How to speak your book into existence

speak your book

One way to kick start a slow writing process is to speak your book – at least initially – and then begin the writing phase with the transcription.

As a book coach and ghostwriter, I’ve never met a budding author who wanted to write their book slowly. What a surprise, eh? It’s understandable: when you’ve got the bit between your teeth, and especially when you’re working to a deadline like NaNoWriMo, speed is of the essence.

But there’s a problem. You’ve got a blank page to fill, and somehow the words just won’t come out. You know what you want to say, but translating those thoughts onto the screen in front of you, via your keyboard, just isn’t happening.

You see, for many people writing isn’t a very natural process. It was something you were taught to do at school, but that can make it all the more difficult. I don’t know about you, but I can practically see that teacher’s red pen come out as soon as my first draft appears on the page.

Not only that, but you may not be used to writing regularly at length, so your writing muscles are a little out of condition. All of a sudden, NaNoWriMo comes along and you’re supposed to be sprinting out of the starting block like an Olympic athlete who’s been training for years. With all this, the only thing that’s happening fast for you right now, is demotivation.

Speak your book into the world

If you prefer to talk rather than write, I’ve got some ideas to help you get your book out more quickly, easily, and naturally. It’s for you if you’re blasting through your novel for NaNoWriMo, but equally for you if you’re writing a book for your business.

So what do you do? You speak your book instead of writing it. I’m not talking about audio books here, I’m describing a different way of creating your written manuscript.

Are you a talker or a writer?

Here’s a test. Ask yourself:

  • What do I do for a living? Does it mainly involve talking to people, or communicating via the written word?
  • When I have a problem or a decision to make, do I best solve it by talking it through, or by writing down the pros and cons?
  • Do I think aloud, or silently?

The answers to these questions will give you a good idea as to whether you’re a candidate for speaking your book.

How to talk through your book

  1. Make sure you have your book outline pinned down before you begin. Whether you’re writing a novel or a non fiction book, you should know what points you want to make in each chapter before you start speaking it; this is especially important when you’re talking rather than writing, as otherwise you will meander off track.
  2. Get ready with a recording device of your choice. Make sure you can export the recording file into a format you can save onto your desktop or email to your transcriber.
  3. Speak your content. Get your outline out, and imagine your target reader is sitting across from you, eager to hear what you have to tell them. Speak to them as if they were there, following your outline as you go. Another way of doing this (especially if you’re writing a nonfiction book) is to ask someone else to interview you, using your outline as a guide for their questions.
  4. Get your recordings transcribed. You can find very cost-effective transcribers on freelancing sites online; another option is Remember, you don’t need your transcription to look beautiful as it’s for your eyes only, so make that clear when you negotiate a price.
  5. Refine your content. Once you have your transcription, you have the raw material for your book! Instead of a blank page, you’re looking at words already written. So much easier. Now your task is to read through and re-write what you’ve had transcribed. You need it to read fluently and powerfully, so your spoken words will need a lot of re-working; natural conversation is definitely not suitable for reading in a book. You may even find yourself moving chunks of text from one place to another, deleting passages, combining others, and re-doing entire sections. That’s ok. It’s still a lot easier to do this than to start writing from scratch.

Congratulations, you’ve got a book that wasn’t so hard to write after all! Have you tried speaking your book, or know anyone who has? What advice would you give to someone starting out in this way?

Do you want to get your book written quickly? Get your copy of Ginny Carter’s free guide, How to Find Time in Your Busy Schedule to Write Your Business Book, by clicking here.


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How To Find Inspiration
Completing A Novel: A Look At Various Writing Methods
The First Word
From Blog To Book – A Sensible Approach To Completing A Book



  1. Tried it, didn’t work. I can babble to myself, babble to someone next to me, but stick a mike in front of me and I choke up. Knowing it’s getting recorded, I guess–when I type, I’m backing up and re-typing all the time, and I can’t do that with spoken word. And with dictation software, I can never get the mike adjusted right: either it can’t hear me at all, or it tries to interpret my breathing as speech. Which leaves me transcribing it myself, which tends to take longer than simply typing it in the first place.

    • I know Wendy, it doesn’t work for everyone. If you have a detailed outline of points in front of you it makes it a lot more effective, and possibly you might find talking to someone else (or imagining someone else there) could help. But it’s not for all, and that’s ok.

  2. Yes, I couldn’t agree more. For those of us who prefer talking to writing, what to do. All very good suggestions.
    Here’s what I do – I have an apple iPhone and I use the notes function. I chose the dictate button and talk out my ideas. I read them over, as sometimes the dictate button doesn’t exactly transcribe what I’ve said (so ensure this is done right away). Then I email them to myself and copy & paste them into my book word .doc. Using Dragon Naturally Speaking, I flesh out these ideas and write the first draft of the book by talking to my computer. Then I go back and refine it making it more palatable to a reader. Then I read it at my writers’ group where we do critique work. eventually, this gets published through CreateSpace.
    Yes, much better than staring at a blank page.
    Thanks so much for writing this post.

    • Fantastic Lyn, thanks so much for sharing your process. What a great and simple idea to record using the notes function, and I like the idea of using the second stage once it’s on your Word doc as well.

  3. I appreciate your article. I use the Dragon Dictation app for iPhone. I dictate my story and the app will type it as I speak. It gives me options for what I want to do with the writing. I then email it to myself when I can review and edit it. One note is that you do have to pay attention while you are speaking since every so often while the typing portion gets caught up.


    As a child he was mentally abused. As a boy he was humiliated and tortured by the Nazi’s. As a man prosecuted and unjustly condemned by judicial authorities. By been deeply hurt and disgusted with humanity, he set out one day with the intention of finding a better place to live, and where peace and tranquility reigned.
    In search of his dream he traveled the globe for many years. Visiting country after country, place after place. But the only thing he fond was envy, hatred, deceit, injustice, violence and murder. But after many of years at last he found a beautiful, and which appeared an ideal and peaceful small Island in the Caribbean Sea. A place where he thought he could live in peace and happiness, far away from the so called civilization. But very soon his illusion was crushed, when he found out that this tiny Island with its 2500 inhabitants was an even worse place than he ever had encountered before in his whole life.
    And this story narrates a strikingly vivid from the life of a man’s encounter with the trials and tribulations of broken dreams, pains, humiliation, betrayal and deceit.

  5. This sounds good on paper but as a book coach and ghostwriter I’ve known a handful of people who “spoke their book” and became totally overwhelmed in the “refining” process. Yes, the speaking means you don’t have to type. However, speaking is very different from writing in manuscript form. It takes someone with a great deal of writing and editing skill to turn spoken words into written one’s – and organize all the thoughts and ideas into a cogent, chronological whole that engages the reader and makes them want to keep reading for a couple hundred pages.

    When I meet with a prospective client I ask them a silly question, “Do you like writing or would you rather stick knitting needles in your eyeballs?”

    If they say, “I like writing okay. I just don’t know how to write a book.” That tells me they’ll have the patience to dedicate themselves to writing a book. They may feel good about working with a book coach, but they’ll stick with it and get it done.

    If they laugh and say, ” Those knitting needles are looking pretty good,” that tells me writing just isn’t their thing. Whether the speak their book or write it – it’s not going to be a pleasant process. If they have the resources a ghostwriter is a much smarter option.

    Many people have dazzling, innovative, solid ideas. They just don’t know how to transform them into an emotionally compelling page-turner. A book that creates a relationship of know, like and trust with readers and positions you as an influential, caring leader.

    One of the ways you’ve built your success is by knowing what you’re good at and focusing on it and delegating the rest. If you decide it’s time to author a book get expert help and make the process a breeze.

  6. Sure Denise, having a book ghostwritten is a great option if writing feels hard (I’m a ghostwriter myself so totally agree!). However, there are many people who do really want to write their own book, and find speaking it helps the process. It’s by no means the whole of the process, as I make clear in point 5 of my article, but it’s a start. It’s not for everyone, but it can help.

  7. Great advice. When I prepare speeches for my Toastmasters group, I have used DragonSpeak and Siri for Macs. Seeing how my verbal communications scans in print has been the most powerful tool for my writing. I learned that I have three introductory sentences and that is why I would get bogged down in the middle. It still isn’t easy, but a story is like Houdini and wriggles out any defined outline.

  8. I just finished dictating a 90,000 word novel. I dictate in part because I like, and in part because I have CTS in both wrists and writing that much is a physical impossibility, especially since I type during edits.

    It’s not impossible, by any stretch of the imagination, and it took a total of maybe 25 total hours to dictate the book. It’s pretty much exactly what I would have written if I’d been typing. I think people’s biggest mistake is that they assume they can just talk. Talking and dictating are NOT the same thing. Someone who hunt and pecks versus someone who’s a touch typist are entirely different, and that mindset is important.

    So I dictate in full sentences, with punctuation. I can eliminate verbal tics in my dictation in ways I never can when I’m just talking. I keep teas specifically for my throat and lozenges to prevent my throat from getting sore. Last, and this is a big deal for me, I’m far more creative in my dictation than I am in my typing. I get into a flow when dictating that I don’t have when typing. I don’t have an inner editor to worry about because, half the time, I’m not in front of my computer when dictating.

    Are there drawbacks? Of course. Is the transcription perfect (I use Dragon)? Of course not. I don’t find it worse than errors most people make while typing, they’re just not corrected immediately in the same way that most writers will correct the red squiggly lines in their documents. Do I think that anyone who genuinely wanted to could learn it and use it as a tool in their arsenals? Absolutely.

    Thanks for a very insightful article.

  9. Wow Jayce that’s amazing that you’ve dictated your entire novel – well done! You’re obviously a person who thinks through speaking more easily than writing, which is exactly the kind of person this article is for. Thanks for your tips, too.

  10. Thanks for your excellent post. I’m rather late with my comment but felt I would like to contribute my own experience here. More and more I’m finding myself using Dragon Dictation, and loving it! Sometimes the replacement words are hilarious and even profane so I have to be vigilant. but as time passes I’m aware that Dictation is increasingly recognizing my British accent and making far less mistakes. I love the program and am already thinking “Book”. Hopefully I will greatly decrease the number of years it took to write my first book.
    I’ve found the iPhone is better than my computer (all MAC) at recording accurately. I have a new iPad Pro but haven’t used Dictation yet. I’m looking forward to it though, and certain it won’t let me down!

  11. When I wrote a book about oral storytelling I started out by recording the first class in a storytelling course I was teaching, and the first part of that became the introduction to my book. The rest of the book I wrote in the conventional way, but speaking was, for me, a good way to start it.


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