Saturday, August 15, 2015

Speaking of Writing

Five months ago I felt a sudden, terrible pain in my shoulder that later turned out to be a torn rotator cuff.  X-rays and MRI showed that the rotator muscle had completely atrophied and, as a consequence, the humerus was now nearly touching my scapula. The only cure would be a shoulder replacement which I did not want to do so I've been in intensive therapy to strengthen the other shoulder muscles to compensate.

One of the consequences of this has been an inability to type for more than a brief period. After an hour or less the increasing ache becomes such a distraction that further concentration proves impossible. I thought I would experiment with the on-board dictation software, something I had previously ignored. Even though dictation would be slower than typing, the ability to throw down words for longer seemed an acceptable trade-off.

Te first thing I discovered was that dictation caused me to think before talking, a characteristic that I fail to mind on occasion.  Where before I often typed a sentence or two and then modified it, I now found that I had to compose each sentence in my head before speaking. I also learned that I had to speak more slowly and enunciate more clearly to overcome my mid-east-coast accent.

But those were just mechanical considerations. The more important thing that I learned was that dictating changed my style of writing, especially with dialogue. The dialogue I produced seem to resemble natural conversation, or at least the literary conventions about conversation (that in no way resembles reality.)

I also discovered that my sentences became shorter and have fewer subordinate clauses. My speaking vocabulary seems to be more meager then my typing or reading vocabulary. Nevertheless, the quality of prose produced* reads better than my usual material.  Of course, that is my subjective opinion of my own writing and not that of whatever editor reads the piece and renders an objective opinion. Whether these changes raise my hit rate above the pitifully low numbers (20%) I normally experience or not remains to be discovered.

One of the benefits of the experiment is that I am able to produce more words per session then I was doing by simply sitting in a dark room thinking, plotting, typing, and editing without speaking. The other benefit is that by doing this I am less tempted to spin off and read emails, scan the Internet, or do any of the hundreds of distracting efforts that impede my writing.

I do not think that dictation will ever replace the hard work of editing, correcting, and rearranging text into a finished peace. However, for initial conceptualization and just getting the story down in concrete form, dictation seems to be the best way to go.

Not to mention easier on the shoulder.
* Regrettably, the number of misspelled words has remained 
constant but now I can blame the software.

# SFWApro

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