Plottr Review | Writing Software Reviews

Plottr review, the short version: Plottr is an intuitive, sophisticated, and affordable plotting software that every writer should try. While I found there was a bit of a learning curve, the Plottr Academy provides invaluable tutorials and resources to make things easy for new users.


Disclaimer: I wasn’t paid to write this review, but this post does contain affiliate links to Plottr. If you use the links to purchase a subscription, I may earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks for supporting a fellow writer!

The folks at Plottr asked if I’d be interested in writing a free, non-sponsored review. After a brief scroll through the Plottr website, I agreed, thinking the program looked super useful for writers.

I stand by that first impression — I enjoyed playing around in Plottr so much that I bought the program. Although my WIP is currently on hiatus, test-driving Plottr made me want to start writing again. (That’s pretty much the best endorsement you can get from a turtle-slow writer like me!)

Plottr review: table of contents

What is Plottr?

Plottr is an all-inclusive plotting tool for writers working on novels or book series. Its features include:

  • Timeline
  • Outline
  • Notes
  • Characters
  • Places
  • Tags

While it won’t replace word processors or book writing software like Microsoft Word, it does provide a single place to store all your outlines, character sheets, research, and more.

Downloading the free trial

Signing up for the free trial was quick and painless. Just enter your email and first name, then download the program. That’s it. No long forms or hoops to jump through.

When you download a free trial, you’re automatically enrolled in a welcome email sequence. I’m pretty selective about the newsletters I subscribe to, but the Plottr emails were super helpful. They were conversational and not stuffy or salesy, which I appreciated!

Tutorials and support

Plottr’s tutorials and support are unmatched. Plottr 101 contains dozens of videos walking you through how to use every single feature of the program.

These videos were a lifesaver for me! I like to play around with new software and figure things out myself, but with so many bells and whistles, I got lost pretty quickly. The videos were just as helpful as they were short.

You can also explore demo versions of Plottr timelines for popular stories like The Three Little Pigs.

Plottr pricing

Plottr is super affordable at $25/year or $199 for a lifetime license for Windows or Mac. A 30-day free trial lets you test-drive the program and discover if it’s the right fit for your project.

You can use the paid version on up to three devices with the same operating system. Plottr also accepts PayPal, which is really handy if you don’t fancy inputting your credit card info.

Saving and exporting

Plottr offers both manual and autosave options, as well as backups. You can set how long you want Plottr to store backups. The default is 30 days.

Scrivener and Word users, don’t fear — you can export your work in Plottr to both programs!

Using Plottr: first impressions

Now that we’ve got the technical stuff out of the way, let’s dive in to the program!

I liked the clean interface, the capabilities for customization, and the filter options. This last feature is especially helpful for my novel, Escape Artist, which covers 70+ years of events across four generations of my protagonist’s family.

Here’s a quick list of the features I found most helpful, which we’ll explore in more detail later in this post:

  • The number of color options for timelines and tags. Color-coding is my jam. Practically my whole life is color-coded, so the vast number of color options available in the program was a huge plus for me.
  • Custom character attributes. I stopped using Scrivener in 2019, and one of the features I missed most was the metadata. Plottr’s custom character attributes are similar to metadata in Scrivener. (And I found them a lot easier to set up.)
  • Filter options. Busy writers need to see their scenes in context. The ability to filter timelines, scenes, and characters based on custom attributes — like status, stage of the narrative structure, or theme — is priceless.

Oh, and let’s not forget to mention dark mode. I use dark mode for pretty much everything, so I was happy to see this feature.

Plottr features

Plottr is packed with more features than I’ve ever seen in a plotting tool. Let’s break ’em down one by one.

Project

In this tab, you can add details about your novel, including the title, genre, premise, and theme. Uploading a book cover made the novel feel real for me! If you’re working on multiple books within a series, you can add them all here.

Timelines

This is where the real magic happens. You can create multiple timelines in this space, which you can color-coordinate as you see fit. Each timeline allows you to add scene cards and organize them by chapter. (Bonus: whenever you add a new chapter, Plottr automatically titles each one in sequential order. No need to type “Chapter [#]” a bunch of times!)

The scene card is one of Plottr’s best features. Whenever you click into a scene, you can add and format a description of the scene. You can then link that scene to characters, places, and chapters:

This level of detail is something I really appreciate and something few writing programs bother implementing. Having the space to flesh out the scene (and add formatting) without being limited to an index card or small text box is something all writers will find helpful.

It also saved me from having to create a new scene card for every small action. Instead of having a cluttered timeline, I focused on creating cards for the most important plot points. This allowed me to see a big-picture view of my story.

Plus, you can hover over the scene card to see the description:

screenshot of description on hover plottr review 2021

I chose to create separate timelines for my main plot and each of my main characters, but you can set up your timelines however you like and filter them when needed.

You can also save your timelines as templates to use in future projects to save yourself some legwork!

Outline

The Outline view provides an alternate view of your timeline complete with tags, characters, and places. It’s helpful if you want to dive in to the meat of your outline instead of just viewing the plot points on the timeline.

I much prefer Plottr’s outline view to Scrivener’s, which was a little too condensed for my liking.

Characters

I kinda geeked out a little while exploring the Characters tab. So many useful features!

Character thumbnail

You can upload a thumbnail for each character, which I found really handy for visualizing while writing. Especially since I have a ton of photos of the family members who inspired my characters.

Categories

My main characters span four generations, so I have a bunch of family trees to track. The categories feature made it really easy to group all the characters together in family trees.

screenshot of character categories

Custom attributes

The custom attributes feature is my favorite. It’s similar to Scrivener’s metadata and allows you to track custom characteristics. You can even choose the type of field for the attribute (text-only or paragraph with formatting).

screenshot of custom character attributes for plottr review 2021

I’ve added a handful of custom attributes to my project:

  • Birth/death
  • Physical appearance (this is where all the height/weight/eye color stuff goes!)
  • Education
  • Profession

I will likely add another attribute for character personality questions like:

  • What is this character’s major flaw?
  • What are they afraid of?
  • What’s their goal?
  • What do they want most in the world?
  • What would break this character?

Having that space to develop those characters is invaluable. Plus, since you can link characters to scenes and chapters, it’s easy to access that information from elsewhere in Plottr. (Honestly, they really thought of everything.)

Notes

If you’re anything like me, you’ve got about a million notes scattered across several notebooks and apps. The Notes section is a great place to store everything in one place while keeping it close to hand.

You could use notes in Plottr to store research, writing resources, random epiphanies about your story — the possibilities for Notes are truly endless.

I love the ability to link notes to everything else in Plottr: characters, places, and tags. (So far, I don’t see an option to link to scenes.) Every element of your story is within easy reach at all times. This is an experience I wanted to replicate using other programs and methods, but found impossible to achieve with everything so scattered.

Pro tip for using Plottr notes: If you have a story board on Pinterest, I suggest hyperlinking to it in a note for easy access!

Places

This is another feature that really impressed me. From developing story settings to tracking them, I struggle with just about every element of plotting that involves setting.

Getting the imagery right is also one of my biggest challenges while drafting. Being able to create a new place within Plottr, add images and custom attributes, and flesh out the details of the location has removed a big stumbling block from my writing life.

screenshot of places

I’ve only added a couple of custom attributes for places — location and property type — but will continue to add more as I migrate everything over to Plottr.

Tags

Plotting and writing a novel is hard work. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost track of what I’ve drafted, what I need to do next, and where to place a scene within the narrative arc.

Plottr’s Tags feature solves that problem. In the tutorial video, Plottr uses tags for 3 story elements:

  • Theme
  • Stage: rising action, climax, resolution, etc.
  • Status: in progress, to revise, done

However you choose to use tags, they’re a handy addition for scatterbrained and organized writers alike.

Features I’d like to see added to Plottr

Honestly, the devs pretty much thought of everything, but there’s one small addition I’d like to see added to the text formatting options: highlighting.

I tend to scan my plotting materials when drafting, and I use highlighting to draw my attention to things I need to update or missing pieces I need to add. That said, the formatting options do include text color, which is a suitable workaround.

Plottr review: final thoughts

Plottr review, TL;DR: I wholeheartedly recommend Plottr to any writers working on a novel, series, or large project that involves careful plotting.

I placed my novel, Escape Artist, on hiatus last May. Disorganization and the crushing feeling that, “This story is just too big,” were two main reasons why. (Aside from the story’s personal significance to me and my family.)

But playing around with Plottr made me want to start writing it again. It honestly takes so much of the stress out of plotting and organizing.

Migrating my outline and scene cards over to Plottr will take some time, but I believe the investment will be worth it. I’ve spent who knows how many hours trying to configure a seamless plotting workflow across paper scene cards, physical notebooks, and other writing software. Plottr seems like the perfect fit for my organizational needs.

Plus, the guys behind Plottr, Ryan and Cameron, frequently update the program. They take their subscribers’ feedback to heart and roll out updates quickly.

Well, that wraps up my Plottr review! Tried it out yourself? Share your experience in the comments! If you have any questions about anything, let me know and I’ll do my best to help out.

Happy writing!

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2 comments Add yours
  1. Hi Mel! Thank you for this article and the Scrivener alternatives one, very helpful comments. I actually have been struggling to find an alternative myself for some time, and right now I’m toying with yWriter and Manuskript.

    Manuskript is lovely, and has a UI that is actually bearable, but seemed to just have a few too many features that felt constricting of my writing style. So far I really appreciate the simplicity when using yWriter (and the fact that it’s free), but as a very visual person it does feel a bit rigid and old to look at.

    Plottr looks like it has some amazing features, especially for a character enthusiast author like me and when I have more time (I’m procrastinating an assessment right now to write and think about writing, admittedly) I’d like to see the trial. What is your experience with it so far? Is it what you’re primarily using? Did you finally get a chance to try yWriter and if so how would you compare the two?

    I think I’m having too much fun with all of these options, and must get back to writing!

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