Plot Factory is a browser-based writing software.
Its USP is that its focus is on helping you to plot your story.
It has some of the most in-depth plotting, character development, and world building tools that I’ve seen in any writing software.
While I’m loyal to Scrivener, I’m always open to trying out new writing tools and Plot Factory is no different. So I took it for a test drive with one of my side projects.
Here’s a breakdown of its key features and what I thought.
If you’re not within a particular story, you can create a universe. This is another plotting tool that’s fully flexible. It gives you the basics: name, time, setting, theme, and laws. The rest is up to you.
You can then create stories within your universe, keeping everything neatly organised.
In the content and description boxes you can go into as much or as little detail as you like.
What about once you’ve set up your universe and you’re ready to go? Let’s take a look inside the Plot Factory universe…
I love the linear design of the plotting feature. It makes your plot easier to follow.
If you use the three-act structure, you can also break your story into acts to make it easy to work out where each act starts and ends.
You can also separate your plots out based on your characters.
If you want to, you can even colour code your plot points to match up with if they belong to your main plot or a subplot, making it easy to work this out at once.
Should you want to move something, you can easily drag and drop them, or even delete them.
My one gripe is that you can’t add plot points in halfway through a section, you have to add it to the end. That means you then have to drag and drop it all the way up, which can be a pain if you have a lot of plot points.
You can have multiple plots within the same story, which most novels do. However, you can’t view them all at the same. That means you also can’t work out how they weave together using the Plot Organiser.
I didn’t expect this when I found it. If you’re new to plotting, it’s the first place you should stop. It guides you, step-by-step, through some of the most common and useful plotting templates out there: the three-act structure, story beats, and the story premise.
The three-act structure will help you, y’know, structure your story. The story beats will make sure you hit your key scenes. The story premise helps you to work out who your key characters are, what your key events are, and what your key conflicts are.
While I’m not a fan of following rigid plotting devices, knowing what they are helps you to create a plotting system of your own. They’re well worth a read if you’re new to novel writing, but also as a refresher if you’re a seasoned pro.
All three are fully customisable, meaning you can add or remove whatever you need. They’re all on the same page, which means you can view more than one of them at once if you need to.
The character interview sheet in this is second only to Script Studio’s.
It asks so many questions—questions you may otherwise not have thought of. It’s fully customisable, too.
Some questions will be genre-specific, such as magical powers, but questions around their personal ambitions and greatest regrets are important to know about any main character as they can be the driving force for your story.
Even your characters’ posture – something I’d never considered before—is an interesting point to consider as it can tell you and your reader significant but subtle information about your character’s health, how they feel about themselves, and even how they feel about the outside world.
The default of this doesn’t have much detail, but it gives you plenty of space to create your own.
In some books, place can become a character in itself, so having details you can refer back to at a glance makes it easier to both edit and write.
This one is probably more important for fantasy, sci-fi, and crime.
You can go into detail about specific objects that are significant to your story, such as a staff, medallion, murder weapon, space ship, etc.
This, for me, is the part that really matters. It’s easy to use and doesn’t really require any explanation. It sections each chapter off for you and you can rename them to what you like.
You can’t focus on one scene at a time, though. This I found disappointing as I do like to compartmentalise as I write.
I also dislike that it double-lines every paragraph instead of indenting it as is the tradition for fiction—for something that seems so heavily geared towards writing fiction, this seems odd to me.
You can leave notes alongside your chapters to refer back to, but you can’t leave notes for a particular word or section. This is something that I use all the time so personally is a let down, but whether or not that works for you will depend on your writing process.
You can change the background colour on words if you want to highlight something, but if you’re doing something as you’re skimming through it isn’t the easiest or most intuitive process.
If you leave the tab open for too long as I did, you’ll need to refresh your tab periodically. I imagine this it to do with them rolling out updates, but I can’t say for sure.
This really impressed me. You can get their AI to read your manuscript out.
I only got it to read out a few sentences, but I threw in some of my more obscure character names and spellings.
Most AIs do not like Astin and try to change it to ‘Ashton’ or ‘Aston’. This pronounced it correctly—As-tin.
It also pronounced Hollie and Fayth right despite the alternative spellings. And it correctly pronounced Jack’s Italian surname, Cuoco.
This was all using the British female narrator, named Amy. I found her voice lovely and soothing. I’d quite happily let me narrate any story to me tbh; I have a feeling it would really help with my insomnia.
You can hear what it sounds like reading things out here:
The American female voice, Joanna, sounds much more robotic. A lot like early Amazon Echos.
My friend also suggested some complex medical terms to see how it coped. This is what happened:
I mean, I can’t even spell those words, let alone pronounce them. It almost got them right, except for the first syllable of periarticular, which should be ‘perry’ not ‘peery’.
There are a few other words that tripped it up, like tchotchke (pronounced chotchkey, but the AI pronounced it chotckeh). That being said, tchotchke is a word that trips up most people. Hardly surprising when it’s spelt like that.
You can also highlight sections you want it to read aloud if you don’t want it to read the whole section.
The male voices don’t sound as good in my opinion. Brian is listed as British, but his accent sounds like a combination of Welsh (at the start of ‘peri’, the way he roles is R is very Welsh-like; most English folk can’t do that) and English.
As an English person myself, this is a little jarring, but I imagine most people wouldn’t notice. It’s also nice that they have British accents that don’t speak in RP English, or, as I prefer to call it, ‘Giles from Buffy English’.
As you’ve probably noticed, you can export your narrations too. I’m not sure if you’d be able to use this for audiobook narration or not, but if you’re allowed to, why do more indies not know about this?! It could be a real game changer.
I like the graph that shows you how much you’ve written each day. You can also see the word count for each chapter and how close you are to achieving your target word count per day. I couldn’t find anything for setting a daily word count though, which is probably easier for beginner writers (or someone getting back into writing) as you don’t always know how long a piece will be.
You can guesstimate, but ultimately, stories take on lives of their own and you never really know no matter how long you’ve been writing.
My minimum is always 50,000 for fiction unless I know it’s going to be a short story/novella from the start. I can usually tell this by the complexity of the plot and number of characters, but that’s a post for another day.
The daily word count graph didn’t make sense to me. The title ‘daily word count’ suggests to me that it tracks what I write on a daily basis, but it actually tracks your total word count. I only figured this out after I hadn’t opened it in a few days and saw the bar hadn’t moved in that time. (See below.)
When you open the mobile version it picks up right where you left off on the desktop version. It remembers whether you’re using normal or dark mode, too.
The menu doesn’t quite seem to fit on my screen (I’m using an iPhone XR), but everything else that I need is there so I’m not that bothered by the top menu.
As you can tell by the screenshots, dark mode is veeeery nice. I had a raging headache while working on this review (I know, I shouldn’t have been on my laptop), but Dark Mode really helped.
If you want the reassurance of automatic backups, you can sync it to Dropbox.
Characters, places, objects, and notes can also be created outside of a specific story, which is useful if you’re working on a series.
Should you need to, you can hide the side bar and view the interface fullscreen.
Much like most writing programs these days, it has a name generator. Personally I wasn’t overly keen on its suggestions, and some categories it didn’t even come up with anything. For me this is a minor feature, though. I’ve named one character in eight books using a name generator—I much prefer to search naming websites.
Value for money
Plot Factory has got some of the best features I’ve seen in a writing program, however most of these are only available on paid plans.
For the full novelist plan, it’s $19 or $190 a year. That gets you all of the features mentioned in this review.
Features like story drafts, goal tracking, exporting, and versioning, you only get on this plan.
However, if you’re looking to dip your toe in and aren’t yet ready to publish, the $140 a year plan may well suit your needs. This still includes features like the character sheets and narration but will save you some money.
The cheapest plan, which is $9 a month or $90 a year, removes ads and includes the character sheets and narrations, but that’s it.
If you’re looking to test drive a writing program, this is a great one to start with because of its freemium model. However, its real strength is in its organisational and plotting tools which you only get with the paid plans.
Overall, I haven’t been this impressed with a writing software in a very long time. While I’m loyal to Scrivener and despise browser-based writing programs, it does have me seriously considering switching long-term.
The easy plotting, in-depth character interviews, and the swift narration are great features that can benefit even seasoned writers.
The writing section itself isn’t as great as it could be—it formats for online reading not books (double lines not indents), and it also only allows you to view things chapter-by-chapter, not scene-by-scene.
However, these are small things that could be ironed out to make it a very serious competitor in the writing app space, right up there with the two most well-known: Scrivener and Novlr.
If you’re looking to try out a new writing program and haven’t yet decided, it’s well worth giving a go.
Over to You
What are your experiences with Plot Factory? If you haven’t tried it, are you going to give it a go now?
BONUS: Plot Factory Discount!
The kind folks have offered readers of The Writer’s Cookbook a whopping 50% discount off a 6-month or 12-month plan. How awesome is that?!
Head on over to their website and use the code wcb2020 to grab your discount before 31 May 2020!