Good morning everyone!
I wanted to take a little time today to talk about the cloud-based writing software I’ve been using for the last couple years – DabbleWriter. Please know that I am not a rep for this company and I am not receiving any benefits to discuss this tool – I just want to share something out of my Writing Toolbox. 🙂
Since the age of nine, I wrote in MS Word. It was there on the computer and easy to use. As the world has evolved, MS Word doesn’t really cut it anymore. I want to be able to access my work anywhere, and now that thumbdrives are antiquated, that meant cloud-based software. While Microsoft offers its OneDrive option, it still required a subscription model to house all my work… and back in 2015, I had it crash on me a couple times. No, loves, I am over MS Word and needed something that would be more reliable, while still being sleek and simple. And if there were a few extra perks, well? I wouldn’t complain.
My favorite places for discovering new writing tools is the NaNoWriMo sponsor page, and that’s where I discovered DabbleWriter.
I’d tried a few other writing-centric software options (most notably Scrivener, which is a great resource for writers, but was more than I needed and distracted me more than it helped) but Dabble checked many boxes. I was looking for:
- Light and focused.
- Spelling/grammar checks.
- Character building
- Automated backups
- Multiple manuscripts
- Mobile support
- Offline support
- Night mode
- Consistent updates
- Annual or lifetime subscription options… or better yet a one-time purchase.
From this list, Dabble only missed out on mobile support and character building (for now), which are wishlist items I have only found rarely, and generally haven’t been happy stylistically when they did pop up. The year I started with them, they were a new service and were offering the month of November free for NaNoWriMo… with goal-tracking, which my fellow NaNo-ers know is amazing. So I started that year working on The Story Collector… and I still use it today.
*Rachelle Moon has been my intended pen name for a million years. These days I’m less concerned with using one, but putting it as the author is a habit now.
Dabble supports multiple manuscripts, which is really important to me. I like to have my writing all in one place. As you can see, I currently have 11 manuscripts in Dabble (if you include my little booklet of short ficlets I use for character growth and writing exercises). At this time, there’s no limit to the amount of manuscripts available, and should there be a limit, the current number you have will be grandfathered in. Which is pretty cool.
As you can see from the photo, I write in Dark Mode because I find it’s easier on my eyes? There is a light mode of black-on-white instead of white-on-black as well.
Within the writing screen itself, you have a main center module as well as two side modules – on the left, we have organization and story tools, and on the right are goal setting and scene notes on a series of digital notecards. Dabble has the option to switch into focus mode as you type, so once you get going, you can have these two side modules automatically disappear to allow for more focus space. You can also hide the modules manually – I like to have them there.
Dabble auto-formats for you, so you can go in and choose settings like indent but the chapter names in the headings take care of themselves. You can choose to write at a book, chapter, or scene level. Personally, I like the chapter level, but I know a lot of people like to move one scene at a time. Spellcheck is live (you can see I’ve invented a few words here). Each level of the manuscript in the sidebar can be minimized, depending how you like to organize your workspace.
The Goals Settings is a great tool. During NaNoWriMo past, Dabble used an automatic tracker that sends your word count to the NaNo site, making everything really easy for you as the writer. The rest of the year, though, you can create your own custom goals. I haven’t participated in NaNo since NaNoWriMo’s site overhaul, so I can’t promise this is still a feature? But I bet it is, and if it is, I loved it in 2018.
At this time, Dabble only allows for word count goals, the same sort of format used by the system that runs the NaNoWriMo tracker. As far as word count goals, though – you can do anything you want or as long of a duration as you want, and you can even manually account for days off and the tracker will figure out how much you need to write each working day to reach your goal. And, of course, when you reach your daily goal, a little blip of encouragement pops up.
You don’t have to write with a goal in mind, however. The goals module tracks daily word count, and there’s a bar graph in the right module that displays your daily writing. It’s satisfying to see the bars fill blue! I haven’t worked on this WIP in a couple years, so my tracker shows no recent progress.
Organizationally, Dabble offers a few different options at this time.
Most prominent is their plotting section, which is laid out like notecard storyboarding. I actually don’t usually use this feature because I’m a pantser and I’m rubbish at plotting out my books, but with this novel I had A Plan, so I can show you the storyboard.
This plotting tool is intended to be used to track subplots? Which I did not do. To be honest, I’ve never really been able to get the plotting tool to work the way I want it to, so I converted the subplot lines into POVs and used those to decide who would best be able to tell that section of the story. That said, I like that this tool exists, even though I don’t typically use it and when I do use it, I use it incorrectly.
The final section in the writing screen is the Notes. These are just blank brainstorming sheets, which is perfect for me because that’s how I plot and plan things. I actually have a journal filled with story notes from over the years. Fluid, train-of-thought brainstorming is how I work out problems, so I’m glad that these sections exist and are simple.
That’s DabbleWriter! There’s also other bits and pieces, such as an extensive roadmap, an offline client, and a community for people to share both tricks about the software and their own writing process. It’s still a new piece of software compared to many others out there, but they do update fairly regularly and communicate well over Twitter! It’s still an actively growing platform.
Dabble runs on a monthly or annual subscription model – $9.99/month or $7.99/month when you pay for a full year. Subscriptions drive me crazy (even though I understand them from a business model perspective) so I pay annually. They offer a free trial if Dabble is something you just wanted to test as well! For a couple years, they offered a month-long free trial during NaNoWriMo, but the last I saw it was a discount program now instead, so if you’re interested and want to wait for NaNo, it’s possible they’ll sponsor again and you can get that discount after the trial. 🙂 Camp NaNoWriMo is coming soon!
If you’re looking for a cloud-based writing software, I’ve been using it for… three years now, I think! 🙂 I’ve been really happy with it and I recommended it to a friend who also just finished writing her epic fantasy in it! It’s simple, and it gets the job done without too many bells and whistles. I can’t say it will be my forever software (there are so many in development right now racing for the best features!) but it’s the one that’s held my love the longest.
What software do you write in? I’ve tried so many different ones and still haven’t quite hit on *perfect* (though I have high hopes for Dabble and a couple others in that realm). Tell me about the items in your writing toolbox!