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.
In this article, you will find our picks for:
- The best outline software overalls
- The best outline software for nonfiction authors
- Other great options you might want to check out
Table of contents
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 Factory||Scrivener||Plot Factory||Plottr|
|Between $7.50-$60.00 Monthly||Once-off $49||Between $9.00-$19.00 Monthly||$25 Annual or $99 Lifetime|
|No (30 day free trial)||No (30 day free trial)||Yes||No (30 day free trial)|
|Yes (with online version)||Yes||N/A||Yes|
|Yes||Through 3rd Parties||Yes||Yes|
#1. My Favorite Outline Software: 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
- Different timeline and outline views
- Tag and character filtering
- Multiple views
- Customizable series pages
- Syncs with online version through Plottr Pro
Plottr's no-frills approach makes it a great application for authors looking to up their productivity, which is one of the reasons why it's my favorite.
Not only is it simple and easy to navigate, it also does just about everything you would need, especially when writing fiction.
Let's take a look at the pros and cons of Plottr and figure out if it's the right tool for you.
- Easy to use–a guided tour
- Highly customizable
- Character and plot templates
- Lifetime pricing available
- No space for writing the actual draft
- World-building and tagging could be better
Pricing: 30-Day Free Trial// Windows and Mac Version–$25-$65 per year // Lifetime Version–$99
Want more information? Click here to read our full review of Plottr.
#2. My Second Favorite: Plot Factory
This software is great for all fiction writers. This doesn't mean it 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.
And while I wouldn't necessarily rank it above Plottr, it still has a lot of great features, and might work better for some writers.
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 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
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.
Want more information? Click here to read our full review of Plot Factory.
#3. The Novel Factory
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 to minimize strain on your eyes
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…
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!)
Want more information? Click here to read our full review of The Novel Factory.
#4. Best Nonfiction Outline: Scrivener
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 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
Want more information? Click here to read our full review of plotting inside Scrivener.
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Put Plotting Into Practice
If you are ready to jump into any of these tools and want to make sure you are plotting right, I recommend watching this mini masterclass by Jenna Moreci.
Jenna Moreci is a #1 bestselling author of dark fantasy, as well as a YouTube sensation with hundreds of thousands of subscribers. View more videos here.
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 on our contact page.
37 thoughts on “The Best Software to Plot or Outline Your Book”
Dave, I’m confused. Why is there a yearly price and a lifetime price per year? Wouldn’t the lifetime price be a one-time fee because it’s for life?
Whoops…great catch. Fixed. It’s just $99 for life.
Great recap, Dave, thanks. I use Scrivener and Plottr, and am still trying to figure out how to make Plottr easier to use than just doing it in Scriv. My only comment is that I bristle at the generalized “Scrivener has a steep learning curve” idea. It has an easy-medium learning curve for the basics–anyone can get started writing and using the index cards and such right off the bat. It’s using the full capabilities of the program that is very steep. I even took a class on formatting and compiling and it’s still difficult–no wonder I jumped to Vellum as soon as I heard about it! But overall, just to write and edit, Scrivener isn’t hard.
True…but if you were to compare the ease of Vellum as to the ease of Scrivener, I’d say one is very easy to use, and the other…not so much. I think Scrivener made way too many things too difficult to do and so they get a mark for it. It’s got a lot of capabilities, but most of those extra parts are not very intuitive.
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