Naturally Speaking…

Had a big day earlier this week, but on the advice of my lawyers won’t get into it.  Something about the difference between dismissal WITH prejudice vs WITHOUT prejudice.  Suffice to say at this point I won’t get three hots and a cot from the Great State of North Carolina.  And that’s all you can hope for; a good today.  Let tomorrow take care of itself.

But once again I have been reminded that to be a Serious Author, you gotta talk about writer things like editing, and authorship and grammar and all that sh1t.  Soon I will re-blog some published author’s work on this and add my own pithy, insightful comments.  This should fool at least some of you creepers into thinking that the work is being endorsed by me due to my deep knowledge and understanding of the Craft.

But in the meanwhile, lemme just say that one seriously awesome tool that any author ought to consider is Dragon Dictation, aka Dragon Naturally Speaking.  As I’ve alluded to before, I spend a fair amount of time in cars doing little interstate errands for people.  Pickups, deliveries, heading to airports, whatever.

That’s when I have time on my hands, and can get some writing done.  You may ask, “And how is that, Finnegan?  Don’t you need to keep both hands on the wheel?”  That’s where Dragon Naturally Speaking (DNS) comes in.  It’s this handy program you can load on your computer.  You set it up by reading a story into your computer, and you can just talk and it types for you.  It works well, even if you have a cigarette in your mouth or you’re slurring your words.

It also has apps that you can put on your mobile device, so you use it while you walk, drive, sit in your car in the dark outside your ex-wife’s house while violating a restraining order, or fish.  Wouldn’t recommend using it while sitting on the can at WaWa or sitting in a tree stand during hunting season.  It won’t solve every problem for you, but it goes a long way.

Right now, some of you are probably thinking, “Well, hell, Finnegan, EVERYONE knows about Dragon Naturally Speaking!  This article is just another lame attempt to attract people to your site through Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  Fuc7 off.”  To which I would reply, “Yeah?  Well, it got YOU here; and keep reading, because it gets better.  Hilarity ensues.”  And not only that, I’ve been stalking a bunch of writers here on the web, to see what they blog. People don’t use DNS, or at least they don’t admit to it.

They’re all talking about getting their lattes and sitting at Starbucks editing The Denouement, or they are typing away out on the back porch of the house that was a tobacco barn overlooking a lake that they renovated themselves after their divorce, about to go get some of the organic eggs from their heritage breed chickens to soft boil to perfection and drink with an Irish breakfast tea that can only be found in County Kilkarney on the Emerald Isle.  In other words, I DON’T THINK EVERYONE IS USING IT.  Otherwise, you would read blogs from poor ba$tards stuck out on the Grapevine in LA, hurriedly finishing up the amusing romantic misunderstanding while sucking exhaust fumes while their kid’s daycare center keeps calling them reminding them of the dollar-a-minute fee for late pickup.

So this article is probably a public service to all you schmucks and creepers who have just put the kids to bed and are trying to decide between making the chance meeting at a funeral or an airport, or just punting another day and watching reruns on Hulu while guiltily sneaking sips from that bottle of Carlo Rossi Paesano wine behind the box of saltines that your husband doesn’t know about.

But enough about you, back to me.  So I’ve been using DNS on these long drives.  Got it loaded on my smart phone for legit trips.  When I have to bring along a disposable flip phone and hide the silenced iPhone in the ceiling tiles of the bathroom of the Hideaway Lounge to maintain my alibi, it’s on my iPod.  Just talk into the motherfuc7er and get stuff sorted out.  Plot, characters, backstory, details.  I go through a Socratic fuc7ing dialogue with myself and work out the kinks in my stories.  And when I get back home, I hook up to the Wi-Fi, and import all that stuff to my computer.  Run the program, and out pops a faithful transcript of whatever was said.

But as you know, it’s always feast or famine at the Finnegan armed compound, and I tried to avoid investing the $100 or so in DNS for as long as I could.  But here’s why I gave it up.  It turns out that your average PC comes with a Microsoft product for voice recognition.  It’s on the Control Panel, under Ease of Access.  Now, neither I nor my lawyers would want to impugn the integrity or competency of the Microsoft Corporation (fine individuals, indeed!), but my experience was not positive.

It used to be, I had a little handheld tape recorder I’d talk into.  Use that, and spend hours trying to type it all out, like a court stenographer.  After trying to train the voice recognition, I set that puppy up next the headset on my computer, and an entire story was translated as “Home home home home home home…”  Ad infinitum.  But I’m an old man, and that might have been my fault.

So one day I try to truly train it, set up with my headset while my sick seven-year-old daughter slept off a fever dream on my couch.  It really has nothing to do with this story, but it is amazing how a father with 14 kids and custody of zero of them through bad morals ends up with a good chunk of them here throughout the week and damn near all of them every couple of weekends.  But she was off in a well-deserved rest and I decided to devote my time to the Great American Novel.

So I don’t remember all of the commands, but it wasn’t going well.  Half the time, the computer would type out the word “period”, when I wanted a period at the end of a sentence.  Or it would type out “come on” when I said “comma”.  I had made a small cocktail of cough syrup and brandy for myself, to ward off her plague, but it shouldn’t have affected my speech that much.  My liver’s too strong.   It was just one annoying mistake after another, punctuated by really colossal misunderstandings about “Queen Victoria” and “platypus fires”.  I was beginning to wax wroth.

But I do recall vividly that the command to stop the voice to text, was “Stop listening”.  After I said, “he paused, staring in disbelief”, and my computer types, “no cause come on stay with the beef”, I said in disgust, “Stop listening”, to shut it off.  My computer typed out, “she’s whistling”.  I said more clearly, “Stop.  Listening”.  The computer typed, “she’s glistening”.  I sat there, breathing through my nose in rage, and the computer typed “him”.  Not sure how whistling anger through your nose sounds like “Him.”  So I said again, “Stop listening!”, this time a little more sharply.  “Top Wimbledon”.  “Stop listening,” I yelled.  “Gob gelding”.  At that point, I lost it, “What the fuc7 is wrong with you?!??  STOP LISTENING!!!”  “Wad no flock witch Hugh drop listing”.  I jumped up in a wild rage and went into this tirade, unable to even think to use the mouse to click the pause button “STOP LISTENING STOP LISTENING STOP LISTENING STOP LISTENING YOU PIECE OF FUC7ING SH1T FUC7 YOU A$$HOLE JUST FUC7ING STOP LISTENING!!!!!”

As the computer typed out “Top top top top pizza flock sheet flock you dash hole justice top top”, my daughter came into the kitchen crying, “Daddy, I’m so sorry, I’m trying not to listen but you’re swearing and yelling and I’m scared and I just want to sleep.”

So I came to my senses, and used the mouse to shut off this little “Ease of Access” feature, and laughed as I cried and hugged her, apologizing and promising her ice cream if she’d go back to sleep.

Once I got her situated, another Children’s Tylenol tab and a half hour of Barney while sitting on my lap, I went back to my computer, bit the bullet, and got myself Dragon Naturally Speaking Premium.  Downloaded the apps to all my devices, and waited until she was gone to go through the reading of “Space Odyssey 3001” that was required, and was all set.

And I’ve never told DNS to “Stop listening”.  But I’m pretty d@mn sure that if I did, my computer would gently type out, “Stop listening”, without the slightest hint of irony.

Sincerely,

Finnegan

p.s. go for the Premium edition.  Much better for authors.

http://www.nuance.com/index.htm

http://www.amazon.com/Dragon-NaturallySpeaking-Premium-13-0-English/dp/B00LX4BYV6

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