Every year, we’re lucky to have great sponsors for our nonprofit events. There are lots of options when it comes to writing software, but it’s important to find the one that works best for you. Today, writer Astra Compton is here to tell you about Dabble, a Camp NaNoWriMo 2019 sponsor:
One of a writer’s eternal struggles is finding the time to write. As someone working three jobs, it’s not about squeezing more hours out of the day; it’s about making the act of writing easier. After all, when progress comes easy, everything standing in your way disappears.
You know those excuses: falling down internet-search rabbit holes, needing your writing cave to be perfect before you can even start, lacking time as you scramble between work and home, typesetting your manuscript more than you’re writing it, etc.
When I won NaNoWriMo a couple years ago, one of the prizes was a subscription to Dabble. Honestly, it has revolutionized the way I write.
I hadn’t used cloud-based systems before because I found them clunky, and invariably I’d save over the wrong version. Dabble synced to cloud storage but was streamlined. While I was writing, the interface disappeared so it was just me and my story. There was a light or dark mode (light for me), bold and italics, and word count goals. No other distractions.
In previous years, I’d write offline in documents that I would have to slingshot between Microsoft Word and LibreOffice depending on which computer I had access to. I’d write through midnight, and the previous day’s worth of writing wouldn’t log because I’d forgotten to update my count on the NaNo site. Dabble updated my word count for me, and I discovered that my anxiety about performing dissipated. All of my focus could settle on writing. I’d be deep in a sprint and a little note would pop up: “Congrats! You hit your daily goal!”
If you, like me, are motivated by checklists or self-competition, this was the steady and gentle encouragement I needed.
It was only after I finished NaNo having written 85k (a personal best that I topped the following year) that I stopped to look at what this software could do. Dabble set up the book by parts, chapters, and scenes. I kept track of character POV changes by naming the scenes accordingly—which inadvertently highlighted when a character had been absent too long. When exporting to Word, the scene breaks were automatically formatted—and so were the paragraphs. This streamlined sending out to my Critique Partners, instead of the old scroll-for-pages to copy out a single chapter from my manuscripts.
I could write on my lunch break just by logging in (no more lugging around a hefty laptop), and continue writing when I got home without fumbling between back-ups and thumbdrives. I could even write offline, and the new content would sync as soon as I connected to the internet. For those easily distracted by Google or Twitter, this could prevent those while-away hours.
Preparing for my next NaNo project, I found I could build my entire outline in Dabble. The notes section doesn’t affect word count, so I’ve copied in character profiles, worldbuilding notes, lexicons and style guides—even my synopsis and query for when I’m ready to pitch. There’s also a plotting tool that allows you to set up multiple plot-lines (you can assign them however you want: by character arc, subplots, timelines, etc.), and then line them up by what happens in each chapter. For a hybrid panster-plotter like me, this organic flexibility helps me to reassess my initial skeleton as I’m writing. I can take into account how changes in pacing will affect the timing of other major plot points.
When revising, the little word counter in the corner tells me how much I’ve managed to cut; when working towards a new goal, it tells me how much I’ve got left to go. I’m easily able to toggle to ensure my chapter lengths are consistent, and make notes in the title cards if there’s anything I need to remember for revisions later.
As I worked through my rewrite, Dabble’s subtle tools cut my required drafts by half. I’m able to see more holistically from the outset, replacing a gamut of organization spreadsheets. Everything links so intuitively that I don’t waste hours with set-up, like I had previously tried (and failed) to do with Scrivener. Now I’m writing books all year ‘round. I just toggle between which project I’m inspired to work on, and it’s all helpfully in one place.
So, here I am, prepping my next novel for NaNo, waiting on feedback on the second draft of the book I wrote last November, and revising an older manuscript between projects. What used to take me 2 to 4 years is now being chipped away in months. When writing is this accessible, I can finally get out of my own way and just write.
Astra Crompton is a queer writer focusing on diverse casts with nuanced character development, bringing her passion to Adult and YA fantasy, and LGBT literature. Her work has been published in Anthology for a Green Planet, Blood Moon Rising, and Unity RPG. You can find her on Twitter @ulzaorith or on her website at www.astracrompton.com