How to Write Science Fiction with Dabble (Guide + Free Sci-fi Template!)
Star Captain on deck! Welcome to the U.S.S Dabbler, the premier starship in the novel-writing universe. You’re here because you have an idea for an epic science fiction story and want help bringing it to life, but you aren’t sure where to start.
Lucky for you, we have just the thing to help in your journey: a modern, sleek phase rifle.
And by phase rifle I mean a novel-writing platform called Dabble. Like a phase rifle, Dabble is a great tool for fending off swarms of hive-mind robots (writer’s block) and accompanying you as you venture through the final frontier of space (worldbuilding).
Unlike a phase rifle, Dabble also brings a space station’s worth of tools to help your writing process, including everything from character development to co-authoring to developing a writing habit, and a lot more.
I don’t want to overwhelm you with all the things Dabble can help with just yet. If we drop the science fiction references (for now), you should know that more sci-fi authors than ever are using all Dabble has to offer to write their passion projects and commercial successes, in genres including space operas, climate fiction, cyberpunk dystopias, and everything in between.
And that can be you. I want to help you out with that goal, so this article is going to talk about:
- Why Dabble is a great choice for sci-fi authors
- How you can get your science fiction novel started in Dabble
- Some must-have tools for sci-fi writers
- A step-by-step guide to creating the biggest elements of a science fiction story in Dabble
So make sure your cyber implants are fully charged, your jump drive is installed properly, and you’re ready for one heck of a journey, because we’re about to hit warpspeed.
I told you the sci-fi references were coming back.
Why Choose Dabble for Sci-fi Writing
In the vast expanse of the novel-writing cosmos, where the stars of imagination twinkle with stories yet to be told, science fiction authors often find themselves navigating through the daunting territory of worldbuilding, plotting, and casting a variety of characters to bring their story to life.
It's here, deep in the creative starscape, that Dabble emerges as the best tool for sci-fi writers.
Just as a starship is equipped with an array of tools for exploration, Dabble is outfitted with features that meet the needs of a science fiction author. With Story Notes, you essentially have a customizable, drag-and-drop command center that lets you plot your course with ease. Dabble’s design enables science fiction writers like you and me to keep our sprawling galaxies of characters, settings, and technologies both accessible and in perfect orbit.
Worldbuilding, a cornerstone of the science fiction genre, becomes less daunting with Dabble, too. You can create as vast a worldbuilding bible as you want, shaping entire galaxies—complete with diverse ecosystems, alien cultures, and advanced technologies.
This is invaluable for authors, as the genre demands a level of detail that can often be as intimidating as interstellar travel itself.
Dabble has your back on character development, too. Sci-fi characters often require complex backstories and motivations, whether they be cybernetically enhanced humans or sentient beings from afar. Dabble acts as a digital dossier, keeping track of character traits, arcs, and relationships so that your characters, even the alien ones, feel relatable and real to your readers.
On top of it all, Dabble provides a distraction-free writing space, goal setting to tackle even the largest of space operas, and a variety of writing tools to help you out.
In the introduction to our odyssey, I told you Dabble was like a phase rifle. Really, Dabble’s suite of tools is the writer's versatile multi-tool, capable of sculpting narrative, character, and setting with deft precision.
Dabble is more than just a writing platform for sci-fi authors; it's a dedicated mission control, designed to support you as you create worlds that challenge the imagination, characters that embody humanity's potential, and stories that reflect our collective dreams and fears.
It's the ideal launchpad for any great science fiction writing expedition, and we’ll be diving into each of those features as we continue through this article.
But right now, with the groundwork laid for why Dabble is the best tool for sci-fi writing, let’s embark on the next phase of our journey: setting up your command center in Dabble.
Getting Your Sci-fi Novel Started with Dabble
It’s time to prepare for lift-off. Here’s a step-by-step guide to setting up your control panel in Dabble, ensuring that your sci-fi novel has all the support systems it needs from the get-go.
Step 1: Sign Up for Stardom
Begin by creating your account, which is as simple as engaging the hyperdrive. Navigate over to get your free 14-day trial of Dabble and sign up with your credentials. Dabble’s trial gives you access to all available features without even asking for a credit card number, so you won’t even be charged if you forget to cancel.
Once that’s done, click here to grab the sci-fi template I made specifically for your voyage. This will help jumpstart your creativity and write an out-of-this-world story. (Out of all my dad joke-style similes and metaphors, this was by far my most shameful and favorite.)
Step 2: Project Genesis
Once you’re logged in or have downloaded Dabble, initiate a new project. Here you’ll name your science fiction endeavor. Choose a name that resonates with the essence of your story—it can be the working title, story idea, or something that sparks inspiration every time you see it.
Don’t worry, you can change it whenever you want.
You can also name your series by going into Project Settings and changing the details there. This is especially useful when you’re writing more than one book with overlapping main characters or in the same universe(s).
Step 3: Meet Your Writing Space
Your manuscript is written in a series of chapters and scenes, each of them separate so you can drag and drop them, duplicate them (in case you want to try out something totally different), delete them, or simply store them for later in a different folder.
Every Dabble project includes a first chapter and empty scene. If you’re using the sci-fi template, I’ve included scenes for each beat of the Hero's Journey, which is one of the most common structures in sci-fi.
Step 4: Story Notes – Your Digital Codex
In the left navigation pane, you’ll see a section titled Story Notes. This is where the magic happens for us science fiction nerds.
In Story Notes, you can start crafting your universe's encyclopedia. It's the place for jotting down the nuances of your world, from the rules of interstellar travel to the politics of alien species. This digital codex will become the backbone of your worldbuilding.
I’ve already pre-populated the Story Notes in the template with our new worldbuilding bible, and you can find all the details of that in this article.
Step 5: The Plot Grid – Your Galactic Map
Dabble’s Plot Grid is one of the most versatile writing tools out there right now. By default, a new project includes a Plot Grid attached to your manuscript, though you can add a generic one for ultimate customization.
The Plot Grid allows you to manage as many subplots, character arcs, red herrings, mysteries, or any thread you want to follow in your science fiction story. And anything you put in the same row as a scene will show up in the Notes section when you’re working on that scene, meaning it’s only a click away.
We’ll discuss ways to use the Plot Grid for in-depth plotting later in this article, don’t you worry.
Step 6: Casts and Characters – Your Ship’s Crew
Dabble also gives you a place to manage and develop all your characters. I’m talking about planets, even galaxies full of fictional people.
You can organize your characters into casts, too. Casts are whatever you want them to be, but I’ve included some examples in the template to get you started: Ship’s Crew, Aliens, and Smugglers.
How you set up your character profiles is up to you, but I’ve included our best-ever character template for you to add (just click the three dots next to Characters or a cast and choose “add from template”), but you can customize them however you want.
Step 7: Goal Setting – The Captain’s Log
Sci-fi novels are larger than most, save for maybe some epic fantasy adventures. Writing potentially 100,000 words or more can be a daunting task.
I suggest clicking on the gear next to Goals & Stats and setting up a project goal:
- Choose a word count goal (start with 100,000 if you aren’t sure how long your book will be)
- Select a deadline
- Add some days off
Dabble will run the numbers and chart your course to your goal. You can then play around with those three parts of a project goal to find the sweet spot in your daily target.
Step 8: Engage!
With the pre-launch checks complete, it’s time to engage your creativity. Remember, the beauty of Dabble lies in its ability to adapt to your writing style.
With your Dabble setup complete, you're now ready to start leveraging all Dabble has to offer to craft your sci-fi story, one word at a time. Our next stop will delve into the essential tools Dabble offers specifically tailored for the sci-fi author's toolkit.
Essential Tools for Sci-fi Writers in Dabble
It’s one thing to be ready for lift-off, but you need to make sure you have the tools and systems in place to survive your long journey to the end of your science fiction novel.
Luckily, Dabble comes equipped with a bunch of those tools. Here are just a few you might find helpful.
Sprint timer - Writing sprints are the best way for many authors to finish their first draft. The idea is to set a timer for a certain amount of time (whatever doesn’t feel too long for you) and just write until it goes off. Don’t worry about quality or typos; those can be fixed later. Dabble has a built-in sprint timer underneath your goals.
Focus mode - The last thing we need is to get distracted by some space junk and crash into an asteroid belt. Dabble automatically focuses on your writing and makes everything else fade away. No distractions allowed when you’re in the zone. You can also toggle this mode permanently on or off, depending on your preferences.
Dark mode - You never stare directly at a star, right? That’s a surefire way to damage your eyesight. Dabble has the option to enable dark mode if you find white screens (especially during long writing sessions) strain your eyes.
Co-authoring - If you work best with a co-captain or are working on a shared universe, you can work collaboratively in Dabble with live updates.
Any device, anywhere - Dabble is available on any device—phone, tablet, laptop, desktop, you name it.
Automatic backup - The last thing you need after a scientific expedition on an alien planet (or after writing 10,000 words) is to lose all your work. I’ve been there, it’s awful. Dabble automatically saves your work to the cloud, so don’t stress about that ever again.
Systems check complete! Let’s make you an expert on using Dabble to write your science fiction novel.
Crafting Your Sci-fi World
When you’re writing science fiction, you have a lot of power. From creating new planets to crafting ancient alien civilizations, worldbuilding is at the heart of every science fiction book.
Alternatively, you might focus your sci-fi story here at home, closer to the present day. Even in this smaller scope, your worldbuilding is critical to your story.
Either way, Dabble is your interstellar terraformer, equipping you with the power to breathe life into the vast void of your imagination. Here’s how you can use Dabble to construct the very fabric of your sci-fi universe.
Foundation of Your Universe: The Worldbuilding Bible
Begin by laying down the fundamental laws of your universe. With Dabble’s Story Notes, you can forge your worldbuilding bible, detailing the physics that govern your cosmos, from the way gravity behaves to the composition of the very stars, and defining who lives out there in the void.
How you go about worldbuilding is up to you, and the worldbuilding bible in our sci-fi template enables you to approach it any way you want. Personally, I prefer starting big and zooming in, so that’s the approach we’re taking in this article.
Mapping the Stars: Geography and Location
Every star on your map is a possible setting for your story. If you’re going out into space, you can create a cartographer’s dream of star systems, planets, and the spaces between.
Flesh out your locations with atmospheric details—nebulous gas giants, asteroid belts teeming with miners, or planets split by war. Each setting should be a character in its own right.
If you aren’t going intergalactic or interplanetary on your journey, make sure to note the important geographic details of your world and fill them out in more detail as you go.
Cultivating Civilizations: Societal Structures and Cultures
Your world's inhabitants need to be as diverse and complex as the universe they live in. Use Dabble’s deep organization features to construct different societies, cultures, and species.
Outline their social hierarchies, languages, customs, and conflicts. Think about how they’ve been shaped by their environment and history, and how this, in turn, informs their interaction with your protagonists.
Technological Titans: Envisioning Futuristic Innovations
What is sci-fi without its gadgets and gizmos, its ships and shuttles?
In Story Notes, sketch out the technological landscape of your world. Are there faster-than-light spaceships, teleportation devices, or sentient AI? How has technology influenced military campaigns and human rights?
Think about the way cell phones and computers influence our current world. I’m not exaggerating when I say technology influences every aspect of a character’s world in your stories, so give it the attention it deserves.
I have a guide on writing tech in science fiction for you to bookmark, too. Just click here, you mad scientist.
We’re Not Alone: Alien Flora and Fauna
Go beyond the sentient with Dabble’s ability to catalog the non-speaking roles in your story: the alien flora and fauna that populate your worlds.
These details may seem small, but they add layers of authenticity and immersion, transforming your settings from mere backdrops into living, breathing entities.
This gives you an opportunity to think more about your planets and locations. What has shaped their past to introduce their current ecosystems? How has the rest of the planet responded to these plants and animals?
Laws and Lore: History and Mythology
With Dabble, you can create a rich history and mythology for your world. This is the lore that characters will reference, the ancient battles or the fallen empires that shaped the current political landscape of a far-off planet.
This historical depth lends credibility to your world and can drive your plot in unexpected directions.
Also think about any magic that exists in your universe. This doesn’t apply to most sci-fi, but some stories balance magic and technology beautifully. If you need help designing a magic system, check out this massive guide we made for you.
Integration and Interactivity: Systems at Play
As you flesh out your world, consider how its elements and characters interact together. Spoiler: everything affects everything.
Dabble’s linking feature can help you connect related concepts, like a planet’s resources and its political power, or a species' traits and their technological advancements.
Interconnectivity not only makes your world coherent but also dynamic and ripe for storytelling.
With the cosmos you’ve built now swirling with potential, it’s time to populate it with beings who have stories to tell—beings who can love, struggle, grow, and triumph.
Developing Compelling Sci-fi Characters
The soul of a great science fiction story lies not just in its grand designs of future societies and interstellar travel but in its characters—the beings who bring the story to life.
We have an intergalactic library’s worth of articles on character development over at DabbleU, but here are some of my favorites:
- Creating characters your readers will love
- Writing a character’s thoughts
- Writing abused characters
- Tips for writing a depressed character
- Why does character motivation matter?
- 101 character goals
- Character development questions that aren’t about eye color
- 20 original character questions
- A character development worksheet
For this article, I’m going to give you some tips to use Dabble to craft your sci-fi crews and aliens.
Dabble provides the perfect biodome for cultivating characters that your readers will love (or love to hate). Here are some ways to use this powerful piece of technology to develop your characters.
Blueprints of Being: Character Profiles and Casts
Your Dabble character profiles are as versatile as you want them to be. You can organize them into trait lists, add a profile picture and banner, and add any sorts of details you want.
Like I mentioned before, I’ve included a character profile template with more than 100 traits for you to consider, but you can also fill your profiles with character interviews, backstories, future subplot ideas, etc.
You can organize these profiles into casts, too. All you need to do is click on the three dots next to Characters and add your new cast (or rename the ones in the template to suit your needs).
Possible casts of characters might include:
- Notable people from a planet/settlement
- Military leaders
- Alien characters
- Spaceship crew
- Employees of a megacorp
The list could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Or you can skip the casts and make profiles or folders for each character on their own. Again, it’s entirely up to you.
Motivations, Pain, and Arcs: The Inner Universe
As grand as your universe might be, it’s the inner workings of a character that will make them believable. Especially in this genre, characters often face moral dilemmas that challenge their beliefs.
Use Dabble to explore these inner conflicts. Create notes on how each character's history and personality shape their decision-making, especially when confronted with the genre's common themes of technology's impact, space exploration, and encounters with the unknown.
This could include:
- Personal Philosophy
- Greatest fear
- Greatest weakness
- Greatest strength
- Physical appearance
- Key relationships
Interstellar Relationships: Connections and Conflicts
The constellations of your story are formed by the relationships between characters. Dabble’s Plot Grid can help you map out these connections, charting the alliances, enmities, and romances.
Is gravity the strongest force in your universe or is it that romantic connection between your protagonists?
Now that I’m done puking after typing that, let me mention you can also use Ribbons to further track your notes at a glance. Color-code your Scene Cards and Note Cards to note where relationship arc beats occur, major turning points in conflicts, hints towards a big reveal, etc.
If color-coding is your thing, of course.
Dialogue Dynamics: Voices from Beyond
Sci-fi characters speak in a language flavored by their world. Think about how a character’s voice is influenced as you’re designing them, and make note of that in their profiles.
Pay attention to their dialogue as a reflection of their world's culture and their personal history. Whether it's technical jargon or alien dialects, their words should echo the hard work you’ve put into your worldbuilding.
The Moral Compass: Ethics and Ideology
Science fiction stories are rich with exploration of ethics, and your characters are the vessels through which these ideas are conveyed. While you’re writing, consider each character's ethical stance and how it influences their actions.
As they encounter new technologies, alien species, or dystopian governments, their ideologies will either be reinforced or challenged, adding complexity to your tale.
I’d even include a folder or note in Story Notes to keep track of your research into ethical dilemmas. Remember that this particular genre is grounded in science, so the discussions going on today are laying the groundwork for your fictional future.
Plotting and Outlining with Dabble
Of course, one of the most important elements of any science fiction novel is the story itself. This is where Dabble really shines, as the Plot Grid is one of the most versatile and powerful plotting tools out there.
We already discussed how the Plot Grid functions: the leftmost column represents each scene in your novel, and the other columns are whatever the heck you want.
Seriously, you can make those columns new plot lines, important notes to include, character arcs, relationship arcs, conflict plot points, and more.
But here are a few other things Dabblers use when plotting their sci-fi books and series.
Plotters and pantsers - With the Plot Grid, you can set up a meticulous outline ahead of time and work within that framework. But for the pantsers among us, Dabble will automatically populate your Plot Grid as you add your own scenes, making revisions and all the work after your first draft way easier.
Explore your subplots - The Plot Grid lets you balance all the subplots you could imagine. That doesn’t just mean making notes and understanding where the important beats are, but also seeing at a glance if a single subplot is too heavy or light, or if it’s been a while since you touched on a particular plot line.
No lightspeed pacing - Just like subplots, you can use the Plot Grid to monitor your novel’s pacing, too. Are there places where your story slows down to a crawl? Or should you split one scene into two or three?
Track character development - I can’t overstate this: the Plot Grid makes character arcs better. Whether you’re giving the most important arcs their own plot lines, tracking them with Ribbons, or just going into detail about the impact different scenes have on your character development, this is Death Star-levels of power… but for integrating plot and character, not blowing up planets.
Revising, Editing, and Sharing Your Sci-fi Manuscript
Once you awake from the cryosleep of your first draft (it won’t take that long, I promise), there’s still work to be done. Don’t worry, though, because Dabble has your back even after you’re done writing.
First, you’re going to want to revise your novel. Take a few days off, then approach it with a fresh eye. Start by reading your story out loud, because it honestly does make a world of difference.
If you find yourself with a sore throat or tired of your own voice, Dabble has a built-in read-to-me feature with multiple voices to choose from.
As you’re going through your draft, Dabble has a handful of tools to make revising easier:
- Highlighting to mark problem areas for later. You can even use each color for a different issue (repetition, reworking needed, fact check, add specificity, etc.), which can be helpful for people more organized than me.
- Comments to leave more detailed notes for yourself about a specific section.
- Sticky notes to leave reminders for big-picture changes.
- ProWritingAid integration to check for spelling, grammar, and style errors. You can also use Grammarly’s browser extension if you prefer their system.
Revisions can take place over multiple rounds, so don’t feel like you need to get everything on the first readthrough.
Then you can share a version of your story to beta readers by clicking on the three dots next to your Book, clicking Export, and choosing Web. Or, if you want them to be able to make changes and leave comments or you’re working with an editor, you can choose to export your science fiction novel to a Word doc.
Dabble even formats your document into an industry standard layout, so you don’t need to stress before sending it off to an agent or publisher, once you’ve perfected your draft.
Prepare for Liftoff with Dabble
Your training is over, and your journey through the cosmos awaits. I hope you started this article wondering how to write sci-fi with Dabble and now have a solid grasp on exactly how you can accomplish that mission.
And if you need your own crew to help you along the way, set a course for the Story Craft Café, our online community of writers—Dabblers and non-Dabblers alike—to find like-minded authors like yourself and learn some new ways to make Dabble work for you.
Book marketing. Those two innocuous words instill fear and loathing into the hearts of so many writers. You just want to write your books and have them sell themselves. Why do you have to tell people about it? Well, Susan, because you do. I know you want to write, but if your goal is to write, publish, and make money from your books, then you’re going to have to find a way to make them visible. Thousands of new titles are uploaded to Amazon every single day. Millions of books are being published every year, and no matter how good your story is, without marketing, there’s not much chance very many people will find it.
What kind of writer are you? Are you the sort who writes a meticulous outline that tips into the five digits or the type who sits down in front of a blank sheet of paper and lets the words pour out of you like a runaway train? Did you know there are specific terms for this kind of writing? Writers will come up with words for anything, I swear. Plotters are the first type of writer. They like to have detailed outlines that tell them exactly where their story is going. Pantsers are the other type of writer, which is kind of a weird name, but the term was coined by Stephen King (a famous pantser) to describe writing by the seat of your pants. Cute, eh? There is no right or wrong way to write your book, and I’m going to repeat this so many times. The right way is the way that works for you.
Dystopian fiction is one of the darker subgenres of science fiction and fantasy. It takes us into dark, foreboding worlds, where oppression and bleak landscapes are the norm. Books like 1984 by George Orwell, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley have become classics that shine a light on political corruption, environmental disaster, and societal collapse.Why do we love these stories? Maybe it's because dystopian fiction allows us to explore worst-case scenarios, to grapple with the idea that the world we know and love could be lost forever. It's a way for us to confront our fears and anxieties about the future, to see what could happen if we continue down a certain path.