Friday, August 26, 2011

We Never Talk Any more (well, actually, we do…)

So I mentioned last week that I recently purchased voice recognition software for my computer. I've had it for just over a week now, and I think it's safe to say that it's pretty nifty. In fact, I'm writing this while leaning against the bookcase on the far side of my office from my computer. If I wanted to (though I'm not sure why I would) I could probably even write from the men's toilets across the corridor. It's… liberating.

I got the idea, as I mentioned last week, from John Birmingham who has written the last couple of his books using the same software. I read an interview with him in which he discussed the impact that it had on his writing productivity and I thought to myself “well, if it's good enough for Birmingham, it's good enough for me!"

So I've spent the last week, quite literally, talking to myself. I have it on good authority that the other people in my building are starting to wonder exactly what's going on here in my office. Not that a writer talking to himself should be news to anyone. I think it's fair to say that my computer and I are only now, after almost 2 years together, just getting to know one another.

And, like any relationship, we've had our ups and downs in the last week. While for the most part my MacBook is remarkably attentive, there have been a few times when I just can't escape the feeling that it's just not listening!

Take this morning, for example. Having just finished my firrst close edit of The Hunter, and with my head still in the story, I decided it was time to make the best use of my new toy, (and also an opportune time to put off reading any more of the 190 odd grant applications that I have to get through before next week) to start writing the 2nd book in the Orion series.

I duly fired up Scrivner, spent a very pleasant half an hour mapping out plot points and chapters, And then, excitedly, I donned my headset.

“Okay, here we go!" I thought. “A new chapter in my writing life. It's all sweet from here."

And it was. That is, at least until I came to the word “dared", (which, FYI, I just had to spell out manually) Whereupon my computer decided that no matter what my opinion was on the matter, it wasn't going to come to the party. here, I'll show you…

He ran as fast as he did.
He ran as fast as he did.
He ran as fast as he died.
He ran as fast as he daredevil.
He ran as fast as the daring.
He ran as fast as he dead.
He ran as fast as the dead.

That should give you some idea of the problem. I tried every trick in the book; I opened up the program's vocabulary editor, found the problematic word, spent the next 5 min “training" the program and, when I went back to my book, it made no difference whatsoever; “He ran as fast as he Darren" it told me.

So, that's where we are at. For the most part I'm loving being liberated from my keyboard, and the fact that I managed to bash out just under 1000 words in just a little under half an hour is, let's face it, fantastic. But I'd be lying if I pretended that it was all smooth sailing: As well as having issues with "dared"* it also has a couple of other little habits which irritate the life out of me—automatically inserting numerals instead of spelling out numbers, for example. Still, I'm hoping that as the weeks and months progress and as my computer learns not just to recognise the sound of my voice but to love it, but these little issues will become fewer, and fewer.

It's worth a try, anyway.

Because, as they say; “only the dialling succeed!'

* just had to spell it out again, in case you were wondering.

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