When I first released Plottr to the public in 2017, I didn’t quite know what would happen… or what to expect. After all, as I’ve shared, I initially just built it as a tool to help me visually plan and write my own stories!
But while it helped me finish (and publish) my young adult novels, it’s arguably been more gratifying to see the impact Plottr has had on 1,000+ authors over the last few years.
Going into 2020, I knew I wanted to take things to the next level.
I also quit my day job as a software engineer in January to focus exclusively on Plottr. Since then, we’ve been working on our new website and Plottr 2.0, which released this month.
In this article, I’ll share a brief overview of Plottr before exploring what’s changed and what you can expect moving forward.
Plottr: An Overview
In a nutshell, as you may already know, Plottr is a visual software tool (or app), available for both Windows and Mac devices, built to help you easily plan and organize your books.
The original version of the app offered these tools, which I’ll recap below:
The central feature of Plottr is the Timeline, which allows you to visually organize your chapters, scenes, and plotlines using our drag & drop functionality.
It’s like drawing on a white board or moving around index cards on a cork board, except done simply with a few clicks of your mouse. (You can drag & drop your chapters, storylines, and scene cards.)
Once you add a scene card to the Timeline, you can add your scene notes, link it to your Characters and Places, add Tags, and more!
Even better, the Timeline you create automatically generates your book’s content in Plottr’s Outline tool.
You can use your outline to see your book’s structure at a glance, which you can then export as a word document and use later as a guide while writing.
Plottr includes a number of organizational tools, including Notes, to help you keep your ideas about your book in one place.
You can use them to brainstorm, draft title ideas, store research, assemble story lore, and jot down whatever else comes to mind.
Like Notes, the Characters tool is geared to staying organized — in this case, by providing a handy interface for storing your character’s name, image, description, and custom details you can add yourself.
For example, if you want to track a character’s hair color or special abilities, you can add a field just for that purpose and track those details as needed.
You can even link your characters with your scenes on the Timeline, so that you can filter your book to only see the scenes in which they appear.
The Places tool works similarly to Characters, only geared for tracking locations instead.
With Places, you can store the name of your locations alongside descriptions, images, and custom attributes (to track characteristics like the weather, geographical details, and other specific details that are relevant to your book).
As with Characters, you can also link your Places to your scenes on the Timeline to view only those scenes that occur in a particular location.
In Plottr, Tags provide an open-ended system for organizing the elements of your book.
You can create Tags to track relevant scenes you need to write and other to-do’s, themes and emotions, or anything else you’d like.
Tags can currently be applied to both Timeline scene cards and Notes to provide an additional, highly flexible layer of organization.
Now that you understand the core features of Plottr, let’s take a look at what the latest version is all about…
What’s New in Plottr 2.0
For the latest major release of Plottr, my primary goal was to address a few of the major feature requests we’ve had over the last couple years — while crucially maintaining Plottr’s clean, uncluttered interface.
These are the major additions to Plottr contained in the latest version:
Our new Series Bible tool is my personal favorite among our new features. It’s geared to helping authors who write in series organize all of their book details in one place.
(It can also be used to manage multiple books or stories in any type of project.)
When you head over to the new Project tab in the app, you’ll see an interface where you can add your books and details about the type of series / project you’re working on.
Best of all, you can create and view separate timelines for each book in your series, as well as one for the series / project as a whole.
Built-In Starter Templates
Our Starter Templates are a suite of 14 writing templates and counting you can use as the basis of your story, based on proven storytelling methods.
These include Hero’s Journey, Michael Hague’s Six Stage Plot, and Save the Cat, as well as genre-specific templates like 12 Chapter Mystery Formula and Jami Gold’s Romance Beats. (See more.)
In the original version of Plottr, our starter templates were included separately from the app and needed to be installed manually.
In this release, I wanted to make it easier for you to use… so, they’re now all integrated into the app itself 🙂
In practice, that means you can easily start a Timeline using a template as a starting point OR you can add a template to provide additional structure to an existing story.
You can also add multiple templates to a timeline, so that you can discover ways to organize your story using beats from complementary templates.
Another major feature addition, Character Templates provide existing sets of custom attributes you can easily add to generate insight into your characters.
For example, our “Goal, Motivation, Conflict” template adds fields for internal and external goals, motivations and conflicts so that you don’t have to add each field manually yourself.
We current have 6 character templates, including ones for Character Bio and Birth Order. We plan to add more templates in the near future, while also make the templating feature itself more robust.
Improved Editing Interface
The last major improvement to Plottr has been in the writing / editing interface itself. Previously, formatting your text in Plottr required the use of markdown, which provided a less than ideal user experience.
The new version of Plottr provides a modern editor which formats your text visually the way you would expect from a program like Microsoft Word or WordPress.
You’ll see the new editing interface in action, for example, whenever you add text to a Scene Card, update the content of a Note, or edit the description of a Character or Place.
Plotting Ahead: What’s Coming Next
As we move forward this year, our focus is on adding to Plottr’s core functionality, updating existing features, and improving general performance, while keeping to our vision of a clean, visual plotting interface.
To that end, we’re listening intently to the community (i.e. you) to learn how we can best improve Plottr based on your requests.
Some of the major features we’re working on now include the following, which I’ll describe in some detail below:
One of our most recently requested features, Act Structure will provide the ability to add an additional layer of structure to your timelines.
In essence, the feature will allow you to group together particular chapters to identify them as belonging to a particular Act or other overarching structural element.
Another popular request, Custom Templates will provide the ability to create your own plot and character templates.
This way, if you have a specific structure you’ve designed that works for you, you can set it up once and use it over and over again.
Currently, when your export your Plottr file as a word document, it includes a special character which allows it to be imported into Scrivener to form the basis of your file.
With our forthcoming direct Scrivener Sync, your Plottr file would integrate directly, so that changes you make in Plottr auto-update in your Scrivener file.
A longstanding request, I am excited to release the first dedicated iPad version of Plottr this year, with a current ETA of August 2020.
The iPad app will bring the core functionality of Plottr to your tablet device, allowing you to more easily plot and organize your books on the go.
This is just the beginning. I can’t wait for you to see everything we have planned for Plottr’s future.
Thanks so much for your interest and taking the time to read this. If you have your own ideas for Plottr, you can add them to our roadmap here.