... under the covers with my knees up, my head propped and my three-pound tablet PC — just a shade heavier than a hardcover — resting in my lap, almost forgettable. I speak untethered, without a headset, into the slate’s microphone array. The words appear as fast as I can speak, or they wait out my long pauses. I touch them up with a stylus, scribbling or re-speaking as needed. Whole phrases die and revive, as quickly as I could have hit the backspace. I hear every sentence as it’s made, testing what it will sound like, inside the mind’s ear.
Writing by voice has a long and distinguished past, says Powers:
Blind Milton chanted “Paradise Lost” to his daughters. Of his 159-line “Tintern Abbey,” Wordsworth said, “I began it upon leaving Tintern ... and concluded ... after a ramble of four or five days. ... Not a line of it was altered, and not any part of it written down till I reached Bristol.” Wallace Stevens used to compose while walking to work, then dictate the results to his secretary, before proceeding to his official correspondence as vice president of the Hartford insurance company.
Even novelists, working in a form so very written, have needed to write by voice. Stendhal dictated “The Charterhouse of Parma” in seven weeks. An impoverished Dostoyevsky had just six weeks to deliver the manuscript of “The Gambler” or face complete ruin. He hired a stenographer, knocked the book out in four weeks, then married the girl. ...
Dickens reportedly acted out his characters while looking in a mirror. In the final hours of his life, Proust re-dictated the death of Bergotte, supposedly claiming that he now knew what he was talking about. Once, while dictating “Finnegans Wake” to Beckett, Joyce is said to have answered a knock on the door; Beckett dutifully jotted down his “Come in.” Surprised by the transcript, a delighted Joyce let it ride.
Meanwhile, Lisa Katayama reports in Wired (found via Complete Review) that a new thumb-centric generation of Japanese novelists are writing their novels on their mobile phones!
A mobile phone novel typically contains between 200 and 500 pages, with each page containing about 500 Japanese characters. The novels are read on a cell phone screen page by page, the way one would surf the web, and are downloadable for around $10 each. The first mobile phone novel was written six years ago by fiction writer Yoshi, but the trend picked up in the last couple years when high-school girls with no previous publishing experience started posting stories they wrote on community portals for others to download and read on their cell phones.She profiles Chaco "a twenty-something Pisces from Osaka" who has written five novels in this way, including a best seller. She claims that she can type much faster on her mobile than on a conventional keyboard.
Now while I could see myself dictating my grand opus from my bed like Powers, my big clumsy thumbs make even replying to SMSes frustrating! I might manage a mobile haiku perhaps, but certainly not a novel!