How to Dictate a Book, Easily and Painlessly [+ Software]

POSTED ON May 19, 2022

Sarah Rexford

Written by Sarah Rexford

Home > Blog > Learning, Writing > How to Dictate a Book, Easily and Painlessly [+ Software]

Knowing how to dictate a book can drastically improve your writing process. Even if you’re an expert typist, writers can talk faster than they can type. If you’re interested in learning how to dictate a book, or wondering if this process may be for you, we’ve got answers for you.

In this article we answer the questions:

If you’re considering dictating your book, below we outline some of the pros and cons, why to do so, and how. Ready?

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What does it mean to dictate a book?

Dictation is simply putting words to the page but using your voice, rather than typing, to do so. There are many reasons why writers choose to dictate their books, one being the process of writing the book typically goes faster.

If you use paid voice-to-text software, usually the software learns your voice and is relatively reliable. Free software may have more typos or inconsistencies, but for some, it’s worth it. 

Knowing how to dictate a book is something we’ll get into later, but first, let’s answer another question. 

Why dictate your book?

There is a myriad of reasons for dictating a book, and each reason is subjective. However, author Joanna Penn lays out three general reasons you may dictate a book:

How To Dictate A Book Recorder

#1 – Health issues 

If typing is uncomfortable for you for extended periods, dictation can be your answer to this problem. If you need to get some extra walking in, you can dictate while doing so. You may also want to learn how to dictate a book now as a preventative for future health issues. Folks with vision problems, arthritis, or missing appendages can definitely benefit from dictating their book.

However, dication is not for everyone. If you do not have current health issues and you are not at the point to start dictation, make sure you have the proper setup for typing. Typing a tweet, text, or email is a world of difference from writing an entire book. An ergonomic keyboard, mouse, good chair, and appropriate posture are likely a good place to start. 

#2 – Speed

Chances are you can speak faster than you can type. Even if you have an above-average typing speed, speech is simply a faster way to get words on the page. If you are a full-time writer, bouncing between both dictation and typing can be a helpful way to keep your stamina up.

#3 – Gets the words flowing

A lot of authors need help turning off their inner critic while writing their first draft. For perfectionistic writers, this can be tough. This is one reason dictation can dramatically speed up your writing and your efficiency. 

Rather than letting yourself get stuck on one word or phrase, simply dictate your story until you meet that day’s word count goal. The next time you come back to write, edit your dictation. This will speed up your process and show you how much writing you can do in one day. 

What is the best way to dictate a book?

The best way to dictate a book comes down to what works best for you, long-term. You can dictate on your daily walk, from the comfort of your in-home office, or while you drive to your next conference or vacation. Some have even claimed to write a book in a day.

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When it comes to the practicalities of dictation, there are a few detailed points to consider. 

Set up an outline of the basic plot

If you’ve ever spoken extemporaneously in front of an audience, you understand the power of a few pre-planned notes. Something as small as a 3X5 index card can take you from nervous to confident. 

The same is true for dictation. 

Whether you claim to write by the seat of your pants (and discover your plot as your write) or you are a hardcore plotter who must know every detail before writing, a basic outline can help.

If you’re writing a self-help business book, know the core message you want to get across, and the steps individuals need to take to get there. If you’re writing a fantasy novel for young adults, consider outlining your inciting incident, climax, and denouement before starting your dictation.

This type of preparation will help give you details to attach sentences, paragraphs, eventually, pages, to. 

Start speaking your ideas

If you want to get a jump start on learning the ins and outs of dictation, don’t write down your ideas, speak them. Speaking your ideas is a great way for your dictation program to learn your voice and how you speak. 

While there may be some initial typos, since you’re in the ideation stage, not the final draft, these typos won’t impact the overall end product of your book. In fact, they may help the end product turn out cleaner due to the dictation program learning your voice better. 

Speaking your ideas can also help you broaden your brainstorming stage. As mentioned previously, we can talk faster than we can type, so getting all your ideas down via dictation may be a helpful method for you. 

First steps: how to dictate a book

Software to use

If you are just starting out, you may want to begin with a free dictation service and see how you like it. If you use Google Docs on a MAC, click TOOLS and scroll down to VOICE TYPING. This free software can give you a feel for dictation.

If you drive a lot or enjoy taking long hikes, consider a simple vocal recording to practice speaking your thoughts. If you have an iPhone, search VOICE MEMOS and simply start recording. Apple Dictation is a free app for Apple devices.

While this free software does not translate your voice to text, it is a good way to get used to speaking your ideas. You can always play it back later to show yourself if having your ideas written out would be helpful.

If you use Windows, consider Windows 10 Speech Recognition. Dragon by Nuance is customizable for each user and may be worth the investment. Gboard is also a free mobile dictation app.

Transcription options for your book

There are a few routes you can take when it comes to dictating your book. First, you may want to simply dictate your book into a voice recording software (such as Voice Memos on iPhone) and type your words out at a later date.

For instance, if you’re on a hike and get inspiration for your novel, you likely won’t have access to your computer. Simply dictate what you want to write later, and do so once you get computer access again.

Second, you may want to speak your book and hire someone else to transcribe it. This will ensure a second pair of eyes on your work and they will likely catch typos you could miss. Since you are the one dictating, you know what you’re trying to say. A transcriber can help clean up your dictation. is another great option for this.

Third, you may choose to speak your book in its entirety. If you choose this option, make sure you articulate your words and dictate your book in organized segments. If you speak clearly and know the direction you want to take your book, this will be the fastest method for you.

Next steps

Remember, learning to dictate your book takes time and energy. Don’t get discouraged if your first attempts don’t go as expected or if it takes you a bit to figure out which method is best for you. 

Keep at it. If you’re a writer, you are a creative, and the process just takes time. Best wishes! And if you need help, we're here for you. 

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