Dictating on Otter: An Author Review

With His to Comfort revised and sent to the proofreader, I decided to do a case study of how this book went down as my very first dictated novel. With dictation, I recorded about 9 hours spread out over a week, coming out with 60K words for my first draft. My revision converted the story to 40K words. I used a $12 monthly subscription for Otter. I also had a digital recorder and mic.

The good

✔️ I could jump right into dictating without having to invest upwards of $200 into Dragon software that I have never used or tried before.

✔️ I had Otter “read” the parts of the draft to me which encouraged me to keep working on the revision. (It was hard to check Facebook while working on Otter.)

✔️ The transcription synching with the recording was good to have so that I could double-check the transcription’s accuracy (it was fairly good but was definitely not 100 per cent accurate).

✔️ It was a crazy busy (and super-exciting) week with the month-early arrival of my grandson, so dictating a couple of hours here and there but getting high wordcounts felt like progress.

✔️ I was able to get distinct voices, speech patterns and personalities for my characters.

✔️ Sometimes, on first drafts, I have to discard a lot of it anyway, so at least the first draft had been “written” so much faster, without the discomfort of having to type fast.

✔️ I got a lot of my steps, dictating while walking around in the house, in those nine hours.


❌ Unlike writing in the Dragon program, Otter does not recognize instructions like adding quotation marks or periods. I had to add a lot of that myself.

❌ When I dictated directly into my laptop, the transcription was not as accurate as when I dictated into my recorder first and uploaded the mp3 into Otter.

❌ If I cancel my Otter subscription (which I am contemplating, as this experience wasn’t as good as I had hoped), my guess is I will lose all the recording/transcription synching ability (but since it’s a draft I really didn’t want to save, I’m not terribly cut up by that.)

❌ Otter slowed down my computer and sometimes even made Word freeze.

❌ Slogging through numerous episodes to correct the transcription was tedious and I gave up on it halfway through.

❌ My characters sometimes sounded like a bunch of junior high kids yammering on and on in tedious conversation just because I was able to yammer while dictating. Had I been typing it all, I don’t think I would have been so self-indulgent. I ended up revising a huge portion—maybe 80 per cent—of that in my final 40K wordcount.

My verdict on dictation using Otter

It’s great if you just want to prime the pump. You are still getting words, and it’s a good way get a first draft done especially when life happens. The revision might be a killer though. One thing I would do different next time is to summarize key story points after each dictation so that when the revision comes around, I could use that as an outline.

I’m not giving up completely on dictation. I still have a recording of a non-fiction project that I could try revising. I will read a few more books on dictating to see how others have done it. Because I loved how I didn’t have to type like a madwoman to get a first draft done.