Last week I said I was going to focus on product design. And I did. For at least a few days.
I explored ways to work with plots and subplots. Many writers use 3×5″ note cards to help craft and organize their plots. Many writing products give you note card feature to mimic this. Note cards work great. They really help to organize the main plot of a story.
Note cards aren’t as great at organizing and tracking subplots in relation to the main plot. J.K. Rowling used a hand-drawn grid to help her track subplots for at least one of the Harry Potter books. So I spent time thinking through how Dabble might help you track multiple plot lines throughout a story.
I worked out what it might look like if I were to arrange note cards into a grid.
I didn’t like it. This would require a lot of scrolling, up and down, left and right. It might be fine for a macbook pro with that nice trackpad, but not for many other laptops. I continued to mull over the problem.
I considered the different hats we wear as writers. Plotting, writing, and editing are the three main hats you wear when creating you work of art. After the creation is publishing and marketing, but I don’t know if I’ll touch those hats. Dabble will help you focus on the role you are in, without distracting you with the other roles. For example, when plotting, Dabble will focus you on the architecture of your story. When writing, Dabble will focus you on the words. You will be in scene with your characters. When editing Dabble will focus you on eliminating adverbs, or polishing dialog.
Next, I thought through several interface design problems. I considered a tabbed interface (like the browser) to work with multiple documents at once. I thought through how to store the text (as HTML, markdown, plain text). I thought through how undo/redo should work (per document, across the whole manuscript, how it should work in a product where documents can be looked at from scene, chapter, or the book level). I made some good decisions.
Ideally, none of this work will be apparent to you in the end. Dabble should make it easy to do what you need and just work the way you would expect. My job is to make the tool disappear leaving only your novel.
I had a nice brainstorm session with my twin Tyler. A huge shout out to him (thanks Tyler!) because I ended up with some great stuff. We discussed a lot about how he would like Dabble to work. I got some great ideas on how you might work with the manuscript and how you could deal with subplots. I also had affirmation on the direction I was going overall. I will share about what we came up with as the features are implemented.
I went back to coding. I should have continued with product design, but hey, I’m a programmer. I added the concept of placeholder text to the navigation. You can name each book, chapter, and scene. But before you name things you should get helpful placeholder names. This is one from Tyler.
Your scenes will show the first few words which can help identify a scene before naming it. You may never decide to name scenes if this works good enough.
I also added the ability to edit your scene text. Up until Thursday you couldn’t actually write your book (and have it save). I added a stop-gap implementation for writing the words. It doesn’t support undo/redo the way Dabble will, but it works for now. I typed up the beginning of a popular book and things worked out fine.
I added filtering to the navigation. Perhaps this was a bit premature, since there are more important features waiting to be done. But I had the itch to do it, so I did.
You can find scenes that mention a particular person or thing.
Perhaps this week I’ll prioritize my backlog so I can work on the most important pieces first.
I added support for creating new scenes and chapters in-line! When you write, you don’t want to take your hands off the keyboard, even to create a new scene or chapter.
When you hit Cmd+Enter on Mac or Ctrl+Enter on Windows (the standard shortcut for a page break) you will get a new scene. If you hit Cmd+Enter twice you will get a new chapter, as show below. Hopefully the video is the right format for your browser.
Great progress this week in terms of product design (most of which I have not disclosed) and some features. I may continue doing a bit of both each week.