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Have you tried dictation and struggled too much with it? Do you want to use dictation more effectively for writing? In today's interview, Christopher Downing explains his foolproof dictation method.
In the introduction, I go through my annual round-up of book sales figures by vendor, format, country, genre, and author name. Plus, I share how I will do things differently going forward.
Today's show is sponsored by my own courses for authors – including How to Write a Novel, and How to Write Non-Fiction. If you need help with writing, click here to check out the available courses.
Christopher Downing is the author of Fool Proof Dictation and Fool Proof Outline, as well as writing under pen names in new adult romance, science fiction, romance, and military sci-fi. He's a full-time dad to three young children, and also does online coaching for authors wanting to dictate.
You can listen above or on iTunes or Stitcher or watch the video here, read the notes and links below. Here are the highlights and full transcript below.
- Why warming up before dictating is so important
- The pendulum’s movement back from simply writing quickly to focusing on craft
- The approach of using cyclical writing blocks
- I use the Sony PX 333 digital recorder
- Common dictation issues and how to get past them
- Using Scrivener to outline and organize your writing
- Using several pen names and no social media
You can find Christopher Downing's books on Amazon here, and his dictation coaching at coach.me.
Transcript of Interview with Christopher Downing
Joanna: Hi, everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from thecreativepenn.com. And today, I'm here with Christopher Downing. Hi, Christopher.
Christopher: Hi, Joanna. Good to be here.
Joanna: It's great to have you on this show. Just a little introduction:
Christopher is the author of “Fool Proof Dictation,” which I actually have right here by my desk and “Fool Proof Outline,” as well as writing under pen names in new adult romance, science fiction, romance, and military sci-fi. He's a full-time dad to three young children, and also does online coaching for authors wanting to dictate, which is super useful.
Christopher, just give us a bit more about your background. How did you get into writing?
Christopher: I started in elementary school. My biggest award that I've ever won in writing was in fifth grade. I won a district writing competition, and then it went downhill for about 20 years. I got back into it as an adult in 2005.
I wrote a couple novels that I tried publishing traditionally that didn't go very well, partly because I didn't know what I was doing yet. And then I entered the indie world in about 2015 when I published my first memoir under my real name, actually, at that time. I've been writing my whole life, and it took a long time to get there.
Joanna: Why did you want to be a writer? Because you mentioned you're a full-time dad. Being a writer is kind of flexible, isn't it?
Christopher: It is. There are still some demands on being a writer, especially for indie now. If you're running your own business, you would know that. You published a few books on that subject.
What I miss the most is just having creative quiet time. I'm a full-time dad so I don't get a lot of daydream time. So that's probably the thing that eats into my ability to create the most as a full-time dad, is just quiet, creative daydream time. You don't get that a lot. And when you do, it's like 12:00 at night and I'm not much of a night person anymore, so there you have it.
Joanna: We're going to talk about dictation because I've had a couple of authors on the show about dictation and I've gone through my own dictation journey. And when I found your book, which I think must have come out around the time when I was finding other things not working so well, and I read it and I was like, “Okay, this is interesting. This sounds more like me.”
Can you give an overview of the writing session, and then we'll get into the details of different aspects.
Christopher: Sure. What I do is I systematically divide my time up. For the first half of my writing session is going to be warming up my brain or revving up my brain.
There's the language composition parts of our brain that if you're an introvert or you spend a lot of time with children or you don't spend a lot of time talking to yourself all day, and which I think is most people, when it comes time to dictate, your brain is not ready to go.
So what I do is I have systematically created a way to warm up your brain. That's pretty important. Let's say you have a 2-hour window to get some writing in; you'll spend about 10 to 15 minutes reading out loud or doing some free writing, some sort of that activity, just loosey-goosey kind of stuff.
And then I have created some exercises. You spend about 40 minutes working through some exercises to focus specifically on some different kinds of dictation that you might do, whether it's sentence construction or vocabulary work, or something like that. And then the second half, once your brain is ready to go, then you dive into your work in progress.
Joanna: I think the big issue that everyone has is, you're just talking about spending 40 minutes warming up. And, like, isn't that a complete waste of time? Because if people have only, let's say, they have half an hour instead of two hours, and they spend seven and a half minutes of half an hour warming up when they could have written I don't even know how many words in that long.
Why focus on that warming up and these exercises?
Christopher: First off, the bottom line is that experience is the best teacher. If you have a half an hour to write, I promise you that the last 15 minutes of writing will be much smoother and more pain-free if you spend the first half of it just free writing and just writing anything.
If you just dive into your work in progress, and I know 99% of authors out there have experienced this, if you sit down in front of your laptop and just start writing, it's hard to get going. It's almost a painful process.
The next thing you know you're searching your email and checking your sales page and that kind of stuff. You're finding the path of least resistance and this will come up again. We're always going to the path of least resistance. It's just easier to get the brain warmed up.
The other thing is I think the indie world has gone through a phase where we're all trying to write fast, whether we're doing 2K to 10K or 5,000 words per hour or dabbling with dictation. There's been this movement to write quickly.
And I think I did it and it's great. We all learned how to write quickly. But at the same time, I think a lot of us got the mindset that achieving high words per hour or high words per day is the ultimate goal. And I've kind of started stepping back from that a little bit realizing too, and I think a lot of other…and Chris Fox has mentioned this recently.
It's time to start focusing on the craft a little bit more, too. So if we can get high words and yet, at the same time, warm up the craft side of our brain where we can dictate a decent sentence or a somewhat complicated sentence that's written beautifully, I think that this is all better in the end. Does that make sense?
Joanna: I think you're right. Well, let's then circle back to why dictate then? Because one of the reasons that many people want to dictate is to go faster.
What are the reasons that you think people should consider dictation?
Christopher: Okay, two reasons. One, it is faster. And once you get there it is faster.
I like to use the analogy of, if you were writing by hand most of your life and someone handed you an electric typewriter and they said, “Work with this for three months and let me know how it goes.” And if you didn't have someone there training you, coaching you, encouraging you on a daily basis, after two weeks, you would pick the thing up and throw it out the window and say, “Why is Q the first letter? That doesn't make any sense.”
So it's the same thing; you've got to stick with it. It is faster if you stick with it.
And then the other thing that I think is the biggest bonus of dictation is that you can enter or create a flow state without the distractions. I think your inner critic, once you get good at it, your inner critic goes away. You're not worried about editing on the screen.
And you don't have this computer in front of you. In fact, I dictate away from my computer now. Monica Leonelle talked about this, her walkie-talkies. She'll pack her little bag and go for a walk and have people stare at her funny. I love that. And I do that, except I don't go publicly. I still can't do that.
You get away from the computer, you get away from your distractions. I think that's huge. Here is an example I like to give to people, too. There's a website called “The Most Dangerous Writing App” or “The Most Dangerous App.” And what it is, is it's an app where you're just typing, and you sit down and you set your writing sprint 3, 5, 10, 20 minutes, and then the cursor will pop up. And if you slow down your writing, if you stop writing for more than, I think, five seconds, the entire text disappears. So it forces you to keep goint. It's horrible until you get 10 minutes to it and then everything just goes away, and you're like, “What?”
Joanna: There's a slightly nicer version called “Write or Die,” which starts deleting backwards so you don't delete everything.
Christopher: It's the same idea, right? Nerve-wracking.
I would encourage anyone to try that because there's a kamikaze version of it, too, where it actually blocks out what you write, so it prevents you from editing as you type, and that's great, too. So try something like that and you experience, “Oh, there's no self-editing as you type.” And you realize that you can start typing faster.
And then you can enter into that creative flow state without editing as you type. And so the point of that being, when you dictate the same thing happens, you can't edit as you type or as you write and it allows you to enter into that flow state. That's crucial for us as writers.
Joanna: It does make sense. The reason why I really like your book is this cyclical writing idea.
First of all, let's just be clear on that warm up, you have some exercises, but you also encourage people to read books in their genre to kind of get in the mindset, don't you?
Christopher: Yeah. Before you have an interview with Joanna Penn and you want to warm up your voice, you wake up at 6:00 in the morning and you want to warm up your voice before you start talking.
I would encourage anyone to read out loud or do free writing. In fact, I'm actually leaning more towards free writing these days, just stream of consciousness writing.
Reading out loud is a great way, too. It just warms up your mouth, warms up your breathing. It helps you integrate punctuation into your speaking. And also too, when we write with a keyboard, we often use a different set of vocabulary, different sets of sentence construction than we do when we're talking to people or when we're dictating. The idea is to try to merge those two.
So by reading out loud or practicing some free writing, it allows you to delve deep and explore the vocabulary of the sentence instructions that you would use like you would do in writing.
Otherwise, when you start dictating, you either have long rambling sentences. You overuse the word “and.” “And” is the most frequently word used in my dictation, at least when I was beginning. Or you write a lot of short choppy sentences, none of which really work out.
Joanna: I found that actually, the short choppy sentences, just because I didn't like saying comma a lot, which is funny.
Let's now talk about the cyclical writing blocks, the 2, 5, 10, 20.
Explain that because I think this is the thing that really makes it a different approach.
Christopher: This speaks to the inner critic and setting expectations. And I'll tell the backstory of how that started. This is where the “Fool Proof Dictation” even began.
I was reading Rachel Aaron's “2k to 10k,” which most people have read at this point. It's been out for a couple years. And she talked about one of the sides of her writing triangle is knowing what you're going to write. She suggested writing a 200 to 500-word summary of your scene before you started writing it. And that was a great piece of advice, whether you're typing or dictating.
So I started doing that before I was dictating, and then that translated over to the dictation. So I would dictate a small version of the scenes, 250 words, and that would be about 2 minutes. And then that was easy. I noticed that was easy. I could do that.
And that helped clarify a lot of the ideas of the scene, the structure of the scene, where the scene was going. And then I would say, “Well, let's try to expand that a little bit. Let's pick some of the scene beats and try to expand them a little bit, add in some more detail.”
So then I would go for five minutes. And then I would do it mostly from memory, because the things that stuck out in my memory from what I did just the dictation before are usually the important parts. So I would do it for 5 minutes and then I would think about that for about 30 seconds, and what really hit home and what I'd want to change.
And without slowing down too much, I would jump right into 10 minutes. And then after that I would do about 20 minutes. A 20-minute dictation, if you're not entirely flubbing it up, is about 1,800 words.
If you're dictating it, about 5,000 words per hour. Don't do the math and test me on that. But starting small, gradually increasing, increasing a little bit more, and the next thing you know, you're dictating the entire scene.
It just feels a lot easier even if you were typing. Write an 800-word scene. Here's a small outline. Go. You would probably spend three or four hours clunking your way through it.
But if someone were to tell you, “Write 200 words, and then 700 words, 1,000 words, and then 2,000 words,” you could probably do it.
Now, if you're typing, the idea of rewriting that much it's just, “No, thank you. I don't like rewriting when I'm typing.” But if you think about it, if you write a scene using the 2, 5, 10, and 20-minute cycles, you've only spent 40…you can do the math on that one, you get 40 minutes.
You've rewritten the scene about 4 times, working it through, developing it, expanding it, working in details, and you've only spent 40 minutes rewriting a scene 4 times. And I think that's worth the time. It's amazing what you can do with that.
Joanna: I think that's what's interesting. I had Kevin J. Anderson on the show, and he talked about when you're starting out, just do notes to yourself and thoughts and ideas. Don't try to go from zero to finished draft writing with dictation like with your first go.
And like you say, expectations are, “Oh, I just pick up the device and I start talking and I magically create a 2,000-word chapter.” That just doesn't happen, right?
Where is this is like, okay, two minutes, come up with a couple of sentences, and not your finished sentences. They're like just the outline. And as somebody who's not an outliner, that to me just felt much more helpful in terms of getting to the point where I could then dictate the next draft.
And just to be clear, what we're talking here with people is we're dictating into a device or the computer but you're not looking at this thing on the screen.
The point is then you could read that into the transcription mode and get it up on the screen if you wanted, but you said you don't do that anymore.
Christopher: No, no, I never did. I think I dabbled with, you know, non-transcription, writing directly onto the screen for about 10 minutes. And I said, “This is nuts.” Although it was a previous version of Dragon, I still don't do it. It's transcription only.
I like to be away from the computer. I carry notes with me. And in fact, I'll email a PDF of my own outline usually, or I'll print them out to my Kindle and keep them with me.
But to be honest, at this point in my career, sitting in front of a computer is the least creative environment for me to do any writing. I can't stand it. I can't stand sitting in front of my computer when I'm writing. I would much rather be sitting in front of a three-ring binder with my printed outline and dictating. I must say, I'm over my computer, really. That's another interview, but I'm over it.
Joanna: We will come back to that in a minute about marketing things.
The other thing I was thinking of the cyclical approach is that Dean Wesley Smith, who I'm a huge fan of, talks about “Writing Into The Dark”. But he also talks about his cyclical approach, which is he might write 1,500 words, but then he'll kind of go back, read through, and maybe add to it.
He writes a clean first draft, but he still cycles through that draft. So each line is actually touched a couple of times, and then he works like that.
Your transcription method actually feels more like that, which is by the second…even if you don't do it four times, if you maybe get it on the third time, you have been through a cycle so that that third time is much cleaner than if you've just tried to do it once, right?
Christopher: Yeah. If you're a pantser, which you are, right?
Joanna: Which I am, yeah.
Christopher: Good luck with that.
Joanna: I pretty much am. I know a few tempo moments, and then I pants it.
Christopher: The scene will grow organically. And whether you use an outline or a small outline or a detailed outline, you're entirely pantsing. The scene grows organically from your own creativity and that's what makes it fun.
I liked “Writing Into The Dark” too. I enjoyed that book too. I actually went back and read that after I published “Foolproof Outline.” So it's kind of like the two extremes, right? But I get it and I love it.
You do need to be able to harness the excitement from the creative centers of your brain while you're writing, or otherwise your writing will come across as flat and dull, and the reader will experience that too, and that's not good. Letting scenes grow organically, even if you have a small outline or a detailed outline, I think, is part of the exciting process of writing.
Joanna: I should say, as she reaches over and gets “Foolproof Outline.”
Joanna: Everyone who comes on the show, I don't have their books in print, but I actually bought yours in print because of the exercises that are in them. I actually find it easier to have them in print, and they're very short books.
What you're talking about is not some massive tome that takes forever to understand. What you've done is break it down into a different way of management, which is great.
Before we talk about the outline, you do this coaching for people who want to dictate, which I think is brilliant, because it's mindset. It's all mindset, really.
What are some of the common issues that people are bringing to you and how can we get past them?
Christopher: The first one is punctuation, right? It's so annoying. But I think that's because people try to add punctuation too soon. I think you need to learn to be able to speak fluently and develop sentence structure, be able to tap into your writing vocabulary before you do punctuation. Punctuation should be the last thing that you fold in.
So what is it? I think editing. Editing is gonna be a huge one. There's accuracy, there's editing, so I'll speak to a few of them briefly. Accuracy, if you're speaking, unless you're from east Texas, if you're speaking accurately and slowly, with controlled breathing, the new versions of Dragon are gonna give you a good accuracy, no matter what. I think you're gonna get close to 95 to 99% accuracy.
So the key is to learn how to speak slowly with good breathing and speak articulately. And if you can do that, that really will take care of most of your accuracy problems. Scott Baker mentions that a lot in his book, too. The editing, you know, that website I talked about, “The World's Most Dangerous App” or “Write to Die” that you mentioned, so do that.
Sit down in the kamikaze mode, where it covers up what you write, and then type a small scene or type the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” out and see how much faster you type if you can't see what you need to go back and edit. That said, you'll see how many mistakes that you make. You make a ton of mistakes if you're not watching what you type on the screen.
So what you're doing is you're actually eliminating a huge amount of time that when you go back and correct words as you type. I know we're not supposed to do it but we all do it. If you see a sentence that doesn't look right or the punctuation is wrong, you've misspelled a couple words or auto fill has taken over your world and destroyed it, you're always going back and correcting as you go.
If you were to tell me that I spent too much time, after I've transcribed, editing all the mistakes or editing the things out, well, I would counter that by saying, “How much editing do you do as you type?” And that editing you as you do as you type interferes with the creative flow state that you're trying to achieve as a writer.
I think the net gain of dictation actually creates less editing in the long run once you get the accuracy in your articulation done. It is the path of least resistance.
As human beings, I don't care what hobby you're taking up or what you do for a living, your brain will often go to the path of least resistance. And if you're good at typing at the keyboard, if you're great at typing at the keyboard, that's only going to make the switch to dictation more difficult. Because as you struggle with dictation, you're going to want to just type it out, it'll go so much faster. And that's where the coaching comes in.
I do believe I'm the only coach out there offering this service. It's just someone that could check in with you on a daily basis and give you encouragement.
When I was starting to dictate, I wish I had, whether it was a Facebook group or a writing group locally in town where we could get together and give each other daily encouragement or hold each other accountable to dictating without falling back to the path of least resistance, which is typing.
Joanna: That's a fantastic area. I've been interviewing people on dictation. Monica was like four years ago or something. And I've done two novels and some of nonfiction. Or we should just say all of this stuff, is this the same for nonfiction? Because, of course, you have nonfiction books as well.
Christopher: Yes, absolutely. That means you still have to organize your brain before you get started, and you have to learn how to organize your brain on the fly. It's the same thing, whether you're nonfiction or fiction.
Joanna: I think that's important. Let's talk about the “Fool Proof Outline” briefly because you've broken down the dictation, I think you've also done the same with outline.
You use Scrivener for the outline, and you actually have some templates which are fantastic. Now, I use Scrivener.
But one thing people get really confused about is how do you use Scrivener with dictation and outlining?
Can you explain how those things fit together in a process so that people can visualize it?
Christopher: What's great about Scrivener is that you can use it however you want to. There's no right or wrong way to use Scrivener. For me, it's an organizational tool. I can only speak how I do it. It's an organizational tool.
I use it for my outlining, and I organize my scenes, I have questionnaires, over off on the side that I use for my brainstorming. In the end, I don't write directly to Scrivener. I don't anymore now that I'm dictating well. I do have this, by the way. I just want to show up, this is my little buddy right here. This is my little recorder. I used to use a voice app on my phone but this is the way to go.
Joanna: Wait, tell us what it is because everyone's like, “Now I want to know what it is.”
Christopher: Oh, well, I'll send you a link if that's all right, too. It's a Sony model, I'm not sure, that's a big number.
It's a Sony, and I use this little splitter here. I also use my Logitech headset that I bought 4 years ago for $15. It does have a noise cancelling cancellation boom. I think I've seen your setup. You have a very nice setup. You have a pretty fantastic mic, don't you?
Joanna: Well, it's for broadcasting. But for dictation, I just have a little Sony, but we'll put the link to your setup in the show notes.
Christopher: I use it for organizing, I use it for organizing my work, organizing my questionnaires and outlines.
What I do now is I will often print my outline out, print my questionnaires out, put them in a three-ring binder, leave the computer away behind. If I need to I'll get a hotel room for 99 bucks a night or something like that. Or go to the library, find a study room, and without the computer there, I'll just use my paper notes and my dictation.
Then when I transcribe through Dragon, and that will usually pump it into a Rich Text document, I don't use Word. There's just a couple variables with Word that I don't like to use with transcription. So I'll just use a Rich Text document and then just simply cut and paste it over into Scrivener. So I don't write into Scrivener. I just use it for organization.
Joanna: Exactly. I do as well. I think this is really important:
Do not try and dictate with Dragon into Scrivener or Word because things just go really wrong, don't they?
Christopher: They do, especially if you're dictating live without using transcription. I mean, how many times have you looked up and an entire paragraph has just gone and you're like, “What?”
Joanna: Or you're stuck on something, it stopped doing like repeating a word. So that's just a real tip.
Keep it simple, dictate, and then you put the file and ID the same thing. But just to wind it back, on the outline:
Do you type your outline into Scrivener? Or do you do your outlining with dictation and then put the outline in that way as well?
Christopher: Pen and paper. I will actually print out my outline and my questionnaires that I talk about in the “Fool Proof Outline.” I print them out now, put them in a three-ring binder, and I'll sit on the couch and just use a pen and paper. And I just like doing that, it takes me to a creative space, and maybe that was comfortable for me 20 years ago.
But like I said, sitting on the computer just doesn't feel creative to me anymore, so I don't like doing that. So I use pen and paper to outline and brainstorm. But I don't dictate.
Joanna: So you write stuff down by hand and then you type into Scrivener the things that you write down. And then you print out what you've typed and then you take that and you dictate from that outline?
Christopher: That's right, that's right.
Joanna: So it's a bit of everything, really, but the point is the long actual finished text is dictated and then you edit.
Do you hand edit on a printed final draft or manuscript?
Christopher: No. I'll edit in Scrivener. I use the keyboard when I edit because my fingers are so fast when it comes to editing, you know, selecting, cutting, cutting, cutting, and pasting and moving text around and right-clicking to open up to the source, that kind of thing. It works so much faster on the keyboard.
One point I do want to make to everybody is we are talking about a first draft. I would never dictate anything beyond a first draft. I'm not that good yet. I'm not sure anyone is that good yet.
Eliminating the expectations of a quality draft when you're dictating makes things easier. So we're talking about a first draft, and sometimes if I'm dictating and I catch myself using small, clunky sentences or run on sentences, it's going to happen, but you just roll with it and you've got to trust your editing process.
Unless you're Dean Wesley Smith, then you don't edit much in the end. But I'll edit something three or four times, three, four passes before I think it's close to finished. And so, we're talking about dictating a first draft.
Joanna: I think that's really important, too. Okay, so let's come on to the privacy thing because you manage all these different pen names. Now, I say manage pen names, because I manage three different pen names. I have websites, I have email list, I have social media, I do all these different things for all my pen names.
Explain how you do pen names, and how you also do the privacy thing, and the no social media thing and why and how do you do all of that?
Christopher: Half of this is necessity. I'm a full-time dad, I don't have time for social media. I detest social media anyways. But even if I didn't, I don't have time for that. It's just like I don't have time for much marketing.
I think I've found the return on marketing isn't that great. So you spend 90% of your time and you get like a 10 return or whatever, something like that. So I just focus on what little time you have.
If you just focus on writing good books, a bunch of them, I think that's where the payoff is. I just don't have time for marketing. I don't have time for Facebook. I don't have time to allow my brain to get sucked into checking notifications so often.
I do have four pen names. Who knows? Next month it'll be five. The first time I was writing romance. And there is a rumor out there that male romance writers don't do as well as female romance writers and it's true. So I chose a female pen name for romance.
But then I was in Facebook at that time and then I was caught in this dilemma of, “Well, do I create this fake persona? Or do I just have a pen name and just let it go?”
Because creating a fake persona where I'm interacting with readers, which I caught myself doing, seems like fraud. That didn't feel right at all, because they thought they were talking to a woman and I was pretending to be a woman. And I was like, “This is not right, this isn't good.” I shut that all down. I was like, “Eject, eject.” So I shut that down.
I use pen names, but I don't use them to create a social media presence. I don't create a false persona, it's just a pen name and it's all there is to it. I actually do have a male pen name that I do for new adult romance, too. And there's a small, enthusiastic readership that doesn't feel comfortable either so I need to create a barrier there.
I'm happily married with three kids and we're not afraid of the outside world. It's just nice when you have this little protected environment. I use a fake address for my mailing lists, that kind of thing. It's like when you receive a one star review, it's like they don't just tell you how bad your book is, they tell you how bad of a person you are and I just don't want that in my life.
So I've chosen to not do that so that's why I use, not only pen names, but I just don't want that in my life.
Joanna: And again I know everyone's going, “Oh, well, how does he sell any books?” And because we're keeping your pen name secret we can't point to your books. I think you said you have to have more than like three books, right, to market by writing.
Can you give us a number of how many books you have out there?
Christopher: I have 10 full-length books and then I dabble a lot in short romance stories, too, which is just sort of a fun hobby I have. I almost feel like it's a little bit different than my writing career.
There's different ways that you can market outside of social media. I still use paid advertising through Amazon, which once you start getting keywords down, it does pay off. I do rely heavily on the also boughts.
I did dabble with the money suck Facebook advertising there for a little bit. And I lost a ton of money over a six-month period. And I just found other ways to do it.
I still say the best way to market a book is to put the sales link to the next book in the series, on the last page in the back matter of your book. And if they like the first book, they're going to buy the second book.
You can't convince somebody just through marketing and buzzwords to buy a book. They like your book, they're going to buy it. If they don't buy it, well, then you should probably start rethinking how you wrote the book in the first place.
So that's the biggest payoff. The temptation there, of course, is to do a pre-order which I've done in the past and made that mistake, is to put it pre-order in the back matter of a book. I would encourage everyone to never, ever, ever do that because that creates this sense of pressure that you don't want your life.
But that's how I do it, that's it. That's my secret. I put the sales page on the back matter of a book for the next book in the series, and then let it roll. And then use some advertising to try to get in people's also boughts.
Joanna: I know quite a few authors who do this approach. And it definitely suits people who are focusing on the writing first, and also with pen names. I totally agree with you.
It's very difficult to do all the different types of marketing like I do under my own name. I can do lots of things because it's me, and I don't have to hide that, but very much I agree with you, is it can be particularly difficult. So yeah, I get that. It's a good recommendation.
And so you said you were on Facebook, and then you wound that back.
Did you ever do any of the other social media?
Christopher: I did. I did Twitter for a little bit. Twitter did great. I met some great connections while I was doing work on male depression and advocacy work for men with mental illness at that time. So I built a lot of really great connections when I wrote my first memoir, and that's under my regular name, people can find that.
The great psychologist, Stephen Hanley, who wrote the foreword, I met him through Twitter so I'm not a total Luddite, you know. I think there's some benefits but I think there's not really a net gain when it comes to social media. That's just my personal opinion.
Honestly it was the 2016 American presidential election that just caused me to bail. It just really showed me how negative this place can be. So that was that was when I bailed.
Joanna: I think there's a lot of people who are tired of the political side of the spectrum they are on, it has become very argumentative and opinionated in things. My method is to just mute and block and mark as spam and just loads of methods for cutting out the noise.
Joanna: I think if people listening are attracted to what you've done, but feel like they're way deep like I am, yet like there are ways that you can control that noise without giving up completely. And one really good thing is the digital fast, obviously, when you just give it up for like a week, and then you might come down.
But I love what you've done, I think it's really interesting.
Tell people where they can find you and your books that we can talk about annual dictation coaching online.
Christopher: Sure. Right now I'm at coach.me. I provide affordable coaching for people who want to learn dictation, it's 15 bucks a month. We dabble into all sorts of writing. The best thing about it is just someone who's going to hold you accountable to using your dictation and not falling back on the keyboard too much.
I offer different packages for beginning writers and professional writers. So anyone who's published plenty of books but have trouble with dictation, I have some ideas for them, too. The only place you can really find me is on my Amazon homepage, so it's Christopher Downing…well, I don't know whatever that is, but you can search for me there on Amazon, that's where I am.
Christopher: Otherwise, I'm hiding in a cave in Colorado.
Joanna: Oh, Colorado, now we know. No, that's fantastic. Well, thanks so much for your time, Christopher. That was great.
Joanna: Thank you so much, Joanna.
Christopher Wills says
Great podcast today Jo. I really like the idea of warming up your voice. My wife sings in a choir and she says they do warm up exercises before they sing so why not. Something I don’t think was mentioned – it would be interesting to hear Christopher’s view on this – is “voice”. In the past I have noticed if I read before I write my writing voice (style) picks up little bits from the style of the bit I just read. So before a dictation session if I read some Hemingway… 🙂
Joanna Penn says
I think Christopher did suggest reading some of your own work to warm up your voice 🙂 Glad you found it useful.
Scott Baker says
Great to see (and hear!) Christopher on your show, Joanna. Lots of awesome advice.
T Thorn Coyle says
Congratulations on deciding to focus on JF Penn for the next 18 months, Joanna!
I’ll be interested in learning more about how to market print vs ebooks, as I’m only recently getting into IngramSpark (have always had print, but am moving away from Amazon only there) and will eventually consider large print as well.
Looking forward to listening to Christopher. I’ve gone on and off the dictation train and want to get back on.
Leigh Ann Beckett says
Thanks so much for this! Timing was awesome as I had decided to begin transcribing last week and have been weeding through all the info out there to try to figure out how to best set things up. Couldn’t believe it when I saw the title Monday morning. I was thinking I would transcribe directly into Scrivener on my Iphone but I can see now why that could be a bad idea!
Joanna Penn says
Definitely never transcribe into Scrivener from Dragon 🙂 Use a Text Editor so you don’t accidentally start weird formatting!
Connie B. Dowell says
Great episode this week. Dictating into my phone has been a big help for my productivity. Maybe one of these days soon I will take the plunge and get Dragon so I can use their transcription service. I have a feeling it would be cheaper in the long run than paying piece by piece for a transcription service, even a machine transcription.
Another great episode.
I’ve just finished my latest Non-fiction book and have been wanting to get on with fiction writing for months. I have the premise, setting, and some strong characters but have been preoccupied with NF.
Saturday morning and I started listening to this episode while I cut my grass (in NZ) but ran out of grass so had to cut the neighbours lawns as well, to finish the episode.
My initial plan for the weekend was to decide on my next investment:
My choices where an
1. Upgrade for Dragon, 2. Your How to write a novel course, 3 Your Creative freedom course, 4. Joseph Michaels learn scrivener fast course 5. A combination of one or more.
Now you’ve added Christopher’s dictation coaching to the list OMG.
I bought two Sony mp3 recorders several weeks ago and have been listening to audiobooks (in my chosen genre)and using the recorders to make notes on the commute to work.
It’s not shiny object syndrome, I’m just trying to prioritize the tools at the moment 🙂
Love that you always bring the right content, just when I need it.
Joanna Penn says
Glad you’re enjoying the show, Ged!
Laura Martone says
Wonderful interview, as always! And I’m delighted, Jo, to hear that you’re getting back to fiction. As a novelist and screenwriter, I understand how different those writing styles can be – and frankly, I prefer novels at this point. For one thing, books are completed works of art and much easier to sell. Screenplays, while fun to read and write, are actually blueprints for the “actual” work of art – and much tougher to sell and turn into movies!
Joanna Penn says
Thanks for your support, Laura! xx
Thanks very much for this! I have an audio recorder app on my Android Pixel phone and a Zoom H1 recorder that I use for podcasts. Would either of those work as well as the device Christopher uses for dictation and transcription via Dragon?
Joanna Penn says
You can use whatever device you want and then train Dragon to work with that – Zoom H1 is a great recorder. You just have to find what works for you.
Which version of Dragon would you recommend? There are such mixed reviews on Amazon – wondering if Home or Professional is the way to go. Many thanks – as always, great show.
Joanna Penn says
Sorry, I don’t know the difference. I just use Dragon Dictate for Mac.
James Brown says
Upset to learn yesterday that Nuance has dropped Dragon for Mac and will provide no further updates. In the absence of anything comparable for Mac it looks like I’ll be buying my first Windows machine for many years 🙁
Joanna Penn says
I think they are encouraging people to go for Dragon Anywhere which is their cloud solution.
But I also think their business model is suffering because most newer computers have excellent speech to text capability without Dragon and it’s getting better every day. This will be part of everything soon enough. I won’t be getting a PC.
James Brown says
Well, I’ve had a result, I called Nuance the Dragon makers yesterday, had a little moan and told them that I was a long time Mac user and asked them if i could get a discount code for the Windows version. The salesperson didn’t think so but said she would ask. An hour later I got an email from them with an invoice with 100% discount applied.
I’d already installed the latest version of Parallels/Windows10 on my iMac and now I have a fully working copy of Dragon (for Windows) running on my Mac. I’ll let you know how it goes.
Meanwhile, if anyone has recently invested in Dragon for Mac (I’d upgraded in Feb this year) then its worth asking for a copy of the Windows version, which by all accounts is supposed to be much better than the Mac version. Looks Iike I won’t be getting a PC either.
Christie Adams says
Brilliant article, as ever! I’m following your lead and definitely moving to dictation, for at least part of my process.
I’ve finally found a good dictation system on my iphone, I will no doubt buy a Sony machine shortly.
So, I’ve solved the dictation side, but am struggling with the conversion to text on my mac.
Since Nuance changed, is the only current working solution to invest in the expensive Dragon Naturally Speaking?
This is happening, again MASSIVE thanks for inspiring us all each week!!
Joanna Penn says
Check out the app Dragon Anywhere