It seems every couple of months I find a cool new way for authors to plan, organize, and write their stories. We have, without a doubt, come a long way from legal pads and #2 pencils. The most recent addition to the growing list of options authors have is Plot Factory, a web-based platform that specializes in helping authors create their backstory, organize their ideas, and write their book.
For those of you who tried out StoryShop (which I reviewed in 2019), Plot Factory is the natural successor. And while I liked the idea behind StoryShop, I have to admit that Plot Factory really ups the ante in terms of features and usability.
What Is Plot Factory?
The natural question is; why Plot Factory and not MS Word or Google Docs? When it comes to just typing words, almost anything will do. You could type an entire novel into TextEdit or Notepad. Emphasis on could.
Plot Factory brings together the actual writing and the planning/preparation that goes into writing. Which, in my opinion, is what separates Plot Factory from other word processors. You’re not just writing and typesetting, you’re also creating plot points, character backstories, and settings.
What the creators aim to do is bring the entire creation process of writing fiction into a single interface/tool.
The Plot Factory Dashboard
After you sign up and get your account info squared away, you’ll have a nice walk-through to meet your dashboard:
I really love the way they’ve set up the dashboard. You’ll notice the Statistics section dominates, which is a really good way to track and stay motivated with your writing. Notice the huge spike (where I imported some projects to test Plot Factory) followed but much less activity. For most of us, this chart will (ideally) be a slow creep upward.
And if you don’t write anything? The line goes flat. It’s a powerful visual aid in reinforcing good writing habits.
On the left, we have our Recent tab and all the way to the left is the navigation you’ll be using to get to everything you create. Below all of that, we’ve got a forum for asking questions, a blog ticker with updates from the Plot Factory team, and a feedback form to help the developers improve the platform. At a glance, it might seem a little cluttered. But—for me—that feeling faded after just a couple of days using Plot Factory. Because everything in the dashboard is so useful and welcome.
Creating A Story With Plot Factory
Every story you create with Plot Factory ties to a Universe. If you’re familiar with Scrivener, the Universe is similar to a Binder—only the Universe is hyper focused on helping you craft a fictional world for your story.
Here’s where we’ll do the writing. It’s a pretty basic word processor, but remember that Plot Factory is designed to help you write, not layout your book.
The writing screen looks a little busy, but you can easily minimize both sidebars to focus on the writing. You won’t have a lot of options for fonts and such—but you can adjust the font size and there is a toggle for typewriter mode!
I didn’t do a ton of writing with Plot Factory (mostly because I’ve been slacking on writing for fun lately) but the typewriter mode is smooth and I don’t have any complaints with the word processor. If you’re looking for a lot of options about layout, you won’t see any. But that’s almost a good thing because it forces you to focus on the writing.
This menu offers some of Plot Factory’s cooler features for writing. Let’s look at the two most important ones:
The Beats Mode displays your story broken down by Chapter and Scene. In this mode, you can add descriptions or directions for each Scene, forming an outline you can use to drive the writing.
Set Session Goal
If you’re working to build up your writing habit, a session goal is a must. Set yourself a writing goal and watch as you close in on it. A simple enough feature, but an important one. Plot Factory’s team is showing that they understand what matters to authors (setting goals) and built the features we need into their word processor.
A very simple feature, but welcome to see Plot Factory recognizing the importance of goals and building it into the word processor.
Creating A Universe With Plot Factory
Going way beyond the word processor, Plot Factory features another layer of story development: world-building. The Universe screens are going to be most helpful to fiction authors, who have a whole world to create!
Universes function as the highest level container for a story (or multiple stories) that exist in the same world.
You create a name and description for the Universe, as well as any laws/rules/elements that will help you better tell your story.
The level of detail is completely up to you; you can add as many features like Time, Place, Laws, and more as you see fit.
Once you create a Universe, the left-side menu displays the Universe in a tab:
Within the Universe you create, you’ll be able to add a variety of information. Perhaps most important is your Characters. With Plot Factory, you’ll have a character sheet template you can use, but it is fully customizable as well.
Your character sheets are incredibly helpful. And with Plot Factory, the information you create about your character is just a click away! You’ll even have the option to assign characters to chapters and scenes while writing, making it even smoother to connect your character details to the action on the page.
Just like your characters, you can create a Place sheet with information about where the story is happening. If your story is set in a completely fictional world, this space is important so you can be consistent in the details you provide. And if your setting is somewhere real, you’ve got a spot to store the information you researched about that place.
One thing that Plot Factory really nails is the behind-the-scenes work that is associated with a rich story. Elements like character, place, and even objects are central to your story. But if you’re making them up as you write, the story can become inconsistent.
Other Cool Features
One of the coolest things about Plot Factory is that it is still growing and developing. New features are constantly on the horizon and there are even some terrific features already built into the editor.
One (which I admit I have not tinkered with much) that stands out to me is the Narration. You’ll see the mic icon at the bottom of the word processor while you’re writing. Click it and you’ll select a voice to hear the story read to you! The narrator automatically starts on the scene you’re viewing.
What I like most about the narrator from my limited use of it is how easily it helps you identify spots where punctuation is missing or awkward.
Another cool feature is the Shared Preview, which allows you to create a preview by selecting a chapter or scene. It’s very useful for sharing a piece of content that needs a fresh set of eyes without displaying the entire work in progress.
Getting Plot Factory
Alright, there is a ton of stuff included in Plot Factory. So what’s it going to cost you?
Yeah, I’m not kidding. You can create an account and start creating today for free. They do have a tiered pricing structure to add more Universes and Stories, as well as access to some additional features.
At the highest level (Novelist) you pay $190/year for complete access to all features. Which is pretty nice considering it includes EPUB export, the Beats Mode, the Plot Organizer, and version history. For serious writers, the Novelist level is comparable to paying for access to Microsoft Office (for Word) and comes with a lot more important features.
Most important, the low-cost option (Hobbyist) includes the most important parts of Plot Factory—unlimited Universes and Stories, no ads, and Character Sheets. The creators here have made sure that you can use Plot Factory for free, get basic author tools for very little, and get access to their complete tool at a reasonable price.
Final Thoughts On Plot Factory
Plot Factory is a feature-rich tool for authors. That’s all it is. So if you’re looking for ways to layout your book, Plot Factory isn’t for you.
But if you are looking for a cloud-based way to write, edit, and craft your story Plot Factory is at the top of my list. It does everything an author needs; keeps the plethora of content that surrounds a story well organized and reinforces good writing habits with their word processor and tracking.
If there is one thing I want from Plot Factory, it’s a mobile app. The current design of the tool uses a browser and it’s not great on mobile or tablet. I do about half of my writing from a tablet with a connected keyboard. Plot Factory doesn’t work great on my tablet—typewriter mode causes some glitches while writing and using the menus is a little tricky.
There are plenty of additional features that Plot Factory could offer too. In fact, the Forum (which is nicely built into Plot Factory’s dashboard) has a thread just for user suggestions to help the developers know what authors want! And judging by the level of responsiveness from the admins on this thread, it looks like the Plot Factory team is listening carefully to feature requests.
All of which leaves me really excited to see what Plot Factory can grow into. At this point, I can say with confidence that it is the best author writing and plotting tool I’ve used since Scrivener. If you’re working on a book and want to work with a bit more focus, I strongly suggest giving Plot Factory a try.