Dragons: How to Train Your Human

Like the title? Two purposes, 1: no getting sued by DreamWorks and 2: It really turns out to be this way.  I know, what is she going on about? Allow me to explain…

Some of you already know that my long absence has been due to what I thought was Tendinitis in both my hands. Turns out, I only have that in my left hand. The problem with my right hand is carpel tunnel…yay, I’m an overachiever. 😐 Okay, so after moping around for way longer than necessary awhile and getting completely abandoned by my muse, I broke down and bought the Dragon NaturallySpeaking software. And I don’t love it…no, I really don’t.

However, it has enabled me to keep my day job and after finally realizing that my Dragon has been training me all this time and not the other way around, my muse has actually decided to return (though, now that I’ve outed her, she might just take off again, because that’s the kind of floozy she is). Anyway, for any of you who’ve ever considered trying the Dragon software or wondered how it works exactly, I’m here to give you a not-so-quick rundown…awww, you know you missed me.

Warning: Personal Opinion Ahead

It sucks. Don’t waste your money. If your hands aren’t broken, use them. Dragon should only be a “desperate times call for desperate measures” option. The only way Dragon will ever be more efficient and faster than typing, is if you can speak as clearly and enunciate as precisely as Siri 100% of the time and never fluctuate in tone, pronunciation, or especially background noise. In fact, don’t even turn that fan on, I don’t care if you’re dripping sweat, it will make Dragon dictate as if you’re talking with a mouthful of cheesey-puffs. Oh, and I hope you have a totally stocked gaming computer that runs everything at lightning speeds and glitch-free.

On a more technical note…

Dragon is designed to be completely personalized to an individual. After each time you use it, the software updates your “profile” before shutting down completely, which enables it to remember the way you speak, so it can be more efficient and accurate the next time you use it. I’ll admit, it does eventually begin to show signs of adaption. Just whatever you do, don’t leave the program running over night to save time the next day – I know it takes forever to open and wake up and actually respond – but the longer it runs, even while not being used, the glitchier and boggier it gets. Also, you have to conduct a microphone adjustment every time you fire that bad boy up, even if you’re going to be using it in the same room, with the same background noise, every single day.

In the software’s defense, because I am not completely unreasonable, the above glitchy, boggy issues could also just be my laptop and the fact that it’s not exactly new…or even remotely recent.

Wait, why doesn’t this post have any photos? One purpose: Not getting sued by Nuance Communications

Who’s Training Who?

This is the tricky part. At first, you think that you’re training your Dragon to learn how you speak; your pace, your cadence, etc. which means you have to be careful to try to speak the same way all the time. You can’t approach it with “before coffee speech” one day and then the next day be like “I just snorted a pound of cocaine” speech. (Note: Neither this site nor its author encourages, endorses or engages in the act of snorting cocaine…or ever trying to speak before consuming coffee. Just say no.)

In truth, Dragon is like that kid who sleeps through half their classes, all the while turning you into a person who speaks punctuation marks out loud as if it’s normal. In order to get Dragon to type this exact sentence: “See Dick run. See Jane point and laugh! Did you see Spot pee on the neighbor’s leg?” you have to literally say:

Open quote see Dick run period see Jane point and laugh exclamation mark did you see Spot pee on the neighbor’s leg question mark close quote capitalize dick capitalize spot

The hardest punctuation mark of all time to remember to say aloud is “comma” – oh and hyphen. But tell me, authors: when you’re completely submerged in your own world and dictating what’s happening in any given scene between your characters, are you honestly going to remember to say COMMA? No, you’re just going to naturally pause in speech, the way you would if you were on stage. Nothing yanks you out of your creative flow faster than having to remember to talk punctuation marks! Open parenthesis, close parenthesis, semicolon, colon, oh shit how the hell do I explain an em-dash without it actually typing M dash?

And I get it, these are things you can always correct in editing. The first draft is always a heaping pile of “wtf was I thinking?” anyway – Soooo, I tried to keep that in mind and just go with the flow, only to find out that if I talk at even my normal pace, which is slightly closer to the lack of coffee than OD’ng on coke, Dragon will only type the last portion of my sentence. Or maybe the first two words and then the last part – regardless, it misses entire sections of my sentences.

I spend more time either correcting what Dragon thought I said or waiting for the words to finally appear on the document, so I can make sure Dragon caught it all. And just FYI, Dragon does not like curse words–AT ALL–no matter how many times you use the same one, on the same page, or in Zoe’s case, in the same run of dialogue, these are the handful of words it will never actually “save” with your profile. You cannot teach your Dragon to swear the way you taught your parrot…you know who you are.

Hands-Free Editing

There are built-in verbal commands you can give Dragon, which are supposed to enable you to make corrections without having to type. If you notice it dictated the wrong word, let’s say “Buck” for instance, you can say “Select buck” and it will pop open a box of word options you might have meant, which are numbered. You would then say “Choose one” or whichever number offers the correct option. I promise you, none of the options for “buck” will ever start with an F. So, if you don’t see your choice, then you would say “Spell that” at which time a different box opens that allows you to spell out the word you really wanted to say.

Here’s where I run into more problems. If I want the word capitalized, I’m supposed to be able to say “Captial F” then spell out the rest of the word. It’s always about a 70/30 chance that it’s going to add an L or an O to the beginning of my word, because it’s picking up those sounds from the word ‘capital’ no matter how fast or slow I say it – also, on most days, the “choose” feature never works in this particular box, so I have to select my choice with the mouse and hit enter, otherwise it tries to add numbers like ‘201’ to the end of the word I spelled out, rather than accepting the command “choose one”, rendering it a not so hands-free feature.

Get What You Pay For

When I started shopping around for the software, I reviewed the different options and decided to pass on the cheaper “basic” version for the newest “premium” edition, because it comes with a feature that allows you to add your own words to the software’s vocabulary. Ideal for an author, right? Well, along with the program, I also bought a recommended book written by a supposed Dragon expert, and I’ll admit, it did help me with my initial introduction to the software and getting it all set up – BUT – according to the author, I wasted my money for this “personalized vocabulary” feature, because Dragon will still never get it. In fact, they suggest that authors supplement their character’s names with simpler ones like “Dick and Jane” and then just do a “Find and Replace” during editing, because apparently they’ve never written fiction, or understand the whole concept of creative flow and the many things that can throw a wrench in it, like having to call your character by a name that is not theirs…

Thanks for looking out, hindsight dude who will never be useful in any situation beyond a “getting started” tutorial.

Then, after about a month of fighting with this newer, better version I stupidly paid extra money for – I started it up one day, and a notice popped up on my screen stating that Nuance was discontinuing the Premium 13 edition of Dragon NaturallySpeaking and that I had to act soon in order to get the newest (15) version for only $99. Eff you, man, I just paid that much for the 13! Like just – and now you’re telling me that you’re no longer going to be offering any updates or customer support for it? WTF?

Bottom Line

If you don’t already have and absolutely love Dragon NaturallySpeaking, you can either refer back to my personal opinion (which, I sincerely recommend) or buy it anyway, but definitely not the Premium 13 edition – and, you know – try it out. I hope you have absolutely no problems with it, and you leave that in the comments below and brag about how much time it saves you, how much your daily word count has increased and that you really do think I just need a new laptop and possibly a better headset.

(No, seriously, I’ll take any excuse to buy a new laptop). 😉

It’s Hexed (Hell on Earth 4). That’s what my muse returned for. I wasn’t going to mention being back to work on a WIP and then not tell you which one, honest. 😀 And if all goes as great as it has been, I hope to have it off to the editor before the end of the year.

Dragon be willin’ and the creek don’t rise…

Tootles!

2 thoughts on “Dragons: How to Train Your Human

  1. Yikes. o_0 Thank you so much for sharing your experience, A.C.! This blog post is solid gold. I used to be super excited about getting the Dragon because I’ve seen authors praise it, but now I suspect I wouldn’t have the patience to make it work. I had to work with a poorly functoning speech recognition software in my old job and I hated it, so instead of going crazy with the Dragon, I think my money might be better spent on a lifetime license of ProWritingAid. Thanks for helping me make up my mind! ❤

    I'm sorry to hear about the carpal tunnel syndrome, that sucks so much. 😦 But OMG, I'm excited that your muse is back in action! YES!!! 😀 Do it! We all want to be Hexed!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Glad to help, Anna! This is only my personal experience, but thought I’d share it, in case it’s not just me or my laptop and Dragon really is a hassle.

      I’m excited to be back to work on Hexed, too, I’m still keeping my fingers crossed the muse sticks around, LOL! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

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