Outlining your story – Tools

Before I dive into this post, I wanted to give a quick shout out to Irena S. over at the Books and Hot Tea blog. She nominated me for an Epic Awesomeness award, to which I’m pretty grateful; I’m not yet in a place I ready to accept such a thing… But I did want to give a thank-you shout out for her thinking of me!

In the meantime, I wanted to talk about Outlining. This is going to be a 4 part series that goes in depth on the things I do when I outline a story.

I’ve had other posts on plotting and pantsing.
I’ve discussed a few tools for writing and jumping around during the writing process.

Today’s focus will be on Outlining Tools.

Notebook/Printer paper. Whether it’s drawing a map, or doodling ideas out, I find that a lot of my earliest brainstorming takes place on paper.

I also thoroughly enjoy mind-mapping. I could write an entire post on mind-mapping, but basically it’s a way of writing out ideas and linking them to one another.

Microsoft Visio – If you have Visio (or one of it’s free alternatives), it can often be a great option for this when you are doing something highly plot driven and you are trying to chart out a sequence of events (when you have multiple story-lines and you want to track them all, this can be a life saver).


Freemind – If you want the pure mind-mapping experience, there’s lots of free tools out there for this. My personal preference is Freemind.  Free, easy to use, lots of great hotkeys.  Really conducive to getting ideas on paper (screen).


Dramatica – Some people swear by Dramatica.  It literally lets you chart and capture every piece of your story, character arcs, archetypes, the whole nine yards.  It makes sure you are planning to build action, and intensity, hitting on key components of plots that stories should have (or if you are skipping make sure you are doing it consciously).  I’ve demo’d it, but it’s really clunky for my use, so I haven’t truly given it its due. Maybe at some point, I’ll muster up the $99 it takes to buy it, but right now it hasn’t been worth it to me.

Bibisco – I’ve recently discovered a really nifty tool called Bibisco. It gives you the ability to go in depth on characters, locations, and “strands” of plot/conflict… And ultimately tie those back in to your chapters. I’m not sure if I’d use it yet to do my actual writing, but the initial framing (especially the features built around characters) is great for fleshing out your idea. I also like some of the analytics built in, so I may load my story back into it when it’s done.

Scrivener – Using a non-linear word processor is a great way to make sure you framing things. I use Scrivener to list each of my scenes as a separate file in sequential order and then I can write that scene if the mood hits me.


And of course, a free software that is comparable yWriter. Same general features, but not as modern an interface (and Scrivener is a little more flexible).

What tools do you use when outlining your story?

Next in this series, I’ll cover Outlining your Characters.

7 thoughts on “Outlining your story – Tools

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