Best Plottr Alternatives: Find Your Perfect Plotting Tool

Abi Wurdeman
September 22, 2023

Whether you’re a careful and deliberate planner or wild and reckless pantser, a plot outline will almost definitely enter your writing process at some point. 

And if you’ve already tried mapping out your plot with a word processor or good ol’ fashioned pen and paper, you’ve probably found yourself saying what many authors before you have said:

“Wait, where’s the scene where the guy says the thing about the place? How am I supposed to analyze my rising and falling tension based on bullet points? Is that a half-chewed scene card in the Pack ’n Play?”

There’s never been a perfect way to craft a plot, create character profiles, build fictional worlds, and analyze it all at a glance. But darned if technology hasn’t gotten this messy process closer to perfect.

There’s so much novel writing software out there now, and many programs come with brilliant tools for staying organized during your brainstorming sessions, tracking multiple story elements, managing timelines, and more.

One standout writing tool is Plottr. Authors love this tool for its colorful interface, clear organization, shallow learning curve, and proven story templates. I’ve played around with Plottr myself. There’s a lot to enjoy.

That said, the brainstorming and planning process is one of the most personal aspects of writing. Not everyone organizes and visualizes information the same way. Whichever writing app you use to create amazing stories, it needs to work with your one-of-a-kind brain.

And as special as Plottr is, it’s not the only game in town. That’s why you and I are going to take a tour of the best Plottr alternatives. We’ll cover:

  • Which options are worth your consideration
  • What authors like you are saying about each alternative
  • How each program stacks up against Plottr
  • How to determine which one is right for you

First, let’s take a look at the plotting app we’re weighing all these other options against. 

Why Look for Alternatives to Plottr?

Screenshot from the Plottr homepage showing Plottr's multicolored timeline.

I got to do my own deep dive on Plottr back when I was writing this li’l article comparing it to Dabble. I don’t mind telling you, it’s a pretty cool program.

The standout feature is the customizable timelines. Organize your story into acts and beats, track multiple plot lines, visualize the timing of your story’s events… whatever you want, basically. Need to rearrange some plot points? Just drag and drop.

There are also tons of built-in templates to help you plot using time-tested story structures like the Snowflake Method, the Hero’s Journey, and more.

You’ll find even more of those fun templates when you dig into Plottr’s note taking tool, where you can fill out all kinds of character profile templates like the Proust Questionnaire or even a D&D Monster Sheet.

For the color-coders, Plottr has a tagging feature that allows you to give yourself a quick visual heads-up when you look at scene cards or story notes. Want to see at a glance when you’ve dropped a clue, included a specific character, or left a scene half-written? Tag it!

Now, if this software is so darn fun, why are we even talking about Plottr alternatives?

As I mentioned before, just because a writing tool is cool, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s cool for you. Here are some reasons you might be on the lookout for alternatives to Plottr:

You want more than a planning tool. Plottr isn’t novel writing software as much as it’s just novel planning software. You can’t draft your masterpiece in Plottr; you’ll have to refer to your notes as you do your actual writing in a different program. If you’re looking for a one-stop app, this isn’t it.

You like more freedom in your planning process. While Plottr offers a truly impressive number of templates, you’re still operating within the software’s structure. If you want more control over the way you arrange your thoughts on the screen, you should look elsewhere. (Psst: If you’re wild about mind maps, check out the tools in this article.)

You want a flexible writing app you can use across all devices. To be clear, Plottr can be that app for you. You just have to invest in the most expensive package to snag those perks. 

You’re not ready to spend money on story outlining software. There aren’t many top-quality Plottr alternatives available for free. But there are a few that come close.

Criteria for Evaluating the Best Plottr Alternatives

A hand holding a Sharpie checks a box for "yes" on a checklist with options for "yes" and "no."

So what exactly are we looking for when we explore the best Plottr alternatives?

The most important thing is how well each program aligns with your process and goals. The best way to determine that is by testing these tools for yourself. Fortunately, every single app on this list offers a free trial, including Plottr.

Of course, you don’t want to lose all your precious writing time testing software. So here’s the criteria we’ll be looking at in this article to help you rule out any nonstarters:

User-friendliness - Is the interface intuitive and easy to learn? Some novel writing software comes with a steep learning curve, which is only worth it if you want a more advanced, complex tool.

Customization options - How much control do you have over the way you organize your ideas? If there’s not much room to customize, are you happy with the system available to you? 

Collaboration features - Does the writing software allow you to work with a co-author in real time? Are you able to share your plot and manuscript with editors and beta readers who don’t have an account?

Templates - If a blank slate makes you panic, does the program come with templates to guide your novel planning process? Are there enough templates to make you feel like you have options?

Versatility - Will you be able to access the writing tool on multiple devices? Can you use it as both a web-based app and downloadable offline app? Can you count on easy-breezy cloud-based syncing between your devices?

Price - Does the price fit your budget? Do you feel like the cost is worth the value of the product? 

Speaking of price, do you prefer a one-time license purchase or subscription model? When you buy a license, you may have to make multiple purchases to use the software on additional devices. In most cases, you’ll have to pay extra for future upgrades.

If you go with the subscription model (Software as a Service/SaaS), you’ll pay continually over time, but you’ll get immediate access to all future upgrades for no additional cost. Because these are web-hosted apps, you can typically use your account from multiple devices and count on seamless syncing. 

If you fall in love with an SaaS tool, consider a lifetime subscription, when available. It’s a good chunk of change upfront, but it’ll pay off overtime in free upgrades, zero additional licensing fees, and zero monthly or yearly charges.

Top Alternatives to Plottr

A person with glasses and long hair rests their chin on a book while giving a thumbs up.

Looking at all these criteria, what are the best Plottr alternatives? Here are the top contenders:

Dabble - Yep, this is us. But don’t worry. While we’re confident we deserve a spot on this list, we also geek way out on all the brilliant things our fellow software developers are doing. You won’t catch me downplaying the virtues of these other apps just to make Dabble look better.

If you’re not already familiar with this writing tool, Dabble is a comprehensive program with innovative features to make planning, plotting, drafting, revising, and even formatting much easier. 

NovelPad - I love NovelPad almost as much as I love Dabble. Another full-service novel writing software, this program provides clever tools for every phase of the process.

Bibisco - This do-it-all tool has a free version that includes a few planning tools, though you have to pay up to get the really good stuff. Bibisco’s strengths include extensive character planning guides and so many analytics tools. 

Scrivener - If there’s one writing tool on this list you’ve already heard of, it’s probably Scrivener. Once again, this is an idea-to-manuscript novel writing software, but it’s loaded with features. The downside is that learning how to use it takes a good chunk of time. 

Novel Factory - This program gives you a few different ways to visualize your ideas, from a subplot manager to a free-form notes board. It also includes an integrated step-by-step novel writing guide. 

World Anvil - A fantasy writer’s dream, World Anvil has loads of beautiful tools for extensive worldbuilding, character management, drafting, and even publishing and monetizing your work. We’re not going to go deep on World Anvil in this article, but if it piques your interest, check out this article for Doug’s enthusiastic overview. 

Plot Factory - Like Bibisco, Plot Factory is a do-it-all writing tool with a free version. Heads up, though: the $0 plan doesn’t include the fun planning features.

Chapterly - Chapterly’s most notable feature is the option to use AI to help you for every phase of your writing project, including brainstorming names, composing passages, and revising your work. It also includes design tools so self-publishers can create a cover right there in their novel writing software. You can find a full review of Chapterly here.

Of these potential Plottr alternatives, which are the most impressive? It’s a highly subjective question, but I’ll do my best to answer it.

A Closer Look at the Best of the Best

Here’s what the top five Plottr competitors (according to me) have to offer.


If you’re looking for Plottr alternatives, I assume you want a solid outlining tool that helps you organize your thoughts visually. So let’s start with Dabble’s unique plotting tool, the Plot Grid.

Screenshot of the plot of Pride and Prejudice put into a Plot Grid with several columns for scenes, story lines, locations, and more.

This clever li’l grid allows you to keep track of plot lines, character arcs, themes, locations, and just about anything else you could dream of all alongside your scenes. That way you’re able to make sure every thread of your story progresses just as you meant for it to.

As you fill your Plot Grid, Dabble automatically creates corresponding manuscript pages where all your notes are always close at hand while you write. The system also builds a navigation menu based on your outline so you can jump from scene to scene with ease. In manuscript view, you can drag and drop scenes to change the order in your draft.

As for character development, worldbuilding, research notes, and more, you can customize Story Notes and organize them into folders according to your preferred system. Upload pictures and maps or use the built-in image search powered by Unsplash.

You can learn more about Dabble’s features here, but here’s the snapshot of how it holds up to our criteria:

User-friendliness - You’ll pick it up in no time. In fact, you’ll probably have a solid grip on all of Dabble’s key features after your first writing session using the program. If you get stuck, you can watch this video or search handy tutorials here.

Customization - While you can’t make the Plot Grid not a grid, you have total control over how many columns you add, what they’re for, and how to color code them with labels, if that’s your thing. You can also use a generic Plot Grid rather than one tied your scenes for brainstorming, character development, and more. Story Notes are pretty much whatever you want them to be.

A screenshot of a Story Note for a fantasy character with an uploaded image of the character.

Collaboration - The premium plan allows collaboration with a co-author. You can invite a nonsubscriber to review your writing projects in read-only mode.

Templates - Dabble includes a handful of genre-specific project templates and users have the ability to share their own templates with each other. You can also find planning guides in the extensive DabbleU library.

Versatility - You can use Dabble on multiple devices, online or off, with a single subscription.

Price - Dabble offers a 14-day free trial and you can sign up without entering a credit card—zero risk of an accidental charge! If you dig it, plans currently start at $8/month (when you pay annually). There are discounts for teachers and students, as well as a lifetime subscription option. You can learn more here.


Screenshot of the Plots feature in NovelPad with three columns showing three subplots and their individual scenes.

The virtues of NovelPad are very similar to those of Dabble. There’s a lot of automated linking between notes and manuscript, options to color code, and opportunities to examine how all your story elements fit and flow together.

That said, the organizational structure of these two programs is very different. In NovelPad, you organize your scenes under chapters. As you create each scene, NovelPad automatically populates your location and character maps with scene cards that allude to those specific places and characters.

Through the Insights function, the app will create a grid based on two story elements of your choosing. All in one glance, you can see which characters are in which chapters, which chapters take place in which locations, and more.

From a writing standpoint, one of my favorite NovelPad features is the ability to generate an identical version of a scene in split screen so you can revise one while keeping the original close at hand.

It’s a pretty slick program and a worthy Plottr alternative. You can get to know NovelPad better in this article.

User-friendliness - NovelPad has a slightly steeper learning curve than Dabble and I personally found some of the functions to be a little less intuitive. But this is still a pretty quick study, especially for what you get out of it.

Customization - There aren’t a lot of options to customize your experience in NovelPad. The structure is mostly set and you can’t upload images. 

Collaboration - NovelPad allows you to collaborate with a co-author. There’s also an Editor version that gives your editors and beta readers the ability to make changes and leave comments for free.

Templates - NovelPad does not have integrated templates.

Versatility - You can use both a web-based and desktop app on multiple devices with one subscription.

Price - NovelPad offers a 14-day free trial and, like us, they don’t ask for a credit card upfront. Their pricing structure is super simple: $15/month or $120/year. Check it out here.


Screenshot of Bibisco graphs showing project progress.

Little disclaimer: this one wouldn’t be my first choice, but that’s because the thing I most need to get my head around visually is the progression of multiple storylines and character arcs. With Bibisco, you get a timeline that looks nice but doesn’t give you the same “story at a glance” effect you get with Dabble or Plottr.

However, if you love charts, graphs, and lots of prompts to help you root around relentlessly inside your characters’ brains, Bibisco might be for you.

The character building function in this novel writing software is no joke. This app comes with tools to help you nail down every character’s backstory, psychology, sociology, and more. It also generates a graph to track each character’s distribution throughout your story and a chart to keep tabs on relationships.

Additional features include image uploads, scene notes, word count tracking, writing tips, and more. And while it doesn’t top my list of true Plottr contenders in terms of actual plotting functions, it’s earned its place on the “best of the best” list because it offers access to some great planning features for free. 

User-friendliness - It may take a couple writing sessions to really get a feel for the software, but you can expect to get rolling pretty quickly after your download. This tutorial might help.

Customization - You can upload images to Bibisco. Beyond that, you don’t have much ability to make the visual planning structures your own.

Collaboration - This is a desktop download, so there’s no option to collaborate with a writing partner in real time.

Templates - Bibisco provides questionnaires and prompts to walk you through most major aspects of the planning process, but you can’t select from multiple templates.

Versatility - This is only available as a desktop app.

Price - You get a 30-day free trial. After that, you can choose to either go with the pared down free version or pay $47 for all the bells and whistles (includes two years of free upgrades).


Four different devices each with different Scrivener outlining tools on them.

Timelines, corkboards, outliners… with Scrivener, Literature and Latte created a robust and versatile creative writing software that more or less defined our expectations for what a writing tool should be.

But now that so many programs are available to aspiring novelists, does Scrivener still shine the way it once did?

Absolutely. At least it does for those who love what this writing tool is all about. 

While Scrivener can’t compete with the crisp, visual simplicity of the other Plottr alternatives on this list, it offers an impressive range of story planning features. Make a mess of your corkboard, keep it tidy in your outliner, import your mind maps from Scapple, store videos and audio files… whatever you gotta do.

And, like all the alternatives we’ve covered, you can stick around in this software to draft and revise your novel. 

So what’s the downside? 

Well, because Scrivener is so robust, it takes a while to learn how to use it. For those who prefer the minimalist approach, all those extra features might not be worth it. 

User-friendliness - Expect to spend a good chunk of time with forums and tutorials before you feel like you’ve gotten the hang of it.

Customization - Scrivener gives you a lot of options to plan long writing projects your way.

Collaboration - Collaboration through Scrivener is possible with some help from the cloud, but the process is clunky. 

Templates - There are loads of them.

Versatility - It’s… okay. Scrivener is available in Windows, macOS and iOS, but you have to buy a separate license for each (or purchase a bundle). You also have to use your own cloud storage to sync between devices, and users seem to have mixed experiences with that.

Price - You get a 30-day free trial. After that it’s a one-time payment of $59.99 or $95.98 for the Windows/macOS bundle, neither of which include future updates (though purchasing an upgrade is cheaper than buying the new version again). Students and academics get a discount. You can get started here.

User Reviews of the Best Plottr Alternatives

Scrabble tiles on a marble background read "REVIEW."

So how do these Plottr alternatives stack up as far as their current users are concerned? Let’s take a look.



“I love this program so much. It has revolutionized my writing process, and focus and productivity are just really, really high.” –Alyssa Jaey video review


“I encountered difficulty in importing any of the files, but I was able to successfully copy and paste the extensive script.” –G2 review



"NovelPad brings rhythm and order to the chaos of writing. It's got robust features but is simple enough to just pick up and start writing." –Chris Michaud, NovelPad review


“There seems to be some kind of glitch with the search function… it sometimes hops to some random part of the document.” –Hannah Lee Kidder, video review



“Very useful to write a novel. There are a lot of features to add but the software is better to use than Scrivener.” – review


“I think Bibisco could be a great piece of software for aspiring writers but making ‘search’ a premium feature is just absurd!” – review 



“The software creator has a plethora of information online on using and getting the most out of the platform. So many things you can do with this software if you're willing to spend the time learning it.” –G2 review


“There's a learning curve to the software, and the program is prone to freezing up.” –G2 review

Plottr vs. Alternatives

So what do all these options look like when you compare them to Plottr itself? Do they keep up with Plottr’s best features? Improve upon its shortcomings?

Let’s take a look. But first, just so I don’t have to retype it four times:

All of these alternatives differ from Plottr in that they include writing and editing tools in addition to planning features. Plottr is strictly a novel planning software. You can’t write your story in it. 

Okay, here we go.

Plottr vs. Dabble

Screenshot of a Dabble scene card pulled up on a manuscript.
Dabble: Click on the scene card to the right of your manuscript to see your notes as you write.

Like Plottr, Dabble makes it easy to visualize multiple plot lines and see the overall path of your story at a glance. Both programs are fairly intuitive, feature a clean and simple interface, and allow you to rearrange your plot with a simple drag and drop.

No matter which program you choose, you’ll be able to keep notes on essential story elements and collaborate with a partner. Customization options are about the same for both programs: less than Scrivener, more than Bibisco.

If you’d prefer built-in guidance, you might opt for Plottr, which has more integrated templates than Dabble does. If web-based access and using your account across multiple devices is important to you, you might choose Dabble, which offers that option across all packages.

As for price, Dabble offers a range of subscription plans starting at $8/month, which means you’ll benefit from future updates without any additional charge. 

Plottr gives you the option to pay a one-time fee (starting at $39 for the year) that allows you to use the app forever but only enjoy one year of free upgrades or pay a one-time fee (starting at $139) that covers all upgrades forever.

Both offer a 14-day free trial.

Plottr vs. NovelPad

A screenshot of NovelPad Insights.
NovelPad's Insights feature.

NovelPad and Plottr are similar in that they both have quick-to-learn systems for organizing your plot and managing your character and locations. 

However, they accomplish these things with very different layouts. NovelPad also provides unique tools for analyzing the interplay between various story elements, while Plottr offers templates for those who could use extra guidance or structure.

I’d say Plottr offers a little more customization power than NovelPad, but not a lot. NovelPad is more versatile, allowing you to use it across all devices, online or off, with one subscription.

It’s worth noting, however, that Plottr also features that kind of versatility with the top-tier plan, while NovelPad doesn’t have tiers. You can subscribe to NovelPad by the month ($15/month) or by the year ($120/year). There’s no lifetime option.

Both offer a 14-day free trial.

Plottr vs. Bibisco

Screenshot of a character profile in Bibisco.

If you love Plottr’s colorful, clickable interface, Bibisco can match it. While these two programs have noticeably different plotting tools, they’re both easy to navigate and come with handy guides to direct your planning efforts.

One key difference, however, is that Bibisco follows its own story-building method, while Plottr gives you the option to work with templates for several different styles of plot and character development.

Bibisco is better if you love stats and graphs, while Plottr is your best option if you need a clear visual representation of your plot lines.

With Bibisco, you can’t do much to customize your planning process, whereas Plottr gives you a little wiggle room. And while Plottr only offers the web-based app on the top-tier plan, Bibisco is strictly a desktop program. That means no collaboration or automatic syncing between devices.

As for price, Bibisco offers a free version. Plottr doesn’t. If you want to pay for the higher tier Bibisco download, it’ll be $47 which gets you two years of free upgrades compared to the one year you get with Plottr’s non-lifetime options.

Bibisco’s free trial lasts 30 days.

Plottr vs. Scrivener

Screenshot of the Scrivener website showing several different outline options.
You can never say you don't have options with Scrivener.

Scrivener—as we’ve already discussed at length—has way more functions. Of all the best Plottr alternatives, this is the one you’d choose if you looked a Plottr and thought, “Great, but what if it could do 100 more things?”

With Scrivener, you have a lot more options for the way you organize your thoughts, but you have to go through a whole mess of learning before you can achieve those neatly sorted ideas. And if a page full of word clutter overwhelms you when you’re planning your novel, you’ll probably prefer the cleaner, quieter look of Plottr.

Both programs have you covered when it comes to templates. As for collaboration, that’s easier to pull off with Plottr. There’s no web-based version of Scrivener, which means different licenses for different operating systems and you have to work out your own syncing through the cloud.

Price-wise, Scrivener costs $59.99 for one household license or $95.98 for a Windows/macOS household bundle. As new versions come out, you’ll have to pay to upgrade (but you get a discount). Unlike Plottr, there’s no option for unlimited upgrades. There is, however, a discount for students and academics.

Scrivener offers a longer free trial—30 days.

Which Novel Writing Software is Right for Your Writing Process?

Clearly, there are plenty of good Plottr alternatives out there. But which one is right for you? 

It all comes down to your personal priorities. 

Do you want the at-a-glance subplot organization you get with the Dabble Plot Grid?

The in-depth character development tools Bibisco provides? 

NovelPad’s handy Insights?

Maybe you’re ready to go all-in and plunge into the depths of Scrivener’s complex platform.

And don’t forget to factor in things like your budget, operating system, collaboration needs, and online/offline preferences.

If you still feel a little lost after all this analysis, remember that all of these Plottr alternatives come with free trials. Take any or all of them for a test drive and see how well they work with your unique writing routine.

In fact, you can start with Dabble right now. Click this li’l link to get 14 days free, no credit card required. You’ll probably get the hang of it on day one, leaving you 13 more days to plot, plan, draft, and edit your heart out. 

Whichever way you’re leaning, stop analyzing and start experimenting. It’s the quickest way to find your ultimate novel writing app. 

Abi Wurdeman

Abi Wurdeman is the author of Cross-Section of a Human Heart: A Memoir of Early Adulthood, as well as the novella, Holiday Gifts for Insufferable People. She also writes for film and television with her brother and writing partner, Phil Wurdeman. On occasion, Abi pretends to be a poet. One of her poems is (legally) stamped into a sidewalk in Santa Clarita, California. When she’s not writing, Abi is most likely hiking, reading, or texting her mother pictures of her houseplants to ask why they look like that.