaway

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a wonderful program. If you suffer from a Repetitive Strain Injury or aren’t the world’s best typist and have no interest in learning it’s great. Although if you are in the writing business and not interested in improving your keyboarding skills you should seriously reevaluate that decision.

If you are a good typist, though? If you don’t have some extenuating circumstances like a long commute that makes Dragon worth the hassle? Stick with the keyboard. It’s not the productivity magic bullet some claim it to be, and you might end up wasting more time than you save if you keep spending time trying to make it work.

Dragon Naturally Speaking: PC or Mac?

Dragon Naturally Speaking is available for PC and Macs. Which version is better?

I realize that this article is going to be a moot point for a lot of people. You’re either a Mac person or a PC person, and you’re naturally going to gravitate towards the version of the software designed for your computer, right?

Not necessarily. It turns out when it comes to deciding between the PC and the Mac version of Dragon Naturally Speaking there are several different options available to you depending on what kind of performance you demand. This is also a subject that’s been on my mind a lot lately as I’ve been switching my writing workflow to 100% dictation and I try to figure out a decent way of getting text from my recorder to a word processor.

The problem is pretty simple. I made the switch to Mac about a year ago and I love it. This is coming from a lifelong PC user who grew up on the things. Seriously, my first PC was a monochrome 8086 IBM compatible that my dad spent thousands of 1980s dollars to buy. The only problem with that switch is I still like to use Dragon occasionally, and Dragon for Mac sucks.

Training Your Dragon

Training: This is by far the best reason to get Dragon for PC. If it gets a word wrong then you can correct it and Dragon learns from that correction. If it repeatedly gets a word wrong then you can train it on that word and the problem goes away.

Seriously. I can’t tell you how much of a lifesaver this feature is. I’ve taught my Dragon how to swear. I’ve had it learn specialized vocabulary for fantasy and science fiction stories I was working on. It’s a game changer, a productivity saver, and something that you absolutely need in my opinion.

Dragon for Mac? Not so much. You just can’t train it the same way you can the PC version. I’m not sure what’s going on under the hood that they weren’t able to include the central feature of every PC version of this program going back to its inception, but it was a really boneheaded move. Dragon for Mac is basically a nice way to get your words on screen, but you’ll constantly be correcting the same transcription errors and It. Gets. Old.

Transcription

Transcription is a mixed back between PC and Mac, but it’s a mixed bag that I think leans towards the Windows version even though there is a minor annoyance about the Windows version.

Transcription is how I use Dragon. I have a Philips recorder that I carry with me at all times so that I can utilize my downtime. If I’m on a drive then I’m dictating. If I’m in the parking lot waiting on my wife to do some shopping I can pull out the recorder and dictate. It’s a great tool for getting out a first draft and putting thoughts on the page, and because of that transcription is the thing I focus on the most when I’m setting up Dragon.

The nice thing about transcription in Dragon for Mac is that I can load up multiple files at once and tell Dragon to transcribe them, and then they’re transcribed in the background leaving me free to do other things. Compare this to the PC version of Dragon where you can transcribe multiple files at once by selecting them, sure, but the drawback is Dragon takes control of your PC while it’s doing the transcribing rather than doing that transcription in the background.

So it’s a game of tradeoffs. Dragon for Mac does the transcribing in the background, but remember that training I was talking about in my first point? Yeah, you really can’t do that with transcription. In Dragon for PC you create a separate input for your digital recorder under your existing profile and then you can train that input source as it makes mistakes and it will get better and learn how you talk.

Dragon for Mac? Not so much. It does transcription, sure, but it’s the same old problem where it’s going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again because you can’t train it so it never learns. The end result is you’re going to be spending a hell of a lot of time going back and fixing the same mistakes over and over again and believe you me that gets very old very fast.

So for transcription the tip of the hat goes to Dragon for PC.

Accuracy and the Little Things

Finally there’s accuracy to think of. How good are these programs out of the box?

I can remember a time in the late ’90s and early ’00s when you had to spend a lot of time training Dragon if you wanted anything approaching accuracy, and even then you still had to go over everything you wrote with an editor’s eye to make sure it was coming out correct. This was fine for my dad because he was a lawyer and lawyers employ secretaries to do dictation anyway. Dragon just made life easier for everyone involved.

But what about for an author who doesn’t have a secretary to go over everything? And that’s the rub of it. I’ve discovered that no matter what you do, no matter what version of Dragon comes out, there’s nothing that’s going to be one hundred percent accurate whether you’re talking about transcription or dictating to the computer. There’s always going to be little mistakes that creep in, and you’re always going to have to keep an eye out for those mistakes.

I’ve not done anything approaching a scientific study of this, but I have a general feel between using Dragon for PC and Dragon for Mac, and I’d say that for sitting down and dictating or for transcribing the accuracy is definitely better on the PC version out of the box. And since you can’t really do any training worth the name in Dragon for Mac it’s not like it’s going to get better, whereas in the PC version you can train and it’s going to do a better job of learning your unique style.

Dragon for Mac also has odd idiosyncrasies. The transcription sucks, as I mentioned, but it also capitalizes words randomly and inserts random spaces. There are a lot of little niggling details it gets wrong that adds up to a very frustrating experience for a piece of software that costs so much.

Which version of Dragon should you get?

This is simple. If you have a PC then you need to get Dragon for PC. If you have a Mac? You still want to get Dragon for PC.

Stay with me for a moment here, because this is the solution I ultimately came up with since Dragon for PC is the one piece of software that I found myself missing when I made the switch to Mac.

Dragon for Mac costs $300. That’s a steep pricetag for a piece of software that’s essentially a less functional version of its PC counterpart. This is one piece of software where you’re definitely paying the Mac tax.

But don’t forget about Parallels.

The wonderful thing about today’s Macs is they’re fully capable of running a modern Windows OS, and it’s never been easier to run a virtual machine like Parallels that allows you to run a Windows install within whatever version of MacOs you’re running. Which means you get all the benefits of the one or two Windows programs you need to run while also retaining all your Mac stuff.

The cost makes sense too. Dragon Premium 13 costs roughly $120. Parallels costs $80 to either buy outright or to get a one year SAAS subscription that includes updates. That means you’re only out $200 to get Dragon working on your Mac, which is still $100 cheaper than buying Dragon for Mac outright! You don’t even have to worry about Windows, because Microsoft is giving away Windows 10 right now. The only penalty for not paying for Windows 10 is you get some annoying text in the bottom right corner of your screen and you can’t personalize the background, but why would you want to do that when you’re doing most of your computing on your Mac?

There are two potential drawbacks to this approach:

  1. There is a learning curve to figuring out how to run Parallels on your Mac. I didn’t think it was a particularly steep learning curve, but it’s definitely there. Thankfully there are a number of tutorials out there that will get you up and running, and you can even do a 15 day free trial to see if it works for you.
  2. You have to have a computer that has some resources to it. You’re running two OSes at the same time including Dragon which can be resource intensive. I’m running a higher end MacBook Pro of recent vintage so I didn’t have any problem, but if you’re running older hardware you might have an issue. Then again if you’re running hardware old enough for this to be an issue then you’re also probably running hardware old enough that Dragon for Mac isn’t a terribly viable option either.

In a nutshell

So there you have it. Avoid Dragon for Mac. Get Dragon Premium 13 for PC. If you’re using a Mac then you need to either run Dragon for PC in Parallels or install Windows on your system using Bootcamp and use Dragon for PC if you’re serious about voice recognition as part of your writing workflow.

That’s it for this update. Up next: Why Dragon isn’t the magic productivity silver bullet some people make it out to be, and why it can still be damn useful.

Dragon Naturally Speaking for authors

Dragon Naturally Speaking is a wonderful productivity tool for authors. I’ve seen a lot of authors talking about it improving productivity and I also see a lot of people out there who have questions about the program. I’ve been using Dragon for years. Like, we’re talking since the first versions came out thanks to my dad being an early adopter in his law office.

I’m an indie author. I know a thing or two about Dragon. I’ve seen a lot of other indie authors with questions about Dragon. It seems like a space where I have some excellent overlapping expertise, so I’m writing a series of posts about how to leverage Dragon for your indie author career!

Dragon Naturally Speaking can revolutionize the way you write. You talk to your computer and, provided it’s a computer of a more recent vintage with at least an i5 processor and four gigs of RAM, what you say appears on the screen with some seriously impressive accuracy. Can’t type all that fast? Dealing with RSI? Read on!

Since this is the start of this series I’m going to lead with why Dragon Naturally Speaking is wonderful and will change the way you write:

Dragon allows you to write fast.

I’m a fast typist. I go at about 140WPM cruising speed on my mechanical keyboard and clock in at about 90WPM when I’m actually writing. That’s still nothing compared to how fast I can get down a first draft of a novel when I’m working with Dragon.

I’ve timed it out and for every three minutes and forty-five seconds I dictate into my recorder I get roughly 500 words. Your results are going to vary, but once you get used to the program you’ll probably see similar speeds, if not faster. Sure there’s a learning curve getting used to dictating into Dragon, but it’s not as steep as some people would have you believe.

Dragon is great for writing first drafts.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes sitting down and writing a first draft can feel like pulling teeth. I find that I don’t have that problem when I sit down with my recorder and start talking away. Before I know it minutes have passed and I have a few thousand words of first draft ready to be transcribed and edited.

I know a lot of writers have a problem putting their butt in the chair and getting out the first draft, and I’m a firm believer that dictating your first draft rather than sitting down to type it can be a lifesaver. Particularly if you’re not a very fast typist.

Dragon forces you to think about what you write.

The frustrating thing about working with Dragon Naturally Speaking is you have to go through and correct mistakes the software makes as it transcribes your words. The wonderful thing about working with Dragon Naturally Speaking is it forces you to go through and do a deep read of your first draft while you’re correcting the mistakes the software makes as it transcribes your words.

This is something I noticed when I was debating about whether I wanted to go with Dragon or just type out my drafts. I type fast enough that it’s actually slightly slower for me to “write” using Dragon Naturally Speaking. By the time I’ve corrected the text I’ve spent more time with Dragon than I’d spend writing a draft by typing.

But I still use Dragon. Mostly because it forces me to go through and revise that first draft and be mindful of what I’m putting on the page. Time spent correcting the errors that inevitably crop up in what Dragon puts out is also time spent on revision, and I feel like between the more natural voice I get dictating and being more mindful of what’s put on the page I get a better end product with Dragon because of that extra pass.

Dragon will make your writing voice feel more natural.

I just said this above, but it bears repeating. This is anecdotal, but all of my books that have been wildly successful, like we’re talking reaching the top 1000 in the Amazon store, have been books that I dictated. This is just a gut feeling I have and I don’t have hard data to back it up, but I feel like dictating makes for something that sounds more natural. Your mileage may vary on how your personal writing voice sounds when dictating, but I think using Dragon is a net positive in this department.

Dragon allows for easy writing on the go.

This is the real game changer with Dragon. Sure anyone can write by tapping out on their phone, but Dragon Naturally Speaking and a digital voice recorder truly allows you to write anywhere. It’s wonderful.

This is how I used Dragon when I was working a full time job. As soon as I started making money from my writing I thought back to watching my dad use the program in his law practice and I knew it was going to be the force multiplier that allowed me to really ramp up my writing productivity. I invested in a copy of Dragon Professional and a Sony Digital Voice Recorder and never looked back.

Being able to record on the go opened up my writing career. I had an hour commute in the morning and anywhere from an hour to an hour and a half in the evenings. That entire time I was able to dictate using a headset (gotta be responsible while doing this guys!). I gave up podcasts for that year. On my lunch hour and when I got home in the evening I would transcribe and edit. I’d dare say I was more productive in those focused days when I was working a day job than some weeks when I was doing writing full time.

Transcription will change the way you work. I guarantee it. And I’m going to tell you all about how to do it properly in this series!

Dragon helps with RSI

Repetitive strain injury. It’s the bane of anyone who works at a computer for any appreciable length of the day. Because I type so ridiculously fast it’s something that I battled constantly when I went full time as an author, but with Dragon the danger of RSI can be a thing of the past. Sure there can be a different set of issues with making sure you don’t strain your voice, but the worry there isn’t nearly as bad as the worry of injury to your fingers or wrists.

I’ve done a lot to combat RSI before it became a real problem, and by far the best thing that I ever did in that never ending war was use a voice recorder coupled with Dragon transcription rather than sitting down and typing everything out.

About me

You might be asking yourself who I am and what makes me worth listening to when it comes to all things Dragon. That’s easy. I’ve been working with Dragon since the first version came out in the late ’90s. I’d help around my dad’s law office growing up and a big part of that involved going through finished documents he recorded correcting mistakes and retraining Dragon. I’ve been working with the program for twenty years now.

I’ve also been using Dragon extensively in my writing business as I mentioned above in the “writing on the go” section. I credit Dragon Naturally Speaking with giving me the productivity boost I needed to create content at a level where I could go full time as a writer. I’ve been an independent author working in erotica and romance since 2014. I went full time in 2015 and I’ve been doing the full time writing gig under various pen names since February of that year. In that time I’ve reacquainted myself with the ins and outs of Dragon on both PC and Mac.

So you might say I know a few things about being a successful indie author and successfully leveraging Dragon for your indie publishing ventures. I’m excited to help the world use Dragon, and I hope you’re excited about getting started with this amazing productivity tool!

Stay tuned to my blog for the next post in this series that goes into all the various flavors of Dragon and how to decide which one is right for you!

Writing Tools: Scrivener Project Targets

Update 9/18/2017: A commenter pointed out that some of the features mentioned here aren’t available in the PC version of Scrivener. It’d been long enough since I used it that I didn’t realize. There is a stripped down version of Project Targets in the PC version, but there are parts of this post that will only apply to the Mac version. Unfortunately Literature & Latte doesn’t seem interested in introducing a full featured version of their software for PC users at this time.

I use Scrivener for all of my writing. Once upon a time I used Word because that’s what I had, but if you spend any time around writers you’re going to have someone recommend Scrivener to you. And at $45 it’s really a steal compared to Microsoft’s flagship word processor. It’s certainly less expensive than Wordperfect.

Assuming you’re old enough to remember what Wordperfect is.

The point is I use Scrivener a lot and I figured I’d share some tips and tricks that I use on the daily. This will be an occasional feature since it will only happen when I think of something useful.

Today’s subject? Project Targets. Easily one of the most useful little tools hidden in Scrivener.

Lots of programs will tell you a word count. The wonderful thing about Scrivener? It will give you a word count and also allow you to set a target goal for your manuscript. It then calculates how many words you need to write per day if you’re going to hit that goal and provides cool little progress bars that show both the progress on your novel as a whole and your progress on today’s word count.

Talk about useful!

To activate this feature you navigate to Project>Show Project Targets in Scrivener. There’s also a keyboard shortcut, but it’s different on Mac and PC and the tooltip is right there on the menu so I’ll leave it to you to figure out what it is in your particular OS.

Once you do that Scrivener pops up that helpful little window I mentioned that has the two bars showing progress towards your total goal and progress towards your daily goal. The only thing is it’s not going to work like that right out of the box. You could type 100,000 words and those bars would stay empty even as the word count climbs.

You have to play with them a little bit to get everything working properly.

First you need to set a word count. Under the top progress bar it says 0 of 0 words. Assuming this is a new project. If it’s an existing project you’re writing on there will be some different number in the first spot. Simply double click on the second 0 and input your estimate of how long you think the manuscript will be. Voila! Scrivener now shows you your progress towards your ultimate goal!

That’s not the best thing Project Targets will do for you though. No, you want to know what your daily goal is too. So click on the Options button to open up… your options. It’s pretty much what it says on the tin.

From here there are a couple of things you’ll want to adjust to get everything working correctly:

Click the checkbox next to Deadline and insert the date you want to be finished in the date box to the right.

Click the checkbox next to Automatically calculate from draft deadline and then select the days of the week you’re able to write.

Everything should be working as intended now and you don’t need to mess with any of the other settings. However those settings can mess with your progress bars depending on how you have your manuscript configured so I’m going to talk about them briefly and how they can screw up your total word count.

Count documents included in compile only is just what it says on the tin. When you click the compile button there are checkmarks next to the folders and chapters you want to include in that compile. If something isn’t checked it won’t be included.

This is important to keep in mind. I once had a novel that I thought was 10k words shorter than it actually was because I unchecked compiling a couple of chapters for some reason that’s lost to the sands of time. It was a pleasant surprise when I realized my mistake, and a boneheaded mistake I never made again.

There’s really no reason to uncheck this option since you only want to include stuff that’s going into your finished project.

Count text written anywhere in the project is best left unchecked. At least in my workflow. I have a lot of notes and different drafts of novels that I keep in various folders. If I checked this option then it would count those multiple drafts and suddenly I’m not getting an accurate count of what’s going into the final draft. Your workflow may vary depending on how you use Scrivener.

Allow negatives lets you go into a negative word count. So say you write 1000 words but then you go back and edit and remove 1200 words. You’d be at -200 for the day. I don’t use this option because when I’m writing I just write and don’t edit so there’s no point in tracking negatives. Again, your preference may vary depending on your workflow.

So there you have it. Project Targets in Scrivener! I’m always working on anywhere from 4-6 novels at any given time and I always write small chunks of each one daily. It harnesses my natural tendency to distraction and keeps me from getting bored writing one novel at a time. It’s indispensable knowing exactly how many words I need to write in each project on a daily basis to hit my target goal.

Even if you don’t use it that way I’m sure this will be useful if you’re a Scrivener user. Hope it helps!