Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Terrible Dictation

What follows is (mostly) raw dictation from my morning and afternoon commute. Consider yourself warned...

Today I’ll be attempting to write my blog via dictation. I have my tape recorder in my car, it is 6:29 a.m., I am currently driving to work, I am stuck in a red light, because that appears to be my fate in life. As per usual I can’t seem to catch a break in traffic, no surprise there, but it doesn’t matter, we are going to carry on!

The reason I am attempting to write this via dictation is that I spend about an hour commuting to work every day, so I have about two hours I could spend writing every day going to waste. There I am going to try the dictation system. This is a digital recorder from Olympus, makers of what I hope are very fine systems.

I decided to go with digital instead of tape in case by some chance I want to do a podcast later on in my career. Probably a pipe dream (especially judging by this audio quality), but if this works out who knows?

Note to self, midway through drive: Advantages of dictation I can drive while doing this without wrecking my car, always good to find out. This doesn’t seem too long so far, I can max out at about 40 minutes a drive, which is not too bad to listen to in the evening. I can hear myself on the dictation, with headphones it’ll probably be easier. I do need to speak up a little bit, but I don’t think there’s going to be any help for that. A better solution would probably be to move the tape recorder somewhere a little closer to my mouth.

The claim that I could hear the dictation was made based off of speech I recorded while stopped at a red light. While driving, engine noise killed most of that next six minutes of my recordings. Lesson learned: Hold the recorder close to your mouth, and stop every minute or so to mark your place, or suffer the terrible consequences.

And no, you’re not missing much of anything in those six minutes.

Finally, it’s pretty easy to pick this thing up and just make a quick random note anytime I want to which is excellent news because frankly that is exactly what I bought the damn thing for, and if it’ll work for at least a month I think it’ll pay for itself! (Metaphorically speaking: I don’t expect to make too much money off my writing until I get the damn novel out, and that looks a little less plausible every day... but we will persevere!)

Note to self: I’ve arrived at work only a little bit late, and I haven’t crashed my car, and I’ve recorded a fair amount of stuff to write about later this evening so I consider this a success. We’ll be trying a little bit more with actually writing some stories on my way home.

Note to self, starting back home: I am surprisingly nervous about diving back into this whole recording idea, especially when it comes to recording actual story. I guess there’s really no way to get over the whole “staring at the blank page” thing. Goal is going to be getting some of the Warhammer 40,000 fiction I’m working on and hopefully will be paid for at some point so I can get it into a workable state. I’m going to try and get some of the newer sections down on this recorder so I’ll have something to start with when I get home and get over that damn nervousness. So far it does not seem to be working. We will hope that situation improves.

Note to self: Try to keep track of what it is you’re babbling every couple of minutes, and remember to use the rewind feature to get past some of this crap.

Note: “Little kor’vesa” is a pretty good term to refer to gun drones. Try to find a place to use it.

This is going to be a hell of a lot rougher than I’m used to. Get ready.

Time flies when you’re recording stuff as you drive!

Had a pretty good run, but now traffic’s all jammed up on 50. Can’t say I’m surprised.

I think I’m falling in love with the sound of my own voice.

I have no idea how much of this I’ll actually be able to hear. A fair amount, actually, I was holding the mic close to my face this time around.

Note to self: Learn to press the stop button a little bit earlier than after you’ve been sitting there silently for a minute thinking of the next thing to say. If you need to think of the next thing to say, you can think of it while it’s not recording. Voice activation: Learn to use it.

There’s been some kind of damned accident on 50. There’s a helicopter in mid-air, expect this is a bad one.

I can stand to organize these recordings a little better... but I can’t be bothered.

Alright, taking it back a minute or two to when Boga was selecting a landing point...

Just realized that I’ve written a fair amount of this before, and I still have a draft to look over to make sure I’m not throwing out anything I want to keep.

Almost home, calling it a day for this recording session.

Final thoughts: Recording and dictating work, so far. The recorder seems to be really effective for getting stuff done while on the road. It is not necessarily the best means of revision, as I’m not really getting a hell of a lot done that I’d be proud to call finished cope without a second, third or even fourth draft. On the other hand, I’ve got a lot of new stuff to write so I might as well get it done.

I do seem to be able to get better details out of myself through speaking. I have to think about the way things look, how they sound, taste, smell, feel. I'm spewing out a lot of crap, but that's better than writing down just a little crap and having to spin new, good stuff out of nothing when revision time rolls around.

The actual dictation is less trouble than talking on a cell phone, so my driving hasn't suffered.

Overall I'm calling the first day a success. I got a lot of stuff down on tape, and we'll see how transcription works out.

Transcription took a little under an hour for everything above, which doesn't include any of the actual story I got down on tape, or anything that got lost in engine noise. I think the best way to proceed will be to do a few days or a week of recordings, then take the weekend to transcribe and tighten up whatever I come up with.

Sorry for the rough style. Trust me, the actual tapes were worse, although I got a kick out of hearing my frustrated past self venting into this little machine as some jerk cut him off, again...


Author's Log

I got at least fifteen minutes of workable recordings towards the Warhammer 40,000 story. Also, yesterday I drafted a 750 word short story for a contest that closes on Thursday. Today I made some tentative edits, and I'll be finishing it up for submission tomorrow.

Current Reading

One good political book that I think deserves its own post, which I'll be getting to soon.

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