BROTHER MAYNARD: It reads, 'Here may be found the last words of Joseph of Aramathea. He who is valiant and pure of spirit may find the Holy Grail in the Castle of...uuggggggh'.
KING ARTHUR: What?
BROTHER MAYNARD: '... the Castle of uuggggggh'.
SIR BEDEVERE: What?
BROTHER MAYNARD: He must have died while carving it.
SIR LAUNCELOT: Oh, come on!
BROTHER MAYNARD: Well, that's what it says.
KING ARTHUR: Look, if he was dying, he wouldn't bother to carve 'uuggggh'. He'd just say it.
BROTHER MAYNARD: Well, it's what's carved in the rock.
SIR GALAHAD: Perhaps he was dictating.
KING ARTHUR: Oh, shut up.
But with all due respect to the King, perhaps he was. It's not unknown. Henry James dictated much of his later work, as did Joeseph Conrad; and Mark Twain dictated his memoirs and other minor pieces.
The topic comes up because, as the result of Repetitive Stress Injury, the estimable MFW Curran is using Dragon Naturally Speaking to dictate his work-in-progress.
Now, talking a book into existence has always seemed like a great idea to me--and has also seemed impossible for someone constituted like mine own self. I mean, the way I talk and the way I write are certainly somehow related, but so are Conrad Hilton and Paris Hilton. That doesn't mean anybody would confuse the two.
On the other hand, Tim Stretton pointed out that Jack Vance used speech-recognition software for his later novels, and that there is no discernible change in Vance's inimitable style (and Mr. Stretton, who is something of a Vance scholar, would know).
I do my thinking on the page; the page reflects my sentences back to me, and my intent and the sentences continue to interact until I get at least within shouting distance of something that satisfies me. Dictating has always seemed impossible because my words would be spilling out into the ether, and would only be retreived to be scrutinized (and mumbled over and over under my breath) well after their utterance.
But then I realized that dictation, in the classic sense, and speech recognition are not really the same thing. Dictation is speaking to a person or a recording device without any immediate feedback. Speech recognition software, on the other hand, spills your words onto the computer screen. Dictation is impromptu composition, while speech recognition might be thought of as typing carried out by other means.
Dictating seems to me an impossible form of composition, but I can begin to imagine composing by speaking and seeing my words appear on a screen--though Matt's posts on the topic make it apparent that there can be many frustrations (many flocking frustrations) built into the process. And with the endless in-process revision I do as I write, I shudder to think what it would look like as I tried a sentence first this way, then that way, then upside-down and in reverse...
For the moment, I'll continue to write in my standard hunched-over, gnarled-shouldered, sweaty-tense fashion--but it's nice to know there are viable alternatives.
Alternatives that don't result in ...uuggggggh...being carved into stone simply because I said it.