The Best Software to Plot or Outline Your Book

The best plotting and outlining software

Writing a book, fiction or nonfiction, isn’t easy, and planning what you want to write before you start can help you write faster and get books to market sooner. That’s why we personally tested four of the best pieces of story outline software on the market–tools and apps that can help you outline your books and even write them.

In this review, we'll be breaking down each of the products according to who they're best suited for–with an overview of their features and prices.

And we’ll be deciding which story software is the best for different types of writers, whether they’re fiction writers or non-fiction writers.

Just so you know–there will be affiliate links in this article. It helps me keep the coffee fund topped up, but it doesn't detract from the quality of the software we're about to discuss. What you're going to get is an unbiased view of the different software and who they're best suited to. So… let's check them out!

The Novel FactoryScrivenerPlot FactoryPlottr
Price
Between $7.50-$60.00 MonthlyOnce-off $49Between $9.00-$19.00 MonthlyBetween $25-$37
Free Version
No (30 day free trial)No (30 day free trial)YesYes
App for
Download
YesYesNoYes
Online App
YesNoYesNo
Windows Compatible Software
YesYesN/AYes
Mac Compatible Software
NoYesN/AYes
Manuscripts Exportable
YesYesYesYes
Includes Plotting Templates
YesNoYesYes
World-Building Available
YesNoYesLimited
Easy To Use
YesNoYesYes
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Check It Out
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The Best Outline Software for Fiction Authors: The Novel Factory

novel factory outlining software

Fiction authors need outlining software that either guides them through the plotting process or allows them to create plots on their own unhindered. While most of the outlining software on this list does exactly that, The Novel Factory is unique in that it has a serious compilation of guiding articles and videos to help authors plot.

The Novel Factory offers authors:

  • A guided plotting roadmap to help authors plot their novels
  • Plotting templates that are tailored toward specific genres or beats
  • The ability to upload outlining templates if you have one you already use
  • Freeform outlining utility–you can outline as you see fit in the software online
  • Character creation
  • World and object creation
  • An entire section to write all the drafts of your novel
  • Daily word count tracking statistics
  • Submissions tracker (if you're going the traditional route)
  • A light and dark mode

In short, this software provides everything a budding (or experienced) fiction author might need to create their novel from start to finish, including useful tips on publishing traditionally and independently. It comes in both an online subscription and a desktop download format.

Here's an example of what it's like to outline with the Novel Factory…

novel factory interface

The Novel Factory Summary

As you can see, it's easy to edit, change, move around, and create your outline using The Novel Factory. But surely, it can't all be good, right? No software is made perfect, so… what are the pros and cons of using The Novel Factory for outlining your work?

The Novel Factory Pros:

  • Provides a guided plan for authors to follow if they don't know how to plot
  • Plotting is fully customizable (drag, drop, create, use a template or don't)
  • You can write your entire story in the app and export it–your work is never held hostage by the app

The Novel Factory Cons:

  • Costlier than some of the other software on this list
  • The cost of the online app is directly related to how much storage you use
  • You have to have an internet connection to use the online software
  • The desktop software doesn't work on Macs

With all of this taken into consideration, it's no wonder this is the best software around for fiction authors. But how much does it cost?

Pricing: Basic Monthly–$7.50 // Standard Monthly–$20.00 // Premium Monthly–$60.00 with a discounted rate if you choose the yearly option.

Even better… The Novel Factory has offered a 20% discount to all Kindlepreneur customers. Simply use the coupon: KINDLEPRENEUR at check out to redeem your 20% off. (That means 20% off the monthly or yearly subscription!)

Check Out The Novel Factory Here

Want more information? Click here to read our full review of The Novel Factory.

The Best Outline Software for Nonfiction Authors: Scrivener

scrivener outlining

Scrivener isn't just an outlining software… it's a way of life. But seriously, it's an amazing desktop application that helps authors organize their documents in one place. It's great for fiction and nonfiction authors, but we've chosen it for nonfiction outlining because of the ease of use with which an author can create an outline template.

Scrivener allows authors to:

  • Populate a template that’s already laid out for you
  • Create an entirely new template for your book and outline
  • Add or delete files and folders
  • Create your own character sketches or place sketches
  • Upload other author templates
  • Create collections of your work
  • Sync your work to your mobile
  • Write your entire book
  • Format it for publishing
  • View your story in three different modes
  • Split the screen as you write so you can work on one screen while viewing the other
  • Organize your work with a corkboard

Scrivener is incredibly versatile and that's precisely why it works for outlining nonfiction… and for writing it. In fact, I'd say you could use it for fiction too, as long as you have the right template available. Authors can fully customize their templates as they outline:

scrivener in action

Scrivener Plotting Feature Summary

Scrivener is an incredibly versatile tool–it's no wonder it's so popular with independent authors. But can it be successfully used for plotting your work? And what are the pros and cons of doing so?

Scrivener Plotting Feature Pros

  • Fully customizable
  • Authors have complete control over how they plot or what they write
  • All documents and files are available on their computer at all times
  • A once-off purchase!

Scrivener Plotting Feature Cons

  • No plotting guidance provided for new authors
  • Steep learning curve when it comes to understanding how to use the software

Pricing: Windows Standard License–$49 // Mac Standard License–$49 // iOS Standard License–$19.99 // Mac and Windows License–$80

Check Out Scrivener Here

Want more information? Click here to read our full review of plotting inside Scrivener.

The Best Outline Software for Everyone: Plot Factory

Just a note: this doesn't mean this particular software trumps all the others. Just that it is a software that any author of fiction or nonfiction could use without missing out on too many features.

plot factory outlining software

Plot Factory is exactly what you think it is… a great place for you to craft your plots. It's an online software–subscription-based–that allows authors to create outlines from templates, create universes and characters, track their word count goals, and more. If you're looking for a piece of software that's not focused on one specific thing, but is a great all-rounder when it comes to planning a book, Plot Factory is the right software for you.

Here's what's on offer:

  • Outlining with set templates
  • An online experience that's smooth and streamlined
  • Distraction-free plotting
  • Plotting with your own templates or free-form
  • Character creation templates
  • Universe creation templates
  • A name generator
  • Word count tracking and statistics
  • Story sharing and narration
  • Story creation

Plot Factory is super easy to use for authors who are both fiction and nonfiction, and the plotting features are pretty cool. You can create multiple stories, export them, and use plot templates or create your own.

Plot Factory interface

Plot Factory Summary

To figure out how versatile Plot Factory is for authors, and whether it's a good all-round solution for both fiction and nonfiction writers, let's take a look at where its strong and where its weak.

Plot Factory Pros

  • Amazing plot templates to use
  • Easy to upload your own template or free-form plot
  • Good character creation system
  • Affordable

Plot Factory Cons

  • No downloadable software
  • Not as good when it comes to world-building
  • Not as guided as some other tools

Pricing: Basic–FREE// Hobbyist per month/year–$9/$90 // Enthusiast per month/year–$14/$140 // Novelist per month/year–$19/$190

SPECIAL DISCOUNT FOR KINDLEPRENEUR READERS… You can grab your subscription to Plot Factory now, and get 35% off for 12 months using the following discount code: kpnr-35

All you have to do is enter the coupon code on checkout.

Check Out Plot Factory Here

Want more information? Click here to read our full review of Plot Factory.

The Best Outline Software for Productivity: Plottr

Outlining with Plottr

Plottr is a versatile software that allows you to visually plan your books. It's simple and easy to use, and it cuts out the trouble of a steep learning curve that's so often present when it comes to working with new applications. Here's a summary of what it has to offer:

  • Downloadable software that's always available, online or offline
  • Highly customizable plotting
  • Ease of use
  • An amazing character creation tool
  • Plot templates
  • Character templates
  • Drag and drop features for organizing plots and subplots
  • Notes
  • Different timeline and outline views
  • Tag and character filtering
  • Customizable series pages

Plottr's no-frills approach makes it a great application for authors looking to up their productivity.

plottr user dashboard

Plottr Summary

Let's take a look at the pros and cons of Plottr and figure out if it's the right tool for you.

Plottr Pros

  • Easy to use–a guided tour
  • Highly customizable
  • Character and plot templates

Plottr Cons

  • Yearly subscription
  • No space for writing the actual draft
  • World-building and tagging could be better

Pricing: 30-Day Free Trial// Windows Version–$25 per year // Mac Version–$25 per year // Bundled Version (6 Devices)–$37 per year

Check Out Plottr Here

Want more information? Click here to read our full review of Plottr.

Did We Miss Any Amazing Outlining Software?

These are the best story outline software applications we could find… But did we miss any in our search? Be sure to mention your favorites and your experiences in the comments below.

 

26 Comments

  1. Anne Francis Scott on June 8, 2020 at 12:04 am

    Thanks for giving us a look at the different options for plotting, etc. I’m a die-hard panster, have always thought that heavy outlining and plotting would stifle creativity. The flip side of panster-writing is, I frequently write myself into a hole and spend forever digging my way out. 🙄

    So, I recently tried Plottr on my MAC and I’m loving the simple user interface. You definitely nailed the pros! Although I have to say that I disagree with one of the Plottr Cons listed: No space for writing the actual draft. This is a plotting/planning software, not a word processing program.
    Writing software (I use Word) lets us set most of the formatting parameters ahead of time, such as Drop Caps, margins, different styles, headings, insert scene break images, etc. I wouldn’t want to bog down the planning process with all of that.

    Thanks again for for showing us some viable software options.

    • Dave Chesson on June 9, 2020 at 3:00 am

      Haha…I know what you mean. As for the con, true… BUT when I was testing the others, many of the others allow for such. Therefore, in a ‘relative’ manner, this was a con. However, I also see that they are working to integrate with Scrivener, which would be awesome. Thanks to my article, it caught the attention of their team and I’ll be meeting with them next week to discuss improvements and such…yah!

  2. Kathryn on June 7, 2020 at 8:44 am

    Hi Dave
    Thanks for this (as always).

    Have you heard of Subtext? It’s a more user-friendly ‘version’ of Dramatica Pro (which, while excellent, can be tough to comprehend for emerging writers)

    Cheers and thanks for your informative emails.

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:19 pm

      No I haven’t but I’ll have to check that out.

  3. Candace Green on June 6, 2020 at 4:50 pm

    Writeitnow5 is supposed to be good. Made by the same company that makes Jutoh.

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:18 pm

      That is a good thing and a bad thing then…haha. Jutoh, amazing capability…but poor user experience (UX) and user interface (UI). However, I’ll give that a try. Thanks for the suggestion.

  4. Bronwyn on June 6, 2020 at 3:24 pm

    I still love Scrivener for everything! And there are plenty of fiction templates people have created (just search “novel templates for scrivener”) if you need some sort of plot/outline format to get going. That said, if The Novel Factory created software for mac’s, I might have to take a look! (Yes, bite me! I love my mac!!)

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:14 pm

      Hey, I hear you on both fronts. I’m a Scrivener guy and I even have my own Template that I designed 🙂 As for Novel Factory, yup. I actually used to work for Apple so I’m a Mac guy as well.

  5. Miranda on June 6, 2020 at 1:35 pm

    What are your thoughts about Dabble?

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:13 pm

      I’ve had a couple of people ask about Dabble. I’ll look into it and update my article on that so as to include it.

  6. Martin on June 6, 2020 at 1:06 pm

    Dave,
    Thanks a bunch! Thorough, thoughtful, truthful, and as always professional. Great stuff!
    Enough for a lazy panster to head over to Plottr. My gut leads me to being a panster, but
    my head pushes Plottr. The reason being it’s cheap … no seriously, it seems to tick all the
    boxes a non-techie octogenarian, would be writer of childrens adventure novels, could
    possibly cope with.

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:13 pm

      THat’s my overall feel too. Visually its ‘comprehensive’ and very beneficial. Plus for me, I am a Scrivener pro, and this feels like the scrivener components of outlining but on steroids. Furthermore, I love that it isn’t a subscription base.

  7. Bryce on June 6, 2020 at 10:28 am

    I use Dabble – it’s available on laptop and phone and syncs across all your devices. Easy to use, well laid out. Have a look.

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:11 pm

      Will do. I’ve seen a couple of people bring that up.

  8. Elizabeth on June 6, 2020 at 7:47 am

    As always, you’ve got great information! I’ve got two software tools that you haven’t mentioned, though, both of which are linked to existing fiction outlining methods.

    1. Snowflake Pro is based on Randy Ingermansson’s Snowflake Method.
    2. Outlining Your Novel is essentially a digital version of a workbook for KM Weiland’s brilliant Outlining Your Novel book.

    Authors these days are really spoiled for choice! 🙂

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:05 pm

      Katie Weiland is a genius – I will have to look into that. I love her website and her information so I’m sure that is amazing. As for Snowflake Pro, I’ll look into that too. I know that a couple of the Outline Softwares have a Snowflake template in them.

    • Vanja on June 8, 2020 at 9:41 pm

      I’ve just brought OYN software. It’s nice because it has directions. I don’t have much time, so I don’t know it well, but it looks promising. Weiland admits it has a clumsy print option. It’s rich on character and worldbuilding part and has a good template on basic story structure.
      The Snowflake method I know,but I haven’t tried the software. I guess it’s for the authors who know some story structure already.

      • Dave Chesson on June 9, 2020 at 2:58 am

        I’ll have to try that.

      • Melissa on June 9, 2020 at 8:46 pm

        I have tried the OYN software and although the concept is AMAZING, the interface and options are very clumsy and limited. (It may be a little thing, but having the main character always labeled as “he” drives me bonkers.) I really like Weiland’s books and methods, but wish the software was better. I started using Novel Factory recently and have found it really helped me plot out a book that had me stumped for a year.

        • Dave Chesson on June 11, 2020 at 2:28 pm

          Huh…didn’t know than on OYN – I can understand that.

  9. Daniel Levine on June 6, 2020 at 2:21 am

    Thank you, Dave. Your hammer always hits the nail. Best wishes, your Fan, Daniel.

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:04 pm

      Thank you Daniel. That made my morning to read.

  10. Katie on June 5, 2020 at 10:12 pm

    Interestingly, I started using Scrivener for fiction. Coming from a training background, I’ve always outlined my training and nonfiction writing using Word (or a word processor). While working on a nonfiction project, I was having a difficult time remembering if/where I had used specific examples. I didn’t want to use the same ones too many times, and finding and tracking each example in Word was a PITA. So I broke up the Word document and put the content into Scrivener, which I think does a great job separating chapters and lets you jump around when necessary. I was amazed at how much easier the process became. I now use it for a lot of other things also, not necessarily manuscript driven.

    And while there are minimal plots installed, you can find several online (including some through NaNo).

    Thanks for the comparisons. You’ve piqued my interest and I will look at a couple of them. I also didn’t realize there was an iOS version of Scriv, but I seldom write on the iPhone.

    • Dave Chesson on June 7, 2020 at 1:00 pm

      Yeah, it saved my life when I was writing my master thesis when I was at Naval Post-graduate School. As for iOS, I know what you mean. I didn’t think that was a big deal but apparently there are a lot of authors who us the iOS version. Using an ipad and a wireless keyboard is their jam.

  11. James on June 5, 2020 at 8:07 pm

    Have you heard of Campfire Technology? It’s an outlining/plotting tool. I don’t know much about it. Saw it in a NaNoWriMo email.

    • Dave Chesson on June 5, 2020 at 8:20 pm

      No, I haven’t. But I’ll check it out.

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Hey Guys, I’m Dave and when I am not sipping tea with princesses or chasing the Boogey man out of closets, I’m a Kindlepreneur and digital marketing nut – it’s my career, hobby, and passion.

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