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Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Guest Post: How a Dragon Saved My Writing Career

Today's post is from a student of my 10-Day E-Book course, Lesley Galston.

Lesley suffers from the painful condition fibromyalgia, which makes typing difficult for her. In this post, she describes how using the voice recognition program Dragon NaturallySpeaking has turned her life around...

* * *

I have a medical condition that can give me very painful hands - not good for any writer. I love to write by hand, and see the words flow across the page. Sadly, this is no longer an option for me.

The Dragon NaturallySpeaking software was suggested to me by a fellow writer. On asking around, it seemed to get mixed reviews. Some thought it great, especially the latest version, Dragon 11. It seemed that those who had tried earlier versions or different makes were less enthusiastic.

I decided to take the plunge and purchased Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium Edition, as this offered a few additional benefits compared to the basic version.

I really didn't have a choice. It was finding something that worked, or my writing career could be over just as it was starting. What I found totally amazed me. It was very easy to install and, yes, there are Windows and Mac versions, which covers most of us.

They advise you to follow a tutorial to set the program up. It looks long and boring, but it was over very quickly. I spoke clearly, as in a fluent conversation, for about four minutes, and you can choose your text. You do need a headset with a microphone, and the microphone needs to be a thumb's width from the corner of your mouth. Dragon then analyses your voice pattern and sets up your user profile.

Well, that was easy, I thought!

What next? Well, you can see when Dragon is ready to use: you have a toolbar with added features, such as the ability to add more vocabulary. However, I was eager to start. Your Dragon is off when the icon at the top of your screen is red. You can either mouse-click to green to start, or there is an option of a hotkey. All is clearly and simply explained. I am not a software geek, so for me, it needs to be.

I was soon reading e-mail using the commands "Open Microsoft Outlook" and "Open e-mail". Both commands were executed quickly and efficiently. I then told Dragon to "Reply email" and dictated my response. The software made a couple of mistakes, but who doesn't make mistakes when typing anyway? I corrected the mistakes, turned Dragon on again, told it to "Send e-mail", and it was gone!

I found it really was like having your own personal assistant. Unfortunately it can't bring me my coffee! I wish I had found it sooner. How much more would I have accomplished before being in the position of having no other choice? Well, I could have a choice, I suppose - no writing, and an eternity of daytime TV instead. I dread the thought.

My recommendation is that if you're happy with your typing speed, i.e. you're a trained secretary and can type X number of words per minute, that's fine. If, like me, typing is not your greatest or fastest skill, then with the aid of Dragon you can spend more time on your writing and less time correcting mistakes. They claim to speed up your typing by three times (though this presumably depends on your speed to begin with). I rarely use the spellchecker now. Funnily enough, as long as I speak clearly, Dragon knows how to spell.

I have yet to try it on spreadsheets, but it can create documents and send e-mails in minutes instead of hours. They claim you can get more done by using your voice. I don't know about you, but I can chat for hours, and Dragon actually keeps up with my mind. If I want to pause to think about what to dictate next, I simply say "microphone off". If it makes a mistake such as spelling my name "Leslie" and I correct it, it learns to spell it correctly ("Lesley") the next time.

It may not be for everyone, but I have found Dragon NaturallySpeaking to be an extremely useful tool.

This blog post has been dictated by Dragon.

* * *

Thank you very much to Lesley Galston for her contribution, which has almost tempted me into buying a Dragon for myself! Please do visit her websites at and You might also be interested to check out her new e-book, Take Control of Your Pain.

Finally, in case anyone is interested, I have included below links to the Amazon sales pages for the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software Lesley referred to in her post.

As ever, if you have any comments or questions for Lesley, please feel free to post them below.

Photo credits: The Island by Balt-Arts on Flickr. Author publicity photo provided by Lesley Galston.

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Blogger Cora Zane said...

Very interesting! I have been thinking about buying Dragon, but when I was looking over the box it seemed too...I don't know, different? This has convinced me to give it a try.

5:03 PM  
Anonymous B.A. Matthews said...

I got my Dragon about a year and a half ago because my day job caused me to abuse my hands and I now have tendinitis. I only use it when my hands are hurting but it is a wonderful tool.

5:55 PM  
Anonymous Sharon Hurley Hall said...

I use Dragon a lot and it's a real time saver. I recommend it without hesitation.

1:25 AM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks for your comments, guys. Lesley's post has attracted a lot of interest. I tried Dragon around ten years ago and wasn't too impressed, but it appears to have improved a lot since.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Tony Eldridge said...

I actually wrote my novel, The Samson Effect, on IBM's ViaVoice. It's now off the market, but I loved it. I'm been meaning to look into Dragon, and this gives me new reason to give it a second look.

7:03 PM  
Anonymous Lesley Galston / Sloanwriter said...

I am really glad this post has given many folk some food for thought, love it or hate it. Some of us with very sore hands, have no choice. Those that do, as I said if your spped if of an expert typist, don't bother if not give it go. No I do not recieve any renumeration for this, it is just my opinion and without it my career would sadly be over.

7:55 PM  

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