If you've been watching my social media feeds lately you've probably noticed I'm posting a lot more about Dungeons and Dragons. Well that's because I am not running my first DnD game! It's a Southern Gothic game set in a world of my own creation. 

 

You can check out the first episode and follow us on Twitch to watch the game live! 

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AuthorAndrea Judy

Just like with writing there are a lot of different ways to handle doing any kind of editing work. Some projects require a lot of work to polish up; some show up pretty polished. There’s no wrong way to do it so long as you get the work done. But sometimes you get stuck and don’t know what to do to fix a piece of writing.

Right now I am finishing up edits on a novella that has given me a ton of problems. I mean this thing really kicked my ass. The first draft I did was a disaster. I tried to fix it but it still ended up being a mess. Now after several more failed attempts at revision, I think I’ve finally figured out what went wrong and how to fix it. So I wanted to talk about the process of realizing what exactly I needed to work on. 

For this book, I kept walking away from my edits and just not doing them. That’s not like me since I’m usually pretty focused and committed to meeting deadlines. But this time around, I didn’t manage to focus on it at all. So I decided to test something.

I started my edits at a different point in the book then came back to the beginning. What that showed me was that the problem was that the beginning of the book was all wrong and that was forcing me to walk away. I didn’t know how to fix the problem because the problem wasn’t a lack of descriptions but a big ol’ plot problem. 

As soon as I realized the problem was that I as the writer didn’t care about the villain then I knew what needed to change. I had to find a way to make me (and thus hopefully the reader) care about the monster and the story happening in that tension. 

What sucks about that, is that it means I need to rewrite about a good chunk of the book but now that I can pinpoint ‘this is where I am struggling’ it makes it sudden;y feel like a problem I can solve. I’ve been stuck in the idea of ‘I don’t know what’s wrong so I can’t fix it’ and that just leads to a lot of stress. 

So for me to get unstuck what I needed to do was look into different parts of the book and then come back to the spot I was getting stuck. It showed me what the problem was and how I could fix it. 

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AuthorAndrea Judy

Editing can feel like this huge overwhelming sized thing. Especially if you’re looking at editing something the size of a novel, it can seem very much like looking up a mountain knowing that you are about to climb it. 

But if you were about to climb a mountain, you’d have the right gear with you, right? The same thing is true with editing, by using the right gear or process, you can make it to the top and (maybe) have fun along the way. I actually enjoy editing most of the time, but only if I’ve got the tools in place to make it work for me. 

So how do I make editing work for me? 

1.     Make a plan.

I read over the whole manuscript and keep a document ready to take notes on the things that need to change. That includes character names not being the same the whole manuscript, a plot hole, a pacing problem, a scene I want to change, etc. I list it all out with page number references so that I have a record of everything. 

2.     Group. 

Next I take my group of notes and organize them by topic or change. If I need to change character Bill to a character named Sue then that is one theme or section. I group them by topic and then by order. if I need to change a major plot thread, that’s one of the first things I do.

3.     Attack. 

I start with the biggest changes and then work my way smaller. I used to go through the document chronologically, start at the beginning and go to the end, but I would quickly get lost in what change I needed to make. By focusing on just one major theme at a time, I know that I can work it through all the way and not lose my train of thought. 

That’s my three-prong method for working through an edit. The third step is repeated until I have finished everything I had on my notes page. It usually takes a few passes but when I’m done, I do one last read over everything and that pass is when I deal with the more grammar related things. 

As with everything else, this is the method I use and it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. I really encourage you to play around with systems and processes to see what connects with you! 

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AuthorAndrea Judy

I talked about some of my productivity tools and some of my writing tools but something I haven't talked about this month is things that are helping me with life in general. Being a writer doesn't suddenly mean that the floors don't need to be vacuumed and meals don't need to be cooked. Sometimes it's really hard to manage the daily to-do tasks when I'm trying to meet a deadline or even just trying to get enough brain space to finish a project. So here are a few of the things that are really helping me right now.

1. My Roomba

I never thought I would be the kind person who would love a robot vacuum but I absolutely adore my little iRobot; his name is Alfred. It's really handy to be able to just schedule a time when the vacuum is going to run. I have two cats that track litter all over the place and it used to be that every morning while getting dressed I would get litter all over my feet and then have it stuck in my shoe for the day.

Since I started running Alfred every day that's completely gone away. It's great to be able to just schedule a time for it to run and not even have to think about when I'm going to make time to vacuum the floors. It also helps keep me motivated to keep my floors clear so Alfred has a clean path around the room.

2. Frozen meals

I actually like cooking but I've been having a hard time with actually doing it. I promise myself that I will make a nice dinner with soon as I get home from work but inevitably as soon as I get home, I'm exhausted and Pizza Hut delivery it is. What I found is that if I keep the fridge of healthy-ish meals then I don't order delivery.

If it's something I can pop in the microwave or the oven and under less than 20 minutes then I'm golden. It's not the healthiest option but it does provide portion control and minimizes the impact on my budget. On the days when I'm having a really hard time, knowing that there is some frozen ravioli that will take me 10 minutes to make is a huge relief.

For a while I felt really lazy about doing this but honestly it's one less thing to beat myself up for when I just don't have the energy to cook.

3. Themed days

Breaking my days into a theme has helped me do more and forget less. For instance, Tuesday is the day that I work on my podcast. Whether that's by updating the website, editing in episode, or recording a new episode, that's what I plan to do every Tuesday.

Friday is for laundry and Monday is for blog posts. By keeping that kind of consistent calendar I worry a lot less about what I'm forgetting to do and it's honestly free up a lot of brain space.

4, Brain dumps

One of the things I have been doing for almost a year now is what I call a brain dump. It usually happens once every other week, but there are sometimes it happens every week. All a brain dump is, is sitting down, taking about 20 minutes, and writing out every single thing bouncing around in your brain.

I can write down the bigger projects like writing a new novel or the really mundane stuff like doing the dishes. For me, getting it all out of my head and onto paper helps me see what all it is that I need to do and start prioritizing. Doing the dishes won't take that long, but writing a novel, that will take a while. Seeing it on the page in front of me helps me better visualize the amount of time and the size of the project. It also helps me to see if something is just falling from week to week and staying on the brain dump page that I either need to just bite the bullet and do it or I need to evaluate if it needs to be done.

So those are the things that are helping me right now and just like everything else that I talked about this month, it varies from month-to-month and from project to project. What works for me might not work for you but that's okay. The important thing is to learn how to listen to yourself and to do what fits your life, not to lie some productivity girly want you to have or even the life that I have. Going out there, experiment, find what works, and take care of yourself.

Source: Photo by Andy Fitzsimon on Unsplash
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AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

This month I'm really excited to share some of the tools that I use. Mainly because I'm always happy to talk about process and to learn and hear what other people are doing so it's only fair that I share too. I had a hard time figuring out if I should put my writing and productivity tools in one post or two and alternately I decided to post them separately because I feel like they are two different things.

The tools that I use to be more productive help in my day job and my personal life too. But the writing tools are more specialized so I thought it would make more sense to have them as two separate posts. So here are my top writing tools right now.

1. Cold Turkey Writer

I love this software. By far it is, aside from dictation, the one thing that has turbocharged my writing. Cold Turkey basically locks your computer into nothing but a single screen where you can type. You can set the amount of time, the number of words, or go with no restrictions. The only way I've found to get out of the fullscreen is to force my computer to shutdown and if you do that you lose everything that you've written in the software. When you've reached your time goal or word goal or decide you're done it will give you the option to save and quit. Everything is saved as a text file that I usually then copy and paste into Word and clean up a little bit. It seriously is amazing and keeps me focused on what I'm working on instead of being constantly distracted by checking Facebook or Instagram or twitter or reading another productivity article. It seriously has changed my life and you can get it for free.

2. Writing Excel Tracker

This spreadsheet was introduced to me by Venessa when we talked on my podcast can bring monsters. It's amazing. You can input up to 10 projects and set your monthly goals for those projects with a little bit of work and making sure that you tracked them on a day-to-day basis you can actually keep track of everything you're doing for the year and then see how close you are to your goals for the year. For someone pretty obsessed with goalsetting this is absolutely amazing. It lets me see in very clear terms where I am with my writing and what I need to be working on next. And for $10 dollars it's honestly a complete steal.

3. 750 Words

I talked about this website before and I still love it. Now that I'm mainly writing in cold turkey it's not as helpful for keeping track of words per minute but it's a great way to keep a record. I'm not always great about logging my things in the amazing Excel spreadsheet and this helps me add it in even if I forgotten to put something in excel. It also let's me see what my track is for the month and how many days I wrote and how many days I missed. While I'm not using all of its features anymore I still really think it's a great website and it also way to track your writing over the years I can go back to when I very first started my account in 2015 and see how the many words I've written. It's a lot and really inspiring to see laid out.

3. Dictation

I am constantly shocked by how much dictation has change my writing. I never thought I would be any good at it, I thought it would be awkward or clunky or weird. But I love it. I don't know if I will ever go back to writing first draft by hand or keyboard rather. While it takes a bit of time to get used to it and figure out the mechanics of how to get the punctuation right it honestly makes my writing so much faster and smoother. And about 30 minutes I can usually dictate a out almost 3000 words. And while there are some ridiculous typos and occasional problems, overall it's so much faster than typing but I can't imagine going back. You don't have to buy the expensive Dragon Dictation software to be able to dictate. Most computers nowadays have a dictation option built into their accessibility menu. So check out what your computer has an give it a go you may be it surprised at how much you love it

So those are the writing tools that I love you. Seriously every single one of those is huge in my writing process and has helped in so many ways. It's only in this past year that I've really Felt like I got the handle on my writing process and how I operate and these tools have really been a huge factor In that. I really suggest that you take a little bit of time and play around with Helliar writing, especially if something feels clunky or weird or wrong. Writing processes don't have to stay the same. So explore a little bit you maybe surprised what happens.

Source: Photo by Dana Marin on Unsplash
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AuthorAndrea Judy

I am a little bit obsessed with productivity. I tend to read almost every blog posts that comes across my dashboard that even remotely hints about how to be more productive. I love diving into how people use lists or technology to help them get more stuff done. At the same time reading all about that can also make me feel like an unproductive slug at times. But because I love productivity so much and I spend a lot of time learning about what works for me I thought it would be helpful for me to share the tools I use.

Now as a reminder, what works for me might not work for you. And that's all okay. I'm not telling you there's one way to do things, only what's worked for me. Honestly the best way I found to be more productive as a whole was through a lot of trial and error with learning about how I work and about what works with and for me. Now without further ado here are some of my favorite productivity tools.

1. Forest

I am a little bit obsessed with this app. It's simple and effective. You select the amount of time you want to go without using your phone and then you select a bush or tree that represent that amount of time. You plant the tree or bush and then the timer starts. If you navigate away from the screen where your plant is growing, it will die. The only way to let your plants grow all the way to adulthood and let it populate your beautiful forest is to leave your phone alone.

It also has the option to have background noise which I really love to. I didn't to use it a lot as a timer to keep me on track for how long I want to stay focused on something. It's really great and it's by far my favorite app that I have consistently kept using. Recently they have added an update where you can now plant trees with friends. (I don't have any friends on the forest app yet so I can't speak to how well that works but it sounds super fun.) 

2. Isolation

So lately I've actually found going low-tech helps a lot of ways with getting things done. Since I picked up dictating I've been spending a lot of time locked in my closet. And honestly that isolation has helped tremendously but keeping me focused. In my closet there's not much to distract me or interrupt me. Aside from the occasional kitty cat paw or region under the door to slap me. But I can turn on the forest app, Open up whatever project I'm working on and get to work. I haven't gotten very good at using dictation to be able to browse the Internet's or do much else besides write, which is exactly how I want (so please don't tell me how). The isolation, quiet and focused area help me get a whole lot more done than I would normally.

3. Pen and paper

As much as I love list tracking apps like wonder list, nothing has yet replaced my beloved pen and paper. I keep a daily journal to track everything I want to get done that day and I've done that for quite a few years now. Sometimes I do it in tandem with an electronic list that helps you remember it. I've bullet journaled for a long time so currently I'm using a pre-printed journal but when that runs out I'll probably return to bullet journaling. It's one of my favorite parts of the day when I sip my coffee and put together my list of things to accomplish for that day. It's sort of the ritual that starts every day. Even on the weekends I do it. I'm not particular about what journal or notebook it has to be but I prefer something with a hardcover to survive being in my bag. I'm much more likely to care about what kinds of pens or pencils I'm using the actual notebook itself.

So those are the three main things they're helping me be productive right now. And sometimes not even that works. There are some mornings where I don't put together a to-do list, where I feel too overwhelmed to write anything down, and there are mornings where I will just sit in silence and stare into space in the closet. And there are definitely days that I have killed my poor little tree in the forest app.

Productivity isn't a contest, even though it's really easy to feel like it is, productivity is personal and about what finding what works for you and how you want to work. Lately the world has been a little stressful for me so my productivity has taken a nosedive and the main thing I've learned as of the most important part of productivity is forgiving yourself when you have a bad day. So what are some of the ways that you keep productive or some of the things that really haven't worked for you? I'm always curious to hear about what other people are doing.

Source: Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash
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AuthorAndrea Judy
CategoriesWriting Life

Editing is always a strange and foreign topic to me. Especially since I'm using dictation, editing is usually an adventure filled with typos and strange phrases that I have no idea what they actually mean. (I have found some truly strange words in my manuscript that I am at thousand percent sure I did not actually say and then I have to awkwardly sound them out to see if I can figure out what I meant.)

But this post isn't about easy ways to edit or even what to look for when you're editing. Much like the previous post about finding your process for writing, This is about finding your process for editing. They are different things and I really believe that it's best if you can keep them as separate as possible.

Again, I did a lot of experimenting to figure out what works for me. Editing in my closet did not work for me. The setup isn't good for that. What does work for me is going back into my office. The background noise doesn't distract me from editing like it does for writing. I also have found that I can listen to a little bit of music, nothing with words, while I'm editing.

I'm lucky enough to have a standing sitting desk and I really noticed that I edit a lot better when I'm standing at it so now I try to make sure to do that when I can. Sometimes my feet don't want any part of that and I have to sit but I definitely feel like I am faster and sharper when I'm standing at my desk.

I'm also learned that for me, it's a lot easier to take editing in a lot of small steps than one big step. The first thing I do is read through the whole manuscript and make notes and comments about what needs to change. I don't really touch much of the grammar unless there's just something to atrocious to fix.

Then I look at all of the comments, sometimes I print out just the comments and see what all I need to work on. I coordinate my edit projects by theme. So if it's a subplot that week, I going work on the subplot all by itself don't touch anything else in the manuscript. This means I jump around from beginning to middle to end again and again and again but it also means that I can stay focused on the one task at hand and not get sidetracked by trying to fix the romantic subplot and the foreshadowing for the next book all at once.

Once I've finished all of my themes/subplots/big issues, then I'll do one more big read where I check to make sure everything so make sense and try to catch any grammar issues that might be around. It's maybe a little bit slower and clunkier than I can do all of the time but it's my preferred method. Deadlines sometimes push that to be just one really fast read through and edit.

So again I would just encourage you to try and figure out where you work best. For me really having a separate writing and editing space makes a huge difference. It's like a brain switch, I know when I am standing at my desk that it's time to edit, not write, and not be on Facebook. It's a clear delineation in my mind of what I need to be working on.

So take some time and figure out what you like, I promise I'll make a huge difference in your work.

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

One of the things I most fascinated by is learning how other people write. For a really long time, I didn't really think that I had my own process, I just wrote. I mean, what kind of process could there be? You just sat on your laptop and wrote. It was simple really.

However, when I started having some major struggles with writing anything, I realized that I really had no idea how I actually worked. That I was just sort of slamming my face into a rock until it broke (my face usually and not the rock).

So once I began writing again, I tried to pay attention and take note on how, where, and when I felt most productive or like my writing was the strongest. What I started to find really surprised me and then in January, everything changed.

Everyone always thinks that they are amazing at multitasking. My office sits in a little alcove right behind the living room. I can't see the TV from where I sit at my desk, but I can definitely hear it. I always figured it's not distracting me, I can just put on my headphones and ignore it.

However once I started tracking my writing, I realized that when I wrote in places that had no distractions, I made the shocking discovery that yeah it made a big difference to not have a TV around at all. I wasn't tempted to peer around the corner and see what was so funny; I wasn't trying to half keep up with the plot of some new show on Netflix or who was being harshly criticized by Paul and Mary on the great British bake-off. Having silence was a huge help. And maybe that seems like a dumb moment to a lot of people and maybe it is, but it's something I didn't want to admit about myself.

I've always considered myself a sort of planner/pantser hybrid. I have a rough idea of where I'm going when I start writing but no real concrete plan. Now what I've discovered is doing a one pager of the high level moment of the story keeps me focused but give me enough playroom that I don't feel bored by the story because I know everything is going to happen. Knowing that has helped me figure out what I need to know before I even start writing. 

Previously I would have an idea for a beginning and start and then immediately fizzle out because I no idea what happens next or alternatively with an in-depth outline I would never start because I spent much time on the outline. But now I don't even use my computer anymore. I have this really nifty notebook I got for Christmas, a rocket book, it scans straight into my dropbox account. So I can access my notes anywhere even if I don't have my note book on me. It's amazing.

But what's made the biggest difference in my writing process has been switching to dictation. When I'm dictating my story, I can feel the cadence and the voice of the character way stronger than ever felt before. I can say something out loud and suddenly know it's not right even though it might look okay on paper. But hearing myself speak it helped me catch weird sentences or repetitive phrases.

At first, dictating was really awkward and honestly a lot slower than typing by hand. But now that I've started to get the hang of it, it's about the same speed as typing and honestly, I think as I get stronger and more confident about it, it will easily exceed my typing speed. My best day so far has been 4200 words in an hour of dictation. And that's a story, not just the blog posts or some rambling brainstorming.

So now I have an idea of what I need to best set myself up to succeed. Because without knowing how I write, how I think, how I need to plan things, it only makes me have to swim against the tide. Having a plan, and understanding my own process helps me be able to move with the tide, not be constantly fighting. I feel so much more productive and writing has become a joy again.

I know over time though a lot of processes change and I'm definitely keeping an eye out for that. Pretty soon I'll be starting on an entirely new series, And when that happens it may turn out that everything I've established for what I'm working on right now, doesn't work the same. But now I have an idea of what works for me and what I can tweak. 

So if you haven't already, I really encourage you to spend some time figuring out what works for you, where and when you write the best, And how you can play to that. If you write best in coffee shops, maybe you go to a coffee shop once or twice a week after work. If you write best alone in solitude and silence, maybe you're like me and need to literally lock yourself in your closet. Find what works for you and play to that, set yourself up for a win because writing to me really hard. To take a little bit of time and figure out what's best for you and how you can achieve that.

Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

Finding a space to dictate

When I first are using dictation, the hardest part was figuring out where to record. I live with two amazing roommates, but, no matter how amazing they are, I don't want to record my story in front of them. My office isn't an open space right behind the living room, it secluded but not private. So anything I dictate can be easily heard in the living room and any movie or TV show playing the living room can be easily picked up by my microphone. Which lead to some interesting moments Half of my story and half of the great British bake-off.

During December I redid my office to make it more ergonomically friendly. I love the changes the standing desk, the extra monitor so I can edit it easier, and the new, and incredibly comfortable chair. All that to say I didn't want to leave my office. But I knew if I wanted to give dictation a solid try I would have to find a quiet place so I went to my closet. Well my closet is in no way set up for anything but clothing, I just took my laptop in my microphone in sat down and gave a go. The difference is immediate. Suddenly 90% of my words are coming out correctly in 45 minutes in my closet yielded almost 4000 words the highest workout I've ever hit in less than an hour. I decided maybe there was something to dictating in a quiet place.

So I've spent the past few days rearranging my closet to make it something that can double as a sort of recording studio. Part of this is already done when I began launching my first podcast, Ink and Brain monsters, but it's still needed to be something comfortable somewhere I could be for an hour or two at a time. So I adjusted a lot of my things got rid of a bunch of things and cleared off the top of the small cubbyhole compartment. It's a space big enough for my mic and it's sound proofing box, and my laptop. I got a cheap stability ball on clearance after New Year's and set that up as my chair. So far I'm a few recording sessions in and it's been amazing.

It's been amazing not just for the sound quality difference but for the focus it's given me. I hadn't realized how easily it was to get distracted by what was going on in the living room right behind me. But it was incredibly easy to get extracted by what was being made for dinner, what new TV show is on, or even just talking to my roommates. But when I lock myself in my closet, there's nothing but my clothes and my work. The set up in the closet is uncomfortable for browsing the Internet, playing a game on my computer, or much of anything else but recording. It also has given my brain a clear switch, when I sit on the lime green stability ball that hides in my closet now, I know it's time to talk, either for my podcast or for my work. It's still a little strange and I still get very self-conscious even when I'm dictating no one can hear me but me; I'm starting to get over that though.

I wish I haven't tried this a long time ago. I wish that I hadn't been so afraid of what kind of changes that dictating what entail or feeling like I wouldn't be able to communicate effectively if I wasn't typing. I feel like I lost a lot of time and a lot of damage to my body that wasn't necessary, all because I was afraid the dictating would be too expensive and too much work. That hasn't turned out to be the case. So far, dictating has cost me $15, the cost of my stability ball that I'm sitting on right now as I dictate this. Otherwise I had everything else I needed. Now the software on my MacBook is probably not as advanced as Dragon, and I'm sure I could find a better microphone. But none of that is keeping me from dictating. In fact of the switch has been a lot easier than the switch from Word to scrivener.

I feel like I'm going to keep dictating for a while. Honestly some days it really feels like I've completely revolutionize my writing. I know it's still early on only about a week and a half to two weeks in to the switch but so far I don't see myself going back. All it took for three thinking what I already had and finding new ways to make that work. You don't need a fancy recording studio or a fancy software, what you need is a quiet place to focus. That's middle all the difference for me.

Source: Photo by Thomas Le on Unsplash
Posted
AuthorAndrea Judy

For the past two months, I've been having some medical issues that have made working at my computer uncomfortable and painful. My writing output nosedived as I struggled to keep writing even when it hurt. With the dawn of the new year I decided that I would try something new. Partially inspired by Joanna Penn’s book The Healthy Writer, I decided to give dictation a try.

What's kept me from making the leap is that everyone recommends Dragon Dictation, and, to be fair, it seems to be an amazing product for dictation. What's less amazing is the $300 price tag. I didn't have that kind of  money to throw at something I wasn't sure would even work. While looking for alternatives to Dragon, I realized I had an answer right in front of me. My MacBook comes with dictation software already in the general settings. I turned it on and gave it a run.

At it first it was terrible.

 Example from session one. Yeah.... Not even close to what I said. 

Example from session one. Yeah.... Not even close to what I said. 

It got maybe one out of seven words right. It was awful and I figured well dictation isn't for me. But then I thought maybe the problem isn't the software but with using the internal microphone in a noisy space. So I pulled out my snowball, locked myself in my closet to have a quiet space, and gave it another try.

This time it worked like a dream. In 25 minutes I had dictated 3000 words. And most of them we're what I had said. It honestly amazed me. 

So I've kept up with that, and for the past week, I've been working on dictating everything I type. Any time I want to write or I need to get an outline together, I pull out my microphone and go.


Now, it's by no means perfect solution. It requires a lot more editing, not to mention it can be a little awkward speaking your stories. The grammar is strange to have to voice out loud. For example, to get a dialogue line written you would speak:

Begin quote

I hate you

comma

end quote

he said

period

new paragraph

Which would translate to:

"I hate you," he said. 

It's strange getting the hang of and writing the fight scene was a particularly strange experience. It takes a little while to get used to sitting dialogue tags and speaking with the grammar and punctuation necessary. However, over the weekend I've already gotten a lot more confident and feel a lot better about my dictation period

I'm hoping that I will keep up with this dictation. In fact my goal for January is to dictate the draft of my next novella. It's certainly going to be a new experience but I'm excited about trying it out.

So if you're thinking about giving dictation a try, don't let price tag keep you from making the switch. Check your laptop or computer and see what options are already built into the settings. There maybe an alternative you can use. I do suggest using an external microphone that you can adjust to be closer to your mouth. But there are some really great options out there at some pretty reaonsable price points.

So that's my experience with dictation so far a week and a half in. This whole blog post was written entirely by dictation, pretty neat right? So give it a try see how it feels see what happens, at worst, you've lost a little time trying something new. That best, you've found a new way to revolutionize your writing.

Source: Photo by Matt Botsford on Unsplash