How I Write, YA fiction

How I Write: Dragon Dictation

JV How I Write

Dragon Dictation is one of those handy writer tools that has saved my time (and my wrists) on more than one occasion.

I first seriously considered dictation when I read Chris Fox’s 5,000 Words Per Hour: Write Faster, Write Smarter because he talked up dictation as a time-saving measure. I type pretty fast, though, so he didn’t sell me on the idea.

What sold me was carpal tunnel syndrome. My wrists ache, and they needed some relief. I started researching dictation for authors and decided to invest some money and give it a shot.

Here’s what I found:

A lot of what I read talked about a “long learning curve” for adjusting from writing to speaking. I don’t think this necessarily has to be the case. It might feel a little awkward at first, but this doesn’t have to last long.

Outlining my scenes in advance totally helps, and some of the tips other authors have shared, like visualizing scenes ahead of time, and making notes about details like setting and character appearances, are also very helpful.

Another benefit–Chris Fox was right. It’s sooooo much faster to speak than type. Especially when I’m not taking breaks to rest my wrists.

It’s a little strange speaking my punctuation. Here’s what it sounds like–

Maureen said comma open quote why did you do that question mark close quote new line

Open quote I don’t know comma close quote I said period. Open quote I guess it just felt right period close quote

So yeah, bizarre. But also kinda fun. 🙂

One pitfall is that although my accuracy with Dragon is pretty good (probably due to my California accent and the decent, not-too-cheap but not-too-pricey equipment I purchased), there are still errors, often surrounding names. And every now and then when I go back through a draft, I’ll find a couple of lines where I have absolutely no idea what I said because what Dragon typed for me is nonsensical. Also, for some reason, I can’t get Dragon to learn proper dialogue rules when it comes to quotation marks and exclamation points.

“What do you mean?” he said.

will always be

“What do you mean?” He said.

It’s annoying, but not the end of the world.

All in all, I still recommend Dragon Dictation to other writers. The freedom to step away from the screen and talk out my story is pretty great, and my wrists really appreciate the break from the keyboard.

Some resources:

Dragon Riders – Authors Dictating Facebook Group

Quick Cheats for Writing With Dragon by Scott Baker, ebook (FREE)

The Writer’s Guide to Training Your Dragon by Scott Baker, ebook (not free, but worth the money)

How I Write, mystery, YA fiction

Projects on the Horizon

JV future projects

As I wrap up the Haunted Halls: Winter’s Cavern trilogy, I’m already looking ahead to what’s next this year! I don’t want months and months to go by without publishing something, because let’s be honest, I’m sad when I don’t have work coming out regularly.

What you might not know about me is that one of my early writing loves was fantasy. Writing YA mystery sort of happened to me by accident–I’d wanted something gothic and creepy, and the mystery aspects just sort of…happened.

All that to say, I have some ideas of what I want to publish, including a fantasy novel that is already drafted and just needs a few tweaks. I’ll be talking more about it, and another YA fantasy, over the next few months, as well as a nonfiction book about writing that I’m super excited about, as well!

As far as more Haunted Halls books, I’m hoping to do those, too, but with the two fantasy novels coming up, the mystery will take more of a back seat in 2019. Although I’ll be working on Haunted Halls this year, they won’t be in a publishable state until 2020.

So, those are my plans! Some are a little ambitious, like revising these two big fantasy novels and finishing that writing craft book, but I’m really stoked to get these projects finished and out in the world!

How I Write, YA fiction

How I Write: Outlines

JV How I Write

Today’s writing topic is all about outlines and how they work for me. I’m not going to stand here (sit here, really–still haven’t put together my new standing desk) and tell you that every writer must use an outline. For me, it helps. I stress out if I don’t know where the story’s going, and it freezes me up. The issue of “not feeling inspired or surprised” with an outline doesn’t affect me, because I’m constantly being surprised by what my characters do, and I often have to change up the outline a little bit (or a lot a bit) as I go.

What does my outline look like? It starts off as scrawled bullet points in a notebook, and I usually think each bullet point is a chapter, but most of the time I smoosh them together so that several bullet points, or actions, go into each chapter.

Once I’m done with that, I type them up and print them out. Then I can refer to the print-out easily while I’m drafting. This is a pretty messy process, usually, with additional notes scribbled in. And if I get stuck, I sometimes doodle in the margins.

JV outline pieces

This happened a lot in the typed outline for the Haunted Halls: Winter’s Cavern trilogy, and you can see an example above. 🙂

As far as how I structure my books, it depends on the book. Is it a standalone, like the YA fantasy I’ll be publishing later this year? Or is it a series of books that need to tie together, like the two Haunted Halls trilogies? Each individual book, regardless of how long it is or whether it’s a part of a series, follows the three-act structure and from there, I follow Blake Snyder’s format that he shared in his book Save the Cat. It’s a pretty straightforward way of outlining a book, and I’ve written several novels with his format as a guideline.

Anyway, I hope this was helpful or at least mildly interesting to someone! Questions? Stick ’em in the comments!

How I Write, YA fiction

How I Write: Tracking Word Count


One thing that keeps me going while writing is keeping track of my word count! Having a production goal–whether it’s for words, scenes, chapters, or pages–keeps me more accountable to myself.

Because let’s face it–we can tell everyone in the world that we’re writing a book, but nobody can actually make us sit down and do it.

For me, having a daily goal and a place to record it can help immensely. If I can make it into a chart and make it colorful, even better! I love seeing the chart change with new colors after every time I check in.

While charting scenes worked for me this time, I also like tracking word counts even by doing something as simple as writing down the number of words each day in my calendar. It’s not as pretty, but still effective.


And…I just searched through my entire bedroom and every other notebook-hiding area (book cases in the basement, little buffet table in the dining room, poetry shelf, closets) looking for that notebook pictured above so that I can show you the completed chart, but it’s nowhere. It might be in my daughter’s room because it contains the handwritten portion of Hollow Wishes and she likes to read it…and if it’s in my daughter’s bedroom, we might never see that notebook again. If I ever find it, I’ll take a new picture of the chart and update this post. 🙂

If you’re a writer, do you track your progress? What’s your method?