With April's Camp NaNoWriMo coming to a close, I'm happy to say that I'm a "winner," meaning that I finished my writing goal of 70,000 words in a month. I enjoy the rush of these NaNoWriMo exercises, as they help keep me on my toes and get me to keep writing, no matter what is happening in the manuscript. The point is to get the ideas down, even if you aren't sure how well your story is working. It's as the old writer's saying goes: "write first, edit later."
And if you're like me, at the end of a great writing session of a first draft, you look back at what you have and perhaps feel a little overhwhelmed. Your story is all there, but there are some ideas that work, some that need reworked, some that need removed, and some that need to be started completely from scratch. Seeing the mess of a first draft can be a bit difficult to face at first. The obvious solution is to get organized and start the rewrite.
But how is the best way to stay organized? How can you keep all of your thoughts and plotlines in place, as well as test out new, possibly better ideas?
For those of us who work better with software rather than endless notebooks and Post-It notes, the options for novel writing software are growing daily. I thought I had heard of them all, but at the end of this year's Camp NaNoWriMo, a new sponsor caught my eye: Dabble.
Dabble is an online-only novel writing software available through monthly subscription. It intends to compete with the heavy hitters like Scrivener and Storyist, so I had to give it a whirl. And with a free trial of 14 days, I figured it was more than worth a shot.
Two things grabbed me right off the bat when I tried out Dabble:
1) The free trial does not require a credit card to get started. This is a nice break from what seems to be the norm in the age of "free trials" that turn into full subscriptions after forgetting to cancel. A free trial with Dabble is truly a free trial.
2) The customer service is excellent. Immediately, I was invited to chat and ask questions. There is support to hold your hand through the software if need be. The chat is convenient, and it is certainly customer centered.
At first, the idea of a subscription service for novel writing software turned me off. I mean, if you can buy a program and use it whenever for a flat fee, then why commit to monthly payments? Dabble is $9.99 per month, which can sound like a lot. However, the benefits are worth considering. The company's claim is that the subscription service is for the ability to provide constant updates based upon customer feedback, so there is no need for any writers to update or purchase updates of software. This is a fair point, as I have encountered plenty of other programs that require repayment for their latest updates. And Dabble is rated excellent in their response to customer feedback.
Dabble is undoubtedly user friendly. As I've mentioned, the chat option for help is excellent, and the user interface is elegant in its simplicity. Once you sign in, you can create multiple projects, and under each project you have easy-to-organize folders for the body of your work, as well as main subfolders for story notes and plot.
The story notes section is fairly self-explanatory, as it provides areas for writing out detailed character descriptions and worldbuilding aside from the main body of the story.
The plot development section is worth mentioning in greater detail, as it is here where Dabble exceeds expectations. The plot folder is divided into three different sub-sections: plot grid, plot lines, and plot points. The plot grid is the main section of plotting for the entire story. Each section is on a card and is easily movable in between chapters and scenes so you can organize the story on a larger scale. Within the grid are the smaller sections: plot lines, which are for single subplots, and plot points, which are single events in the plot. These sections serve as the Post-It notes for your writing. They are easy to use and include, and they allow you to run off in different directions with your story to see how things will go. It serves as a great testing ground.
With its ease of use, great customer service, and customer-responsive updates, I found Dabble to be a highly valuable tool for writing. The $9.99 per month subscription fee can seem a little steep, considering they would expect someone consistently using their software to pay $120/year, but the subsciption isn't binding; you can cancel and come back any time. But considering the fact that you can visit your work from any internet-connected computer by signing into your account, the software is extremely valuable and versatile, and with a commitment-free 14-day trial, I'd say it's definitely worth a try for any serious writer.