If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com

Our October Author Interviews--10/4 Wendy Tyson, 10/11 Marilyn Levinson, 10/18 Earl Javorski, 10/25 Linda Lovely. Please join us in welcoming these authors to WWK.


October Saturday Guest Bloggers: 10/7 Mark Bacon, 10/14 Elaine Orr, 10/21 WWK's Margaret S. Hamilton, 10/28 Kait Carson, and E. B. Davis 10/31 to fill out our fifth Tuesday.


WWK’s Carla Damron was one of three finalist for her novel, The Stone Necklace. Go to Carladamron.com for more information. Congratulations, Carla! Look for Carla's blog this month to find out the winner.

Congratulations to our writers for the following publications:

Warren Bull's new Lincoln mystery, Abraham Lincoln In Court & Campaign has been released. Look for the Kindle version on February 3.

Shari Randall's "Pets" will be included in Chesapeake Crimes: Fur, Feathers, and Felonies anthology, which will be published in 2018. In the same anthology "Rasputin," KM Rockwood's short story, will also be published. Her short story "Goldie" will be published in the Busted anthology, which will be released by Level Best Books on April 25th.

In addition, our prolific KM will have the following shorts published as well: "Sight Unseen" in Fish Out of Water, Guppie (SinC) anthology, just released, and "Making Tracks" in Passport to Murder, Bouchercon anthology, October 2017.

Margaret S. Hamilton's short story, "Baby Killer" will appear in the 2017 solar eclipse anthology Day of the Dark to be published this summer prior to the eclipse in August.

James M. Jackson's 4th book in the Seamus McCree series, Doubtful Relations, is now available. His novella "Low Tide at Tybee" appears February 7 as part of Lowcountry Crimes: Four Novellas, which is available for order.
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Saturday, March 30, 2013

Persevering with the Dragon

Today's Salad Bowl Saturday blog by Sara Hoskinson Frommer was first published in 2012 on www.getitwriteblog.wordpress.com, the Perseverance Press authors’ blog. Since that time Sara has continued to use the Dragon voice recognition software she describes and now uses it full-time. I thought this was an interesting subject for all of our readers.

~ Jim

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Many years ago I heard Madeleine L’Engle say to a group of writers that the fingers are the only part of the body besides the brain with gray matter. That may not make sense to some people, but to me, a touch typist since my early teens, it made very good sense. When I’m writing I don’t think “I will spell ‘dog,’” but I just think “dog,” and my fingers know to type dog. The words come out of my fingers automatically. That’s not to say I don’t make mistakes — typos are part of every writer’s life.

Why, you’re asking yourself, am I even telling you this? It’s because I’m trying something new. For the first time in my life, I’m trying dictation. My fingers are having trouble. I figure before they quit working altogether, I’m going to need to know another way to write. And I dearly hope to be able to do it as automatically as I now write with my fingers.

So I’m learning Dragon NaturallySpeaking. In fact, I’m using it to write this blog. Dragon is a program that recognizes my voice and types into my computer what I say. It types exactly what I say. That’s not to say that it always gets what I mean. Dragon makes typos to. As you can see, it couldn’t tell the difference between to and too. For this blog, I didn’t correct that mistake. I wanted to show it to you instead. But most of the time I’ve had to learn commands that will let me fix things that are wrong, whether the mistakes are mine or Dragon’s.

Of course, many of the changes I make are not to correct mistakes. When I’m writing, I’m constantly revising. As far as I’m concerned, revision is at the heart of good writing. Many years ago, if I wasn’t typing, I used to write on a yellow lined tablet. I quickly learned to write on every third line, if you can believe that, to make space for all the changes that I knew would come. Computers make revising much easier. But this is a whole new way to use a computer.

People told me that there was a steep learning curve to using this kind of software, and I believed it. But already, after a few weeks, I’m doing better, and so is Dragon. More and more often, it recognizes the words I’m actually saying. The hard part so far is learning how to make corrections and other changes. I almost have to sit on my fingers to keep from fixing things with them instead of practicing with Dragon.

None of that is what I worried about at first. What worried me was whether I could stand to hear my voice when I’m writing. Writing for me has always been a private activity. Oh, I can write some kinds of things in a crowded room with people kibitzing. Right now, though, I feel hesitant even to write this blog with my husband listening from the next room. Or maybe not listening, but he could if he wanted to. I’m not sure I can write fiction that way. If I’m typing a story, I don’t like someone to stand behind me. Dictating feels like that, only more so.

I’m basically shy when I’m writing. I do a huge amount of editing before I submit anything. What I usually type in the first place is very drafty. When I’m feeling drafty, I cover up. So I hide all by myself and write in private, not letting even myself hear what I’m saying.

It isn’t the same listening to me talk as it is to listen to my characters talk. I still haven’t quite figured out why, aside from the obvious fact that I can’t begin to sound like Fred Lundquist or any other man. When I read a book, whether it’s a book I wrote or a book someone else wrote, I hear the people talking inside my head, and they don’t sound like me. This is the part about dictating fiction that terrifies me. So far, just struggling with the mechanics, I can’t answer that big question.

I’m still fussing with some things. For instance, if my characters speak colloquially, I want to spell the words the way they say them. I don’t want to write “You going out?” if my character would say “You goin’ out?” I fought with the program for several days before I found out how to put an apostrophe at the end of a word. And you know, I don’t remember how I did it. But now if I pronounce going without the G, the program still spells it going, but I have the option in the correction place to spell it goin’. I think I had to put that into the program myself, and I’ll probably have to do the same thing with other such words. At least it’s possible.

One of the inconveniences to using Dragon is that you need to be in a fairly quiet room. For me that means that I can't listen to classical music or jazz while I'm writing. If I turn the volume way down I can sometimes get away with it. But if someone else is speaking, those words may end up in what I'm writing. It's not that I mind being alone when I'm writing – I rather like that. Any minute now, though, I'm going to be interrupted by someone who likes to talk while she works in my room. Either I'll have to quit writing or tell her to quit talking. That can be awkward.

Still, voice recognition software can be kind of fun. The other day two young friends were visiting, and one of them knew I was trying it. “Do you have that new program set up yet?” she asked.

I told her I did, and she was eager to try it out. So we all traipsed into my room, and the children took turns wearing the headset and talking into the microphone. There was considerable hilarity when they read what Dragon thought they were saying. Of course, by that time I had trained the program to recognize my speech pretty well. You first do that by reading selected texts into the microphone, so that Dragon can hear you pronounce what it already knows. But the program had no idea how these girls pronounced things. The resulting gobbledygook cracked them up. They were talking into my computer, but when I read today what the computer had stored, I couldn’t remember what they’d said in the first place.

What I do remember is that when I laughed, Dragon typed it it it it it.

Another time I accompanied my sister to the foot doctor. Just making conversation while he trimmed her toenails, we got to talking about writing. And so I mentioned that I was using voice recognition software. To my surprise, the foot doctor said he was, too. In fact, he was using Dragon to dictate case notes. He told me he thought he and his partner had taught Dragon all kinds of new words. I figured he meant technical words, medical words about feet, but no, he said, he meant the words they used when Dragon got their dictation wrong.

Oh. Somehow I think Dragon already knows those words.
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Sara Hoskinson Frommer, a veteran of the Bloomington Symphony Orchestra’s viola section and author of Murder in C Major, Buried in Quilts, Murder & Sullivan, The Vanishing Violinist, Witness in Bishop Hill, and Death Climbs a Tree, lives with her husband in Bloomington, Indiana. They have two adult sons. Visit Sara at www.sff.net/people/SaraHoskinsonFrommer

Sara’s first six books are being released in all e-book formats. Her seventh Joan Spencer mystery, Her Brother’s Keeper, will be published in April 2013 by Perseverance Press http://www.danielpublishing.com/bro/frommer.html

7 comments:

James Montgomery Jackson said...

I find the whole process of a computer program learning an individual's voice sufficiently well to get almost all of the words correctly is fascinating.

It's great for people with carpal tunnel, arthritis or anything else that interferes with keyboard use.

Added benefit, it doesn't make the transposition errors that I notice crop up more frequently in my typing.

Thanks for sharing this with us.

~ Jim

Gloria Alden said...

I'm not ready for this now, but it's nice to know it's there if I ever need it. Thanks for sharing this, Sara. As for fingers being a part of the brain - I write first draft in long hand and then transpose it to computer - I often start something with only a vague idea of where I'm going with it then somehow the brain or fingers take over and I write something I hadn't thought of in the first place.

Kath Marsh said...

Thank you for this. I've been curious about Dragon Speak. And I have many of the same 'problems' you do with using a dictation program. But thank you. Now I can consider it with a lot better understanding.

Sara Hoskinson Frommer said...


Thanks, Jim, Gloria, and Kathy.

When I wrote that blog last year, I had just barely learned to use Dragon. Six weeks ago I had surgery on my left hand, which put it in a cast for the first month, and it's still not back to full typing. Dragon absolutely safe my life during these weeks.

Jim thinks it can't make typos – but if you look at safe my life up there, you will see the kind of typos I now am living with. I do know how to correct them, but of course that works only if I notice them in the first place. When I don't, some of the results are comical.

The good news is that I'm becoming very comfortable with the process of talking when I write – the very thing that worried me the most. I do now fuss at people if they don't knock on the door before they walk into my room.

Sara

Sara Hoskinson Frommer said...

Dear writers,

Off and on today, I've been trying to leave a response to your comments. I stumbled through the process of leaving my name and all those other hoops you have to jump through – all made more complicated by doing it with Dragon, which I'm still using after surgery on my hand six weeks ago. Good thing I learned it last spring!


At first I kept getting the message that I wasn't really the person I am, and then finally I got a message that said it was going to post my comment, but it would take time. That was a couple of hours ago.

I'll keep trying, because I think the fun of a blog is the back-and-forth between blogger and people who read the thing.

Meanwhile, I can tell you that I've learned how to enjoy music while writing with Dragon, and I'm no longer quite so self-conscious about being overheard. Big whew.

Now let's see if I could make this show up.

Sara

James Montgomery Jackson said...

For whatever reason, Sara's comments to the blog aren't taking, so here is her last try:

Thanks, Jim, Gloria, and Kathy.

When I wrote that blog last year, I had just barely learned to use Dragon. Six weeks ago I had surgery on my left hand, which put it in a cast for the first month, and it's still not back to full typing. Dragon absolutely safe my life during these weeks.

Jim thinks it can't make typos – but if you look at safe my life up there, you will see the kind of typos I now am living with. I do know how to correct them, but of course that works only if I notice them in the first place. When I don't, some of the results are comical.

The good news is that I'm becoming very comfortable with the process of talking when I write – the very thing that worried me the most. I do now fuss at people if they don't knock on the door before they walk into my room.

Sara

James Montgomery Jackson said...

Well, actually, there's a later one as well:
Dear writers,

Off and on today, I've been trying to leave a response to your comments. I stumbled through the process of leaving my name and all those other hoops you have to jump through – all made more complicated by doing it with Dragon, which I'm still using after surgery on my hand six weeks ago. Good thing I learned it last spring!


At first I kept getting the message that I wasn't really the person I am, and then finally I got a message that said it was going to post my comment, but it would take time. That was a couple of hours ago.

I'll keep trying, because I think the fun of a blog is the back-and-forth between blogger and people who read the thing.

Meanwhile, I can tell you that I've learned how to enjoy music while writing with Dragon, and I'm no longer quite so self-conscious about being overheard. Big whew.

Now let's see if I could make this show up.

Sara