Posted by on Oct 27, 2010 in My Writing, National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), On Writing: Craft and Commiseration, Personally... | 0 comments

Regular readers know that I’ve been having some serious problems with my hands since late June. In short, I cannot use my hands for using the computer mouse, playing video games or… typing. So about now you’re probably wondering, how is she going to do NaNoWriMo if she can’t use her hands?

Well, I’m going to write the entire novel using a dictation program. This has its advantages and disadvantages. I’ve been practicing writing using dictation for weeks and I wanted to go over with you some of the advantages and disadvantages of writing using voice to text.


  • I can’t work in a public place, while listening to music or while watching TV as the dictation program requires silence to work correctly. (As for in person events like write-ins, I’m just going to have to suck it up and try to type with my hands as best as I can.) This also eliminates working with someone else in the room, unless the person understands that they can’t just talk to you whenever they feel like it.
  • Dictation is much harder on the voice than typing is on the hands. Before I developed hand trouble, I could write for many hours before I started to develop any pain or tiredness. My voice gets tired after only a few minutes, unless I continuously drink water and tea as I work.
  • If I lose my voice, cough, or sneeze, it can seriously screw up my writing. The dictation program interprets everything as a word. As I learned last week, having a cold can seriously impair your ability to type.
  • I have to keep stopping to make corrections. Before I tried a dictation program, I thought it would be better for NaNoWriMo because I wouldn’t be able to look back at what I’ve written and I would be able to resist the temptation to edit it. What I didn’t count on, however, was the fact that the voice program is constantly in need of training. This means that, if the voice program makes a mistake, you have to go back and correct it immediately to train the program to work better. Therefore, instead of just writing without stopping I find myself having to edit more than I would normally if I were just typing.


  • I can talk faster than I can actually type which should, in theory, mean that I can get the novel done that much faster.
  • It’s easier to maintain narrative voice between characters when I’m actually speaking the dialogue and narration out loud.
  • I don’t have to think about spelling at all, that’s all automatic.
  • I can write in circumstances I normally wouldn’t be able to such as while I’m doing the dishes, while I’m driving in a car, or while on the treadmill.
  • I can still do NaNoWriMo even though I can’t use my hands. Let’s be honest, for all its flaws, the ability to still write even though I don’t have the use of my hands is worth some difficulties.

I’m going to give you updates throughout the month on how the handless NaNoWriMo process is going, but for all its disadvantages, using voice to text software can give anyone an opportunity to take on this writing challenge even without the use of their hands. Even if you don’t have a recurring condition like carpal tunnel or arthritis and have the use of both your hands, the strain of NaNoWriMo can give you hand pain by the end and you may want to try a dictation program for some of the writing to alleviate stress on your hands.

Have you ever done any significant writing using a dictation program? What were the advantages and disadvantages that you found? Please share with us below.