Outlining a story can be a complicated process. Whether you’re an experienced fantasy author or a newbie to sci-fi, most authors use plots to increase their productivity or hammer out their storylines so their books are easier to write. Whether you’re a pantser (a writer who prefers to write without a plot) or a plotter, it’s worth looking into outlining software and figuring out whether it’s right for you. That’s why we’re taking a look at Plottr today.
Outlining software should make it easier for authors to plan out their novels, but from my research (and boy, I’ve done a lot of it by now) no software is one size fits all. Fantasy or Sci-fi authors might need more world-building, nonfiction authors might need simple, distraction-free outlining tools, and genre writers might need templates.
So let’s figure out whether Plottr is the right software for you.
Note: I'll be using affiliate links in this article, but this hasn't affected my opinion of the product.
In this article, you will learn:
- What Plottr is
- What features Plottr offers
- How to create an outline with the software
- The pros and cons of using Plottr
- How much it costs
- Whether Plottr is the right tool for you
What is Plottr?
Plottr is a downloadable software, compatible with both Windows and Mac, that authors can use to plan out their novels. It’s pretty versatile in that it offers authors the option to plot out their stories with multiple sub-plots–but we’ll get into that later when we check out the features it offers. Plottr helps authors complete their plots, download them and use them for writing their stories.
A quick look at Plottr tells me that it will be super easy to use, and that the software’s offering a ‘no frills’ approach to outlining your novel. It’s probably not going to appeal to nonfiction authors, though–even the plot templates are focused on novels rather than nonfiction books.
If you’re interested in finding out more about Plottr on a more technical level, or you have a specific question that isn’t answered by this review, you can check out Plottr’s helpful Knowledge Base.Want to learn how to outline with Plottr--an awesome outlining software for authors? Check out this Kindlepreneur review. Click To Tweet
What Features Does Plottr Offer?
Outlining is one of my favorite parts of the writing process, and finding an alternative to how I usually plot is pretty exciting. A lot of authors are looking for ways to write more books and better books, and a good plotting process is a part of that. So, let’s find out what Plottr has on offer!
Before we start, it’s important to note that you can download the software for Mac or PC and use it for free for 30 days, with all of its features. That’s great if you want to try before you buy.
Guided introductory tour
Right off the bat, I’m impressed by how simple Plottr is to use. It’s a pretty smooth process, from downloading the software to using it for the first time. And it looks clean too. Even better, there’s a guided tour that takes me through all the different features and explains things clearly and simply.
Using a software that has great features but has a steep learning curve can be pretty frustrating. (Cough, cough, I love you Scrivener, but that might be aimed at you). Plottr takes that frustration out of the equation with its tour.
The tour teaches you the basics of how to use the software for plotting and the features it has that you can take advantage of. Unlike other software, Plottr doesn’t hold your hand and teach you how to plot your novel from scratch. That might be a drawback for authors who are new to writing novels, however, it does provide templates for writers to use. Let’s take a closer look at the plotting process using templates.
Plotting With Templates
Creating a plot from a template is pretty simple in Plottr. All you have to do is head over to ‘File’ and hit ‘New from Template’ and you’ll pull up a whole list of plot templates that can be used to create your plot.
This is great, because it can be a little overwhelming (even with a guided tour) to start a new plot from scratch if you’re not sure what you’re doing or it’s your first time plotting a novel. Even better, there are popular plotting methods that have been used to create templates, like the process in Take Off Your Pants! by Libbie Hawker and Save the Cat by Blake Snyder. Standard plot templates, like the Hero’s Journey, allow for simple plotting too with layouts that will be familiar to old hats.
You can choose from the following plot templates when using Plottr:
- Action Adventure Plot
- Jami Gold Romance
- Take Off Your Pants
- Victor Pineiro Screenplay
- 8 Sequences Method
- Billy Mernit Romance Seven Beats
- Hero’s Journey
- 7 Point Plot Structure
- 12 Chapter Mystery Formula
- Dan Harmon’s Story Circle
- Michael Hauge Six Stage
- Shonen Battle Manga Formula
- Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
There’s a plotting template for every genre, and those who need something more versatile or want to create a plot without a template are covered too.
Plotting Without Templates
Now, we’re getting to the seriously fun part! Customizing your plot as you see fit. Plottr allows you to create entire plot lines, subplots, and lay them out over the course of your chapters. Even better, you’re able to drag any of the cards, chapters or plot lines around. Just check this out:
You can recolor your plot lines, as well, and customize where you want things to be. Everything is a simple click away. To add a card, ‘click’, to move a sub-plot or a chapter, another ‘click.’ It’s fun and easy to use.
I’d say that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you invest in this awesome plotting tool and don’t play around with it and try creating your own plots. Adding more detail to each chapter and card is easy too. Simply clicking on a card brings up a page that allows you to input text, images, links to your research articles or even your other books online. You can also attach tags to the card (say Inciting Event as seen in the image above) characters, and places, so you know exactly who’s involved in the scene, where they are and what they’re doing. Wow.
You can view your outline in different modes too, so if you’re not a fan of the timeline view, you can simply switch to the outline view.
Another cool feature is found on Plottr’s Series tab. Here, you can identify which series the plot for this book is in, note it’s the title, it’s the premise and add a book cover image if you desire. You can also connect it to other books in the series.
The dropdown menu allows you to easily navigate between all the plots in your series, to tag them, add certain characters to your books, and places too. More on those later.
And when you’re fully done with your plot, you can export it. That’s a big deal for me, as I like to work in Google Docs or Word, sometimes Scrivener, and having that plot on-hand is a big deal for me. I’d hazard a guess and say it’s pretty important for most authors.
I’ve reviewed a few outlining apps before, and I will say that this one’s plotting functionality is the easiest to navigate and simplest to understand.
Creating characters in Plottr instantly blew my mind–I’m not exaggerating. It’s so simple and effective. To create a character, all you have to do is head over to the Characters tab and create one. You can add in detail about who they are, a name and a character thumbnail.
The real stroke of genius here is in the ability to add attributes that you want to track. Like flaws or personality traits or magical abilities. Just about anything you can think of you can add as an attribute and track across all of your characters. That’s the jaw-drop moment for me when it comes to this. You can choose to make these attributes simple one-liners or to add a paragraph for extra information. Take a look:
And if you don’t want to add your own attributes, you have the option to use a character template instead. You can choose from the following templates:
- Character Bio
- Birth Order
- Myers-Briggs Type
- Goal, Motivation, Conflict
- Cognitive Distortions
So simple and easy to use. I feel more productive working with Plottr and that’s a major positive point for this app.
Tagging is one of Plottr’s strengths and that’s an important part of world creation in outlining softwares like this–take Storyshop.io for an example here as their focus on tags makes them a great world-building tool. Does Plottr measure up?
Plottr allows you to create places and add attributes similar to the way you can in the Characters tab. Overall, I didn’t find this nearly as intuitive or as detailed as it was to create the characters. There’s a whole section for creating tags, but it wasn’t immediately obvious to me how to attach those tags to my outline or characters. Upon further research, I figured out that you can’t use tags with places, only with the timeline and with notes.
You have to navigate to the timeline, click on a card, and then add a tag of your choice or a character or place. I would’ve preferred to use tags for worlds too–maybe that’s something Plottr can look into later on.
I’d say stick to another option if you’re looking for world-building functionality and creating universes because Plottr is limited on this front.
Important Extras and Notes
Plottr isn’t limited to the features I listed above. There are a bunch of extras I enjoyed checking out, and some notes I made while going through the software that is worth listing here so you can better judge whether this is the right plotting software for you.
- There’s no story writing section. That means you have to export your plot and use it separately from the software. You’ll be writing in Word, Google Docs, Scrivener, or whichever processor you prefer. This isn’t necessarily a drawback depending on your needs. I prefer working outside of my plotting app, so it wasn’t for me.
- You can flip your view when plotting. This is a neat trick, you can align your timeline vertically or horizontally and get a fresh view of your outline.
- You can filter according to tags and characters to easily find what you’re looking for. When working in your outline, it’s easy to filter the chapters according to who or what you’re looking for.
- Navigation is easy! You can scroll through your beginning, middle, and end for easy navigation.
- Notes are available for use. The notes section is super easy to use, and you can tag your notes and filter them so you can easily keep track of what you’ve jotted down.
- Easy to report errors that you run into. As with any software or application, there will be bugs that need to be fixed, and if you run into one of them, it’s pretty easy to report them using the ‘Help’ tab. As an aside, speaking to support both on Facebook and via email was easy and I got straight answers and help to solve any issues I had.
All that being said, what will the features set you back? Let’s find out what Plottr costs and what options you have when it comes to buying power and value for money.
What Does it Cost?
Most authors are either on a budget or looking for a tool that’s going to give them great value for money (then again, who isn’t looking for that?) So, let’s figure out if Plottr’s features are worth the money for you.
Plottr has several pricing options.
- You can buy a license for Windows once-off, and get a year of updates–install on 3 PC devices for $25.
- You can buy a license for Mac once-off, and get a year of updates–install on 3 Mac devices for $25.
- You can buy a bundle deal for $37 that gives you a year of updates and allows you to plot on up to 6 devices.
- App on Google Play for $2.99
- App on Apple Store $2.99
You can also start a 30-day free trial with all the features available to try it out.
You’ll notice that I mentioned you get a year of updates if you purchase the once-off license in options 1, 2, or 3 above. That means that after a year, you won’t get any bug fixes or updates or new features unless you pay for another year of the license at the same price.
That’s a bit tricky because it makes it seem like the software is a once-off payment when really it’s technically a subscription model at $25 or $37 a year. Still, that’s a lot of value for money!
Here’s what that means: you always keep the software, you just won’t get the updates after the year is done. Does this present problems? Yes, if you are experiencing a bug that is fixed after the year in which you bought it, but if you’re happy to pay $25 a year for all the features listed above, it’s a non-issue.
What I Disliked about Plottr
Now that I’ve raved about what Plottr does well, we should probably take a look at the things I didn’t like about the software, so we can make an educated decision on whether the software is right for you.
Here’s what I didn’t like:
- The pricing structure. Don’t get me wrong, I think Plottr affords authors with great value for money, but I don’t like the ‘year of updates caveat.’ If you’re selling downloadable software, but you want people to pay a yearly subscription rather than a one-off payment, just go ahead and state that. The ‘year of updates’ detail just causes confusion–it did for me. I reached out to figure out what it meant.
- There’s no writing area. Some authors might like an area to draft their story in–it’s handy to have an app that does it all.
- Restarting the app. I had to restart a few times when Plottr got stuck (though they’re rolling out updates and fixes frequently, so this will probably get fixed). It was helpful that Plottr automatically saved all my progress so I never lost anything.
Is Plottr the Right Tool for You?
If you’re looking for a plotting tool that’s highly customizable but provides you with templates for reference, Plottr is a good outlining option. That’s with the caveat that you don’t want to write your story in the same software that you use to plot–as you can do with Scrivener, Plot Factory, The Novel Factory or Storshop.io.
Every outlining tool has its pros and cons, but Plottr stands out from the crowd when it comes to simplicity and ease of use. I love that it’s possible to export your plot and use it with your favorite writing tool–like Scrivener for instance–and that none of your work is ever held hostage. It’s also pretty cool that it’s downloadable software. That means that your ideas and plots are always on your device rather than saved on a server for an online app.
The pricing structure is also reasonable, making Plottr a good option for authors who want a tool that will simplify their plotting process and won’t cost them an arm and a leg.
In short, Plottr is the right tool for you if you want a customizable plotting tool without the fuss of fiddling with too many features, you’re set on writing in another software (Scrivener, Word, Google Docs) and you want all your work to stay strictly on your computer and nowhere else.
Plottr is another awesome outlining tool that will make your plotting experience easier. If you’re aiming for productivity (which many authors are) then this tool is the right one for you. Have fun plotting!