productivity

Daily Summary: 3/20/2020

I missed the update for 3/19, but honestly I didn’t get a whole lot done that day. Having the kiddos home because of the quarantine means there are days when I get a lot done, and days when there’s not much at all getting accomplished. Everyone’s gonna have to learn to be flexible in these trying times, but I count my blessings that I’m able to take care of the kiddos and still do my job!

So for 3/20/2020 I:

  1. Wrote and dictated 10225 first draft words.
  2. Revised 8085 words.
  3. Recorded one episode of a writing podcast I’m working on.
  4. Edited one chapter of the Spellcraft audiobook I’m working on.
  5. Recorded one chapter of the Spellcraft audiobook.
  6. Sent out advance copies of Spellcraft to interested people from my lesfic ARC list.

Not a bad day of productivity considering my work from home environment has drastically changed in the past week! I’ve learned to have my computer out on the kitchen island and ready to go so I can squeeze some work in when the kids are distracted, and I’ve worked with my wife so we can both balance our work from home time.

In other news: Spellcraft, linked above if you want to check it out, launched earlier this week and is doing very well for a book released with zero promo under a new pen name with no mailing list push!

2020 Goals: Branch into audio including podcasts and audio books

Time to talk about my first big goal for 2020! I’m getting into audio.

This is a big one that I’ve been working towards since 2017 when I started building an audio studio to do podcasting and audiobooks. I hit a bit of a snag when my daughter was born and I focused on being with her for her first year instead of doing audio, but now that things have settled down a bit at home I’m ready to do this.

My strategy for hitting audio is also part of my strategy for going wide. Audio is the fastest growing corner of the publishing market right now, and there are a lot of people listening to books and podcasts. These are my people. I’ve been an audiobook listener since the mid ’90s when the only way you could get audio was on tape. I haven’t listened to radio or music all that much since I got an iPod in the mid ’00s and discovered podcasts.

In addition there’s still a high barrier to entry for creating audiobooks, which means that there’s less competition in the market from indie authors. It can cost thousands of dollars to produce an audiobook, but if I’m able to do the recording and editing myself in my home studio then the only investment I have to make is time. It took hours spent learning Adobe Audition and audio engineering and the investment in creating the studio, but I’m hoping it’ll pay off dividends.

I’ve also wanted to start a podcast for years but never felt like I had anything to podcast about. That’s changed, though. I have ideas, and this is the plan:

Podcasting

Nonfiction Podcasting:

Motivrite: A podcast about what goes into being an indie author. I’ve learned a lot about the market over the years and would like to give back to the community by releasing a podcast with advice for authors. There are a lot of podcasts out there that focus on marketing a book and getting it to an audience, so I’m going to hit a different niche at first and talk about tips and tricks for getting the words down, and how to navigate life as a part time or full time indie.

Stretch goal – Indie Day Job: If I manage to complete all my other goals and I still have time then I’d also like to start a podcast where I talk to other indie creators about their day to day. I’m not sure if this will be happening because I already have a lot on my plate, but we’ll see. As the year goes on and some things succeed and others don’t I might have more time to launch this project.

Fiction Podcasting:

Avallanath: This is a story that’s been rattling around my head for the past decade about an author of very fat books, the fans who love to hate him, and what happens when his creations take matters into their own hands.

I started writing it while I was in grad school a decade back, and I released it as a webcomic at one point that got to be sort of popular with a few hundred people a day hitting the site daily. The problem is I’ve never been that good at drawing and I don’t feel like webcomics are a real growth area. So I plan on releasing it as an audio fiction podcast with a chapter or two a week.

Blake Byron: Paranormal Investigator: This is another story that’s been rattling around in my head for more than a decade, but I only sat down and actually wrote it in 2017. It’s the story of a former special forces soldier turned campus cop who wanted a nice quiet life. Then he came across the victim of a vampire attack, killed the vampire that killed her, and found himself in the crosshairs of the local vampires. I tried releasing this in 2017 and it didn’t meet with much success, but it’s a fun story that I enjoy and I feel like it could do well with a bit of a marketing push so I’m going to try it out in audio and see what happens.

GameLit: I have a couple of GameLit stories I’ve been working on since 2016ish when LitRPG first started taking off. The first one I plan on releasing in audio and as a wide book release is Dice Mage, which is going to be a complete rewrite of a book I released near the end of 2018 that had some moderate success, but I think it would do better being rereleased with the new longer outline I’ve worked out that tells more of a story.

Audiobooks

The plan is to release these novels wide on all ebook platforms once they’ve been finished, and then start releasing the audiobook episodes with one or two chapters being released per week to drum up interest. I’ll push people towards the finished ebooks at the end of every episode if they want to hear the whole story at once.

I also plan on releasing episodes early to backers on my Patreon which I plan on really hitting hard in 2019-2020. With a little luck I’ll be able to build an audience of readers and audiophiles who contribute for a chance to get episodes early while also adding another leg to my income table that isn’t Amazon and Kindle Unlimited.

When the books are finished in podcast form I’ll eventually release them wide as paid audiobooks as well. I won’t be going exclusive with Audible, but instead going wide with services like Findaway to diversify my income base.

Daily steps to achieve this goal

Having a lofty annual goal is all well and good, but it’s also important to think about the daily steps that’ll be necessary to make it happen. There are only so many hours in a day, and if I’m going to do everything I want to do in the 2019-2020 year then I’m going to have to focus and do it one day at a time.

The daily goal for this one is easy enough though. I’ll disappear into my home studio for a couple of hours every night after the kids are in bed and work on recording stuff. I’ll probably only do this Monday through Friday, taking weekends off to relax and have a little bit of fun.

Wrapping up

And that’s the audio plan for 2019-2020! I’m in the middle of production of episodes of Blake Byron and hope to start releasing that podcast in October to tie in with the horror vibe the book gives off. I’ve worked out outlines for nine episodes of Motivrite so far as well. I have about ten episodes of Avallanath written and will start recording that soon, and I’m currently working on finishing the updated version of Dice Mage and probably won’t begin recording that until November or December.

It’s a lot on my plate, but I really enjoy sitting in the booth and doing some recording. It gives me an opportunity to explore a new market, give another polish run on the manuscript, and flex my acting muscles which I haven’t had a chance to do in years. I’m looking forward to seeing where I’ll be in audio by next year!

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.

 

Progress update: 11/1/2018

November! The start of NaNo, which I won’t be participating in, but that’ll be in its own post. This is my daily progress update to keep me honest!

I didn’t get anything done yesterday. I went on a field trip with my kid which ate up most of the day, and when I got home I was so exhausted that I took a nap that lasted just long enough for me to feed the kids and go out for trick or treating.

Today was more productive from a writing standpoint! I wrote 13,223 words and revised 9,951.

On the podcast front it was also a productive day. I finished chapter 8 of Dice Mage and will be launching that in the next couple of days. I also changed the intro and outtro to a couple of episodes of a podcast about writing that I’ve been working on. I’d originally conceived of the podcast as daily, but if I’m also doing fiction podcasts that’s not possible so I’m changing the bumpers to reflect the new weekly schedule.

That should launch here pretty soon as well considering I have quite a few episodes in the bank.

All in all it was a productive day. Here’s hoping I continue the streak tomorrow!

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.