For the Tool Box: Final Draft is the transcriptionist's BFF
I love research in general and the interview process in specific, whether I'm talking to an expert, gathering information that will make a fictional character ring true or listening to the life story of one of my memoir clients, corralling the facts that I know will be tested in the legal review. For the last five years, I've been using a terrific little Olympus digital recorder. I upload interviews to my laptop (backing up on an online storage facility), listen to them two or three times while I fold laundry or paint, and then I sit down to the task that will set the facts solidly in my brain and make the language "pullable" for the working draft: I transcribe the SOBs pretty much word for word. Yech.
There's nothing in the world that will make me enjoy this task, but it has to be done, so I'm constantly searching for anything that might improve on the process. A couple years ago, I found an upgraded program that enables me to slow the playback to 50% or speed it up to 200%, which helps me keep up with the important passages and blast past the interruptions and tangential chit chat. (I'm a southern girl; we tend to go off topic.)
A screenwriter friend recently introduced me to Final Draft, the standard industry software for the creation and delivery of movie and television scripts. I found the best price at The Writer's Store, and picked up on it quickly and easily. His intention was to "lure me to the dark side", but as I learned Final Draft, I quickly realized that this would make transcribing interviews a whole lot faster and easier.
For one thing, it automatically plugs in the name of the character talking. Once you've typed the person's name once, it's stored and suggested as soon as you tab to start a new voice and pop the first letter. If the conversation is between two people, you don't even have to pop the first letter, Final Draft instantly recognizes and suggests the alternating voices. Nifty.
Final draft also sets up the standard screenwriting format, which is an easy-on-the-eye Courier font with wide margins and center placement.
Everything about your co-dependant relationship with Word will be fed with Final Draft: search and replace, spell check, yada yada.
So that's my favorite tool box addition for the year, I think. I spent about 75 hours this week transcribing over 500 pages of interviews. When I finished the final hour last night, I sat on the edge of the coffee table while Gary massaged lotion into my aching hands, wrists, and forearms. I'd been typing so much faster than I normally do, every muscle from elbow to pinkie was a flaming licorice whip of agony. Which leads me to my second favorite toolbox addition of the week: gel keyboard bumper. Check it out.