- Written by Adrian Cobon
Since 2010 I have worked diligently to create the “ultimate” workflow for creating engaging, informative, and entertaining content as quickly as possible. During that time, I have fallen in love with the promise of voice dictation software. Here is why I occasionally make use of this technology, in the form of Nuance Dragon Professional 15, in my professional life.
Creating exceptional first draft copy is one of my greatest strengths as a writer. I read the background material and simply allow the words flow from my mind. With dictation software I can skip the typing bit, focusing instead on how the prose sounds to guarantee that the material is even closer to being perfect than ever before.
Eliminating the need to read it out loud, and the general speed boost that comes from speaking versus typing in general, makes using this technology much more efficient in day to day usage.
Preventing Carpal Tunnel
Human hands were not developed with keyboards in mind, and keyboard were developed before human hands were fully understood. It is no surprise then that the greatest bane of professional writers is a tenacious disorder with the charming name of “Capral Tunnel Syndrome.”
Simply put, by dictating I give my hands a break. Thus, I know that when I must type I can do so without the fear of pain that comes with the degenerative condition.
Inspiration rarely occurs at the keyboard. I find myself pacing, biking, exercising, and even in the shower when the perfect turn of phrase or story line pops into mind. I then grab a voice recorder and let the material flow free.
After that, it is a simple matter of allowing my software to transcribe the recording and edit the result. This means I lose nothing of my creativity due to temporary lack of access to my laptop or tablet. This raises an interesting possibility in the future – vacation.
Eventually, everyone needs to step away from work and destress. As a freelance writer this prospect seems to never occur. When the time comes, however, I do not want to lose the ability to capture flashes of creativity. That is where a simple voice recorder and the dictation software come to be.
I can take the recorder with me and leave the laptop at home. When I come back I can just tell the software to transcribe and edit, just like when I am around the house or at the store.
There are times when writing is an activity without a purpose. It is an experiment that may inform potential avenues for story development or new blog posts. However, if I am willing to be honest with myself, I feel silly sitting down to do it. Dictation software eliminates this by making the exercise as easy as breathing.
A Word of Warning
The software is only effective when you operate within its bounds. This is especially true when it comes to the words spoken. If you use non-standard English, then the effectiveness of the software will drop like a stone. The only way around this is to create a custom dictionary and add the words to it. I have found having multiple profiles helps with this. One is perfect for personal correspondence, another for one story series and yet another for commercial copywriting. You get the idea.
- Written by Adrian Cobon
Since 2010 I have amassed a portfolio that includes more than a thousand pieces ranging from whitepapers to short stories and blog posts. Keeping them all straight and available for sharing with prospective clients has become a living nightmare that took me the better part of six months to solve. My solution wasn’t to have it online, posted in some content management system prone to server failures. No – it was to utilize an alternative to Microsoft Word that specializes in collecting disparate pieces into one single “project” that can be searched, exported, and edited with ease.
What is Scrivener?
Scrivener, produced by Literature and Latte, is an advanced piece of literary software that is designed to make it easy for a writer to use his or her own workflow without having to jump in and out of a dozen programs or keep hundreds of files organized. You start with a basic “corkboard” from which you can pin documents, pictures, and folders. Each of them can be commented on and includes the ability to incorporate revisions that are saved automatically.
At the end, you are able to export only the parts that make up the work’s final draft, discarding any unwanted formatting.
Backing Up Speedlancer
For three years I have worked as a freelance writer and editor through the Speedlancer platform. During that time I have amassed nearly 600 successfully completed projects covering a wide range of subjects. Now, the platform offers a basic portfolio page that showcases user reviews and rankings. However, and this is the key point, it doesn’t show the work.
In short, I had earned a stellar (4.6/5) reputation on the platform and had absolutely nothing to show for it! How could I, a writer that lives and dies by examples of prior work, hope to impress future clients and employers?
I tried the traditional way, finding where my work was hosted online and then just jotting down the links. That didn’t work since only a fraction of my end product were blog posts. The joys of writing anything…
So, I decided to simply download everything and keep them on hand to share with clients seeking writers with experience with specific topics. That is when three problems cropped up. The first was my own fault, and the second is the difficulty in tagging documents, and finally the third in being able to search within the documents.
File Names are Terrible
Whenever I worked on a project through the Speedlancer platform I used a relatively simple naming system to keep everything straight. “Speedlancer [type of project] [order number]”. This made it easy to guarantee I don’t upload the wrong item, however it eliminated any chance of me being able to simply use a file search to discover interesting examples of my work to share later.
Scrivener stores everything by title, rather than filename. My organization system has everything separated by client, year, month, and finally date. Thus with a single glance I know what I wrote and when I wrote it.
Tagging 600+ Documents Will Be a Nightmare
Even after downloading all of the documents I would be faced with the arduous task of figuring out which tags each file should have. The right tags will make it easy to quickly find the perfect files, the wrong (or worse – incomplete) tags will make it harder for me to approach clients. Needless to say, that wasn’t an option.
Searching Within Files
While it is disabled by default, it is possible to enable in-file indexing within Windows 10. However, I utilize a wide variety of devices every day and will be migrating back to the Mac platform eventually. Thus, I needed a way to search within files that was independent of the platform.
Since I utilize Office 365 for business purposes, it would be inappropriate to just upload all of my documents to Google Cloud. Dropbox and iCloud have even less functionality in that regard, so they were out. I needed something that would make a quick search as painless as possible.
By copying everything into a single Scrivener project I gain the ability to simply execute one search command to discover exactly what I am looking for. Need examples of realty blogs? Easy! Since the search tool is comprehensive, traditional tags will be unnecessary.
The End Result
I am still collecting all of my works for this portfolio. As I continue to work, it will expand and truly become comprehensive. For the first time in my professional career I can say without a doubt that it is now possible to apply for a wide range of work without missing a beat.