As I've written about numerous times, voice recognition software can be a great way to give your hands a break. When you think of computer-related RSI and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, you might imagine programmers and web designers as the primary victims, but we writers pound away at the keyboard a lot too. While I'm a professional blogger for my day job, I write short stories in my spare time, and I've experimented with using voice recognition software for both.
Just for kicks, I thought I'd share some of my experiences in case there are any fiction writers out there thinking of giving voice recognition software a try (most of my experience is with Dragon Naturally Speaking, though I'm looking for a Mac program now, since I've made the switch from Windows).
First off, in case you're wondering, yes, Dragon works fine for stories. I will be the first to admit that it seems to be designed for business/medical/political applications, though, and it has the easiest time recognizing terms like "Chamber of Commerce," U.S. presidents, and wacky medications I barely know how to pronounce. Getting it to recognize the name of your studly fantasy heroes can be a bit more challenging. You can, however, teach the program to recognize new names and places, so even fantasy authors can take heart: Dragon can learn to spit out The Kingdom of Dash-nar-fur-dukpooh in the Land of Eergortha'mas if you need it to.
Part of the learning curve for voice recognition software is getting comfortable talking to your computer. Unless you grew up watching Star Trek and regularly chat it up with your mouse, you might feel a little awkward speaking your story to the monitor. Work stuff doesn't seem to be as strange. Maybe it's because you're not usually writing about intimate character moments or describing sword impaling on your business blog. If you have a lot of folks wandering around your house during your writing time, you may feel doubly weird (just trying explaining those sword impalements to your passing five year old). Still, you do tend to get used to it in the end.
While it does take a couple weeks to get into the swing of things, I think voice programs such as Dragon are worthwhile for the fiction writer as well as the business writer or professional blogger. Not only can voice recognition software give your hands a break, but it may even improve your productivity (most of us, with the exception of the finger-gifted, talk faster than we type). An added perk is that you can dictate to the computer while standing up, pacing about, or even lounging on the couch (wireless headset recommended for the mobile folks).
If you've been thinking of penning some stories with Dragon or another program, give it a shot. Hey, you can always sell the used copy on Ebay if it doesn't work out. :)
If there's anyone else out there using voice recognition software for writing, leave us a comment, and share your experiences!