Two weeks ago I posted a blog about all the different types of writing software. I was inspired to do this by two things: a Reedsy post and their promotion of the software Plottr, which I was convinced to buy for $20 with their special discount, and one person in my writer’s meet-up who was talking about how they’d recently purchased Scrivener and were loving it. These two independent events got me thinking that I really needed to figure out some efficient way of plotting and keeping track of my plots (especially right now since I’m writing three books that overlap in time even more so than my last six books because I am nothing if not a glutton for complicated plotting!).

So I did some research. I looked at a ton of websites and delved into a bunch of different software options. I even bought one of the programs I was so convinced by their advertising (truly, I’m not usually a sucker for advertising, but when I’ve got a need and someone tells me they can solve it, I listen). I bought Bibisco.

I wanted to write a follow-up post about what I’ve found after a few weeks of using this software.

TL:DR— I’ve gone back to what I’ve been using before I got into all this.

I tried using Bibisco for about a week, but it just didn’t provide an easy way to track what I had yet to write. It was fine for what I had already written, but there was no way to plan ahead using the software. I’m a planner. This did not work for me! $15 wasted, I suppose you could say.

Plottr is obviously much better at this—it’s meant for plotting! So I may go back to that software. I just have a couple of problems with it.

  1. I have a lot of characters! I’ve got four main characters in each book (the primary hero and heroine and the secondary hero and heroine because in each book I also include a second-chance romance). There are all the ladies of the Wagering Whist Society (that’s another 7 or 8 characters, depending on who the protagonist is), and then there are the dozens of walk-on tertiary characters who people the balls, parties and other events in my books. How do I keep track of so many characters? No software has provided an answer for that.
  2. I have three overlapping timelines for my three books. No software has made it possible for me to see that (and I mean none! I even tried a piece of software designed specifically for timelines and even that didn’t work well although it was an amazing piece of software and designed specifically for writers in mind—comment if you’d like to know the name of it).

Considering that I’m very particular when it comes to plotting and writing software, just have two major problems already puts Plottr way ahead of its competition. However…

Paper, Index Cards (the software), and a good old-fashioned calendar still won out.

Yes, I have gone back to my good old index card software. It’s incredibly simple – it’s just a stack of virtual index cards. You can write on them, post pictures to them, rearrange them with ease. It’s the most useful program! Oh, and I can print them out too, nine to a page in a beautiful grid.

I also still have my carefully arranged stack of physical index cards: one color for each book with the cards in chronological order. Creating these cards was essential for piecing together the three intertwined books. I could easily see what was happening in each book and move cards around as necessary. I keep my stack (with a rubber band firmly holding them together so the order cannot change) right next to my keyboard and I refer to it often.

And finally, the other absolutely essential piece of my plotting is a calendar. This is on my computer (in a Microsoft Word document). I can write in a few word description of each scene, make the scenes for each book a different color, and move them around to my heart’s content. I see at a glance when each event is happening and how they interact and affect each other. I can easily see that h/h in book 1 are going to be at a ball and h/h from book 2 also need to be at a ball around the same time so I put them all at the same ball. This creates a more interesting scene and increases the fun for the reader (when they’re reading book 2 and know another scene is being played out at the same time—maybe the characters in book 2 can even see or overhear what h/h from book 1 are doing). The readers know something the characters on the page don’t—that’s something I, and a lot of readers, really enjoy.

When the events from book 2 directly impact a scene that takes place later in the calendar in book 1, I can see this and figure out what has to happen in book 1 even though I’ve not yet written book 2. I’m facing this dilemma right now, in fact, and if I didn’t have my calendar with the plots from all three books right in front of me, I wouldn’t know how to write this scene. As it is, I’m probably going to write a short place-holder scene until I reach that point in time in the next book, and then I can write the scene for real after I know all the characters and their situation better. But the point is, without an actual calendar page to look at, I would be completely lost.

So what’s my take-away from looking into and trying out all this software? Sorry, people, but the old-fashioned way still works the best. Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t go out and try these pieces of software. A lot of them are great and will definitely work for you, but it depends on what you’re writing and how your plotting (or pantsing) works.

My recommendation: try them out, see if they work for you. Otherwise, return to the tried and true.

Remember, I’m always available to help you plot. Don’t hesitate to contact me.