A few months ago I talked to Kevin Anderson about his use of dictation to help him write. He’s well-known for this technique, and is rumored to plot whole novels out while he hikes the Rockies. I want to stay active, and had plans (yeah, right) to do a lot of walking in the afternoons, so I listened to him talk about what he tries to do and how he uses the process (including the act of translating it to the page).

Today I took a 20 minute jaunt as a break between two 90-minute writing blasts. And today I decided to try it out. I downloaded a voice recorder onto my phone, and as I walked today I created a rambling, 21 minute stream of consciousness about the issues I’m dealing with regarding this flaky episode 8 (which i thought I had finished (twice), but still misses for me somewhere in there.

What did I do?

I talked about the characters and why they were doing what they were doing. It was really interesting, because what I discovered is that, while the Story is there in my mind, a lot of the background that motivates the action is upstream from where the story I’ve written actually starts. I tell it in a lot of expository bits here and there. Hmmm. So when I got back I spent 30 minutes putting my thoughts down on a spreadsheet [FYI – Ron’s rule explicitly states that nothing worth doing isn’t made better by a spreadsheet], and when I did that I started thinking that perhaps what I need to do is back up and start the thing just a little earlier.

If I do that, I can cut those expository pieces that seem to suck life out of things, perhaps make it breathe a bit better. State’s evidence #2: Today, for the second time, I wrote a chunk of story that actually fits better in episode 7. So that’s where I’m at today.

I seriously, seriously, seriously will be spiking that happy dance when I can actually claim victory over this piece. WHICH.I.WILL.DO.


Very soon.

Anyway, this is really a blog entry about dictation, and the fact of the matter is that this 20 minutes (50 with the translation time added) was a really helpful process that resulted in me taking a totally different look at the plot than I had been taking while my butt has been applied to my chair. I’m not claiming to be Kevin Anderson, yet, but I expect I’ll be doing it again.

My only issue was a technical one, in that I need to figure out the right places to hold the phone because my voice spikes up and makes some pretty ugly noises–which makes translating it to some form of manuscript. Time for a bit of trial and error.

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