Writing a complete book by dictation

book dictation

If writing is your passion but simply do not have the time to sit down in front of your computer, or putting your thoughts and ideas to paper, then writing by dictation may be a great solution for you.

Writing by dictation is both a totally new and different experience for you. To help you get started, here are some tips and tools.

Select a digital voice recorder for writing a book

When you are considering getting a voice recorder, there are factors that you must take into account when selecting the right one for your needs.

Recording Quality – This is greatly influenced by the quality of your microphone. To have a clearer recording, get a higher bitrate.

Memory Capacity – You must have an idea of how long is the piece you want to record and store in your digital recorder. Make sure the memory capacity and storage space are adequate before starting your dictation.

Interface – A voice recorder interface should be easy to use and control. You can check out how to advance and comprehensive the controls are. Decide of you want a lot of features that come with more expensive models, or a simpler one to record conversations or just capture your ideas.

Operating System Compatibility – once you have made your recording, it is vital that you will be able to transfer them from your digital recorder to a computer. This is usually done using a USB connection. Although most recorders are designed to be will be compatible with both Windows and Apple software, it’s a good idea to double-check before you purchase.

Here are some brands of quality voice recorders

Olympus WS-852 Digital Voice Recorder – The Olympus WS-852 has a 4GB memory and records audio in MP3. This results in smaller file sizes. The WS-852 can store over 1000 hours, or an equivalent of 41 days of audio recordings.

It also has an Intelligent Auto Mode that automatically adjusts the microphone sensitivity to the volume of your voice. It has two different information modes. It has a simple mode that displays only the most pertinent information, which is helpful for anyone unaccustomed to the screen. It also has a normal mode that is suitable for advanced users who want more control over their recordings.

Sony ICD-UX533BLK Digital Voice Recorder – The Sony ICD-UX533BLK is an easy-to-use voice recorder with large buttons that are easy to read. It looks just like a remote controller, with a large menu button that lets you play your recordings and easily scroll through your menu.

The ICD-UX533BLK comes with 4 GB of stored memory that can record up to 1,073 hours of audio footage. It also has an expansion bay for a micoSD card to allow you to double or triple your recording time. This voice recorder is programmed to automatically adjust its sensitivity levels depending on your voice and on the environment. One special feature this voice recorder utilizes is stereo recording, providing richer and more detailed vocal recordings.

Using voice to text for writing books

Speech to text or voice dictation software is a speech transcription technology that can convert your spoken word to written text. It allows you to write books, emails, speeches and more just with your voice.

Try choosing from the following apps to help you.

Dictate using a book app

1. Voice Memo App – For Apple users, this app can record voice memos on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac. You can then edit and share your recording. Google Docs Voice Typing

2. Google Docs –When you speak, the tool listens to your voice and transcribes what you say into a Google Doc. The feature is intended for people who cannot easily type or who prefer to dictating notes. You can also use it to reduce the time it takes to transcribe an audio recording down to approximately the same time as the actual recording. This is useful if you want to switch from voice typing to regular typing in the same document.

3. Dragon – Dragon is the leading software in dictation and it has the reputation of being one of the most accurate dictation software programs. This reputation has a cost associated with it, though. It can handle fast dictations and has a high recognition accuracy that continually improves as it adapts to your voice.

There are no time or length limits, it lets you speak as long as you want to. Dragon also comes with a robust voice formatting and editing option, including the ability to select words and sentences for editing or deletion.

Writing a novel with Dragon Naturally Speaking

Dragon NaturallySpeaking, also known as Dragon for PC, is a speech recognition software. It runs on Windows personal computers. The macOS version is called Dragon Professional Individual for Mac, also known as Dragon for Mac.

Dragon Naturally Speaking uses a minimal user interface. To show an example, dictated words will appear in a floating tooltip as they are voiced out. When the speaker pauses during the dictation, the program transcribes the words into the active window where the cursor is located.

The software has three main areas of functionality: voice recognition in dictation where the speech is transcribed as written text, recognition of spoken instructions or commands, and text-to-speech: speaking text content of the document.

These voice profiles can be accessed by different computers in a network, although the audio hardware and its configuration must be the same with the machine generating the configuration. The Professional of this software allows users to create custom commands to control the functions or programs that were not built into Dragon NaturallySpeaking.

Write a short outline for your book

After deciding on what voice recorder and app you will use, it is now time to start on your book. To make your thoughts flow faster and in a more organized manner, it is helpful to prepare and a short outline of your book. This will serve as your guide when you start your voice recordings.

Dictate your book chapter by chapter

It is also helpful to break down your book into sections or chapters. When you include the chapters you want to cover in your outline, it will help you go through the recording more smoothly and confidently. This will also ensure that you will not miss out on important points during your recording.

How to edit yourself verbally when dictating

You can edit and adapt text while dictating. For deletions during dictation; you can just say ‘scratch that’.

Keep these in mind and give book writing by dictation a try.

How Do I dictate a Novel quickly?

dictate novels quickly

Dictation has been part of human literary creativity for some time now. Homer probably dictated Illiad and Odyssey because he was traditionally known to be blind. Great writers like Paul the Apostle, Henry James, Winston Churchill, Agatha Christie, and Dan Brown also depended on it.

Recently, more writers are using dictation to write, and many more are curious enough to try. This means we need to find ways of delivering quality work at a faster pace to get ahead.

It is not difficult to put words into a page or chapter by dictation. The challenge is to decide which of the words to keep. Most of us were typing our work before we tried or switched to dictation.

The first thing you notice is that your draft usually has more words and is less organized.

You need a different style in editing or spend more time on it entirely.

Here are some tips that can increase your writing productivity.

Preparations before Dictating

  • Plan Ahead

Organize your thoughts before you start dictation. Create an outline. Take a few minutes to sketch out each scene or section.

You can write down some pointers in an index card or notebook. You can even use a phone or computer for the outlines. Since talking is much faster than typing, we tend to say things that can be off-topic.

Outlines and notes can help you stay focused on the plot.

  • Allow For Errors

The accuracy of dictation software is generally at 95%-98%. Expect to correct about 2-5 words per hundred you speak. These are usually the words the software did not understand. Depending on your typing abilities and your native dialect, these corrections could be better or worse than your typing errors. You have to go over your work frequently to check on accuracy while the original idea is still fresh in your mind.

  • Speech Clarity

Speak swiftly, but clearly. Don’t mumble your words. Also, hold the microphone a few inches from your mouth. The generated static or noise will annoy the transcriber, or result in transcription errors by the software. This wastes time and money.

If you want to learn how to dictate up to 50,000 words per day, check out my guide on how to blow up your dictation speed.

But also try to relax, make your dictation more free-flowing. This will prevent you from making lots of fillers like er’s, ah’s, hmm’s. They take up data and complicate transcription.

Think before you speak. Whenever possible, pause for effect. Pausing prevents you from making bloated and disorganized writing and saves you a lot of time during the editing portion.

Depending on your preference, dictate in a peaceful place: lakeside, quiet backyard, or in your room, as long as you are undisturbed.

  • Dictate punctuation

Train yourself to include punctuation in dictation. This feels weird at first, but once you get into it, it just comes naturally. The process of dictating punctuations will help articulate your meaning well. It also gives structure to your writing. Finally, it ensures that there will be no corrections to the final edit of your work. This applies well both to manual transcription or software.

  • Practice

Use dictation as often as you can. You will soon find yourself preferring it than typing. After all, talking is much more natural than typing. Remember talking is faster than typing!


Choose Your Method of Transposing Recorded Dictation to Text

The second part of writing by dictation is transcription. That is converting speech to text. Depending on which method you choose, your overall productivity will be affected by this.

  • Manual

If you are not that tech-savvy, bring your recording to a trained transcriptionist. There are hundreds if not thousands of people available for hire through the web, and most of them are good and charge reasonably. But there is that risk of security and compatibility issues. It would be better to have referrals or have someone in the office do the work as extra.

A quick option is sending your audio file online to transcription service companies like Speechpad.com, Rev, Otter, TranscribeMe, and many others. It’s safe, reliable, and reasonably priced. Of course, they offer varying degrees of accuracy and turnover speed that correspond to their prices. Transcription prices range from $1-$3 per minute of audio. Some companies give volume discounts. But for book transcription, you could already buy voice recognition software for the cost you will have to pay. So, in the long run, this could be an expensive option.

  • Using Devices/Software

Using a combination of digital voice recorder and transcription software, you can record your dictation now and then transfer the file to a computer for editing at a later time. This gives you more time to get every idea out first and recorded right away without any distraction. Next, just upload the file into a transcription program like Dragon Naturally Speaking for Mac and proceed to edit.

There is also available text software that allows you to dictate through a microphone plugged directly into a computer. You can then edit your work in real-time. A downside to this method is you get into the mindset of wanting to continuously edit the text, get distracted, and lose your concentration.

If you do not get distracted easily, this method can be more attractive. You can buy a cheap ($15) microphone and plug it into your computer and start talking. The next step is to edit your dictation, but this is not so difficult. Most software comes with editing consoles to let you edit your work easily.

Editing Your Work

You can approach editing in stages or levels. Start at big-picture editing down to word-level details.

Make sure your writing has a natural flow. Check that your plot lines are well-placed. See that your scenes or sections are evenly weighted.

Paragraphs and sentences should be short and presented in a logical order. Avoid wordy sentences. With dictation, you develop the tendency to produce sentences with 40 words or more. For better comprehension, sentences with 20 words are better.

  • Use editing tools

Editing tools can be good problem-solvers. If you have gotten off track with your book structure, Scrivener can help you analyze and reorganize your work. Scrivener Binder can help you rearrange sections of your book.

I also found out that Microsoft Word has a similar feature with its Navigation Pane. You only need to make some tweaks first before you can use it. (Check out How to Make Word Behave like Scrivener).

There are other available editing tools at your disposal. There are some words (just, even, really) that give emphasis when used in spoken language. But when these are present in written sentences, they tend to change the meaning.

Use a macro (NeedlessWords in Microsoft Word) to spot these and remove them.

Macros are tiny programs that can handle repetitive tasks that could waste time when done manually. Microsoft Word and other word processing programs can run macros.

Sentences become longer when you dictate your writing. That is okay when you speak because there is intonation to help listeners handle the words into coherent groups. There is no intonation in writing, so you need to shorten sentences and put punctuation marks. The Hemingway Editor can help you with this.

Complicated words can add value to your work, but they can also be a hindrance to having your thoughts understood. Use simple words and improve readability. The PlainLanguage macro, Find and Replace macro, and the Hemingway Editor can assist you here.

There is an editing tool called Grammarly that’s been recently making waves. It can help you with three of the four previous concerns. However, when it comes to editing a full manuscript, it has certain limitations. (Read Book Editing & Proofreading: Can You Trust Grammarly?)



Getting proficient in dictation to write a novel takes time and patience, and certainly a lot of practice. We have cited many steps to take to achieve that goal. You can decide on your methods and pace yourself according to what feels natural. Happy writing!