Here’s a useful tip: It’s far faster to dictate a book than to type it. That’s a quick-writing trick I learned from Jason Fladlien, and it’s worked for me for years.
I used Via Voice (originally from IBM) for a long time, and loved it. With some training, the program was 95% – 98% accurate, and I liked how I could enter specific, unusual phrases that I use often.
Now, that old program doesn’t work on my newer (Windows 7) computer, and I was thinking about picking up a copy of Dragon Naturally Speaking, which has earned great reviews.
(If you’re going to get one of the Dragon programs, look at versions with all the bells & whistles you might need, so you can do things like input from a digital voice recorder.)
[Update: I bought an older version of Dragon that had the best reviews. It’s Dragon 11 Home edition. Out of the box, it’s better than the free Windows software. However, if you’re on a budget, the Windows option works just fine.]
Before you buy Dragon: Did you know that Windows has a (free) voice recognition program already in it? Yep. And, from my experience, it works better straight out of the box than my well-trained Via Voice program did.
When I began using voice-recognition software, I’d tried a headset, but it gave me a headache and I suspected that the microphone wasn’t good enough to record consistently.
Then, I used a USB Samson Q1U microphone with a foam cover (“windscreen”) for the mic to prevent pops from being interpreted as parts of words. The quality was excellent, and I used this same mic for my podcasts and Skype interviews.
2016 update: I’m now using a Blue Snowball mic.
I may still buy the Dragon program. I’ll see how often I’d actually record/dictate while I’m out walking or in the car. For now, the Windows program is working fine.
For best efficiency, I outline my book first… chapters and main headings. I print that out as my “script” and then I start dictating what’s going to fill in the book.
Then, I print that out, double-spaced, and edit it, away from the computer. If I’m not rushing through a project, I like to edit my work so it’s in a journalistic style, with few extra words and no fluff.
Note: Be sure to keep enough style and color in your book that it’s not totally dry & boring. If it could be read, convincingly, in a “Joe Friday” (Dragnet) voice… throw in more colorful words and anecdotes.
Then, I type in the edits and call it good.
(Over my desk, I have the text poster for the Cult of Done. It’s a good reminder to just complete the work. It doesn’t have to be perfect! I do edit… but just once. More than that can lead to stilted language and frankly, most readers either don’t notice or don’t care about an occasional, minor grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. That’s not an excuse to be sloppy, but — for someone like me — it’s important not to micromanage the book for so long, it never gets published.)
If you’re running Windows 7, here are the instructions to set up the software and use it: http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/What-can-I-do-with-Speech-Recognition
2016 update: I did buy Dragon Naturally Speaking, but I chose an older edition (11), not the current one. The older one cost less and had far better reviews.
Out of the box, it’s the best voice recognition software I’ve tried.
However, the free Windows speech recognition software is still a close second-best.