How to Use the Outlining Your Novel Workbook Software

How to Use the Outlining Your Novel Workbook Software

How to Use the Outlining Your Novel Workbook SoftwareToday, I’m pleased to get to share with you a special guest post from Bob Miller, the developer of our new Outlining Your Novel Workbook software. I’ve asked him to give you a tour of the program, his own process for using it, and what inspired him to create it in the first place.

Here’s Bob…

The Creation of the Outlining Your Novel Workbook Software

I love origin stories, don’t you? The Outlining Your Novel Workbook software originated at the intersection of my desire to write novels, my programming skills, and Katie’s fabulous Outlining Your Novel Workbook.

Bob Miller with Outlining Your Novel Workbook Computer ProgramI found Katie probably like most of you did: I searched online for instruction on how to write a novel. I’ve been listening to her podcast for years. I learn new things from her every week.

Since I’m in the process of writing a five-book series, I purchased the Outlining Your Novel Workbook to plan my second novel, and then I purchased another copy for my third novel. That’s when I got the idea of making a digital version of the workbook. I do database development for my job, so I thought that it would be a quick, easy task.

Turns out, not really…

I contacted Katie about the idea, and we agreed to work on it. Eleven months later, we’ve just finished it!

Outlining Your Novel Workbook software logo 228 250Although much of the programming was just a fill-in-the-blanks type of application, there were a number of tricky programming tasks that took much longer than anticipated, such as:

  • Project export and import
  • The built-in music player
  • The Scene List
  • Scene List export

For those of who already have the program, let me share with you a few tips about how you can use some of these features.

How to Export and Import Your Projects

There are three uses for the export-import of projects:

1.  To easily save backups of projects. Since all of the projects created in the program are auto-saved, the export option allows you to save specific projects without copying all the info in the program.

2. For upgrades. In the future, when we’re able to offer upgrades of the program, exporting your data from the old program and importing it into the new one will be an easy process.

3. For sharing. If you wish to work on a story simultaneously with another writer, you may export a project to share.

How to Use the Music Player

This feature really highlights the benefit of having a digital, interactive workbook. The printed workbook had a section to list songs that may give inspiration for certain elements in your novel. With the interactive music player, you can now listen to your novel playlist as you write.

Outlining Your Novel Workbook Computer Program Playlist Player

How to Use the Scene List

It took as much effort to perfect the Scenes List and Scenes Export as it did to write every other part of the program combined.

I decided immediately I wanted users to be able to simply rearrange scenes by dragging them to new locations. This click and drag functionality isn’t something that’s natural to the database system I use, so I had to create a system that stretched the normal abilities of the development program.

As I started to use the program to write my own novel, I realized I also needed to group scenes together so they could be treated as a unit and rearranged together. That’s why I created the folder system. Now scenes can be grouped into chapters that can be shuffled around, just like index cards, to change the story order.

This second video shows you how to easily add a structural guide to your outline’s scene list:

This third video shows you how to use the Scene Checklist feature in concert with your scene creation:

How to Export the Scene List

Another part of the program that took much effort was the ability to export the Scene List so it can be used in other writing programs, such as Scrivener.

Scrivener is a great program. I’ve used it to write all five of my novels. But there is some essential planning that needs to happen before starting the actual writing process in Scrivener.

The Outlining Your Novel Workbook software assists writers in asking questions about character background and other story development questions that must be thought of before any actual writing occurs.

The writing process is so much easier when adequate planning is done. I recently listened to a writing podcast with some experienced screenwriters. They said one of the reasons writers get writer’s block, or write themselves into a dead-end, is inadequate planning. The writers don’t really know their characters: the character’s motivation, needs, and goals. The characters aren’t real to the writer because they haven’t spent enough time with them before they started throwing tasks and obstacles at them.

Katie and I view the Outlining Your Novel Workbook software as a pre-Scrivener program that will allow you to know your characters and key story beats before you start writing in Scrivener.

You can export the Scene List section as separate text documents, which you can then import into Scrivener (or Word, etc.) for further editing. The Scene List section is currently the only section that offers this feature. However, you can also “print” the rest of the program as pdfs (you will need a pdf printer, such as Cute PDF, installed on your computer), and then import the pdfs into Scrivener. These will be Read Only and cannot be edited anywhere but within the Outlining Your Novel Workbook program.

7 Advantages of the Workbook Software Over the Book Version

My goal was always to be true to Katie’s original Outlining Your Novel Workbook. That’s why the main titles of the selectors within the program match the main chapter titles in the paperback and e-book versions of her workbook.  However, the interactive programming environment has allowed us exceed the limits of a book.

For example:

1. You can include photos or drawings of people representing your characters.

Adding a Character Image - Outlining Your Novel Workbook Software

2. The Scene List allows you to rearrange scene order in a way that never was possible with the printed workbook.

3. Although the book version of the workbook included the concept of choosing inspiring songs for each main character and section of the book, the program takes it a step further and allows you to create a Novel Playlist and to play those inspiring songs while writing.

4. The ability to import characters and settings from other projects within the Workbook software saves time and allows for easier continuity between books in a series.

5. The flexibility of the calendar allows you to create a chronological list of every scene in your novel. Even if the novel covers years or decades, you can include only the required months in the program, skipping all of the intervening, unnecessary months.

Calendar Outlining Your Novel Workbook software

6. Another great advantage of the program is that all fields are expandable. Writers aren’t confined to the printed limitations of the lines in the original workbook.

7. The feature that gave me the idea to start this programming journey eleven months ago is that any number of projects can be saved in the program. This resource can be a repository of all of your creative works in one place.

Although our program accurately represents every section and question in the book version of the workbook, I don’t consider it to be finished. I see this as just a beginning! We already have fielded suggestions from many of you about features you’d like to see in the program, and we’re open to more!

You can find out more about the program on our Support page, which offers FAQs and more video tutorials. You can find the here.

And now that the main programming is done, I get to return to writing and using this program to help me finish my own books!

Wordplayers, tell us your opinion! Is there a feature you’d particularly like to see included as we continue to perfect the Outlining Your Novel Workbook software? Tell us in the comments!

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About Bob Miller

Bob Miller was a professional magician for twenty years. During that time he created books, videos, and software for magicians. His MagicBase Pro software is used by magicians around the world. He started writing in 2011. The first book in his Chrysalis Chronology series, The Smart Kid, is available on Amazon.


  1. Hi Katie,
    Thanks for giving me the opportunity to share about how I was inspired to create the OYN program based on your workbook.

    • Great to have you, Bob! Thank you for all you’re amazing work on the program.

      • Jeanette Raymond says

        I AM BEYOND EXCITED ABOUT THIS SOFTWARE!!! thank you Kaitie and Bob both for an amazing answer to something I have been struggling with!

      • your book was mentioned in lessons from the screenplay star wars

        can you explain the character arc of joel from last of us?

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          I know! That was very cool. 🙂

          I’m not familiar with Last of Us, so I’m afraid I’m not much help there.

  2. I’m a pantser, but I think this software will work for me. I’m downloading it. Thanks!

  3. Bob, thanks for sharing all this great information. I am working on my first novel, a concept that started as a single book and has grown into a six book series, with prequels and side stories also planned. I’ve done rough outlines for the overarching stories but not as in depth as I should have. My bad for not knowing what I didn’t know even after reading Katie’s book on outlining three years ago. So today, even though I have a rough draft completed for the first novel that I’m currently editing and filling in plot holes, I’m considering hitting the pause button and doing a real outline for the story so that it will more readily tie in to the outlines I will (definitely) create for the rest of the series.

    My question regarding the program is this: The majority of my first book takes place over a period of hours, rather than days, weeks, or years. I currently track each scene’s start and end time in Scrivener notes. Is it possible to break and sort scenes out in such small increments of time (minutes vs days) – even showing where parallel scenes are taking place?


    • Hi Keith,
      My series also started as a single book, before I decided to continue the story. 🙂

      On the Scenes List screen, you can include the time in the scene description. When you export the scenes list for use in Scrivener, the first 130 characters become the title, and the entire text of the scene description becomes the body/content when viewed in Scrivener.

      For parallel scenes that occur at the same time, you could just label them as the same time. Then, when you import them into Scrivener, they’ll have the time labels in place.

      So every scene could be a short amount of time that you can rearrange to your heart’s content.

      I hope that helps.

      • Thanks Bob. Excellent. Congratulations on getting your books completed AND writing a major software program. Hope you found time for sleep this last year. 8o)

  4. This exceptionally helpful tour will really help users to unlock the potential of this wonderful new software. Kudos to Bob and Katie for a job very well done.

  5. I too, have ponied up, but yet to use it in anger… savouring the moment!
    Early days, and the developer has probably had enough for a while, but…

    … to make this even better, consider porting over to tablets and phone, with Dropbox sync.

    When Scrivener first came out, it was unrivalled, until less capable app came out, but with cross platform sync. Scrivener paid dearly for not listening to thousands of people requesting the same. They have since changed their ways, and it is a rock solid app.

    Yours will need to to the same… for obvious reasons.

    Keep up the great work…


  6. 1) my husband is a magician and writer and needs to know about you.
    2) i need this program.
    3) i need to find my copy if oyn… somewhere in my great big box if flash drives…
    4) is there a way to work on fantasy (or other) world building as well?
    6) now it’s time to make an android app of this. xd
    7)how to ensure i will never get to my writing due to perfectionism, constantly changing my mind, and easy distractibility: include music player in program. okay, i only want music by this one artist. oh and these three songs by skillet. wait no, classical only, nothing else. wait no, i want soundtracks from this movie and this series and this other one. plus another skillet track. okay i need to get rid of all my rock. except skillet. no keep the rock, ditch the techno.

    that’s it, im sick of all of this. im just going to play pokemon.

    • 8) i need to go back to kindergarten and learn how to count. >.<

    • Hi Kitti, thanks for your comments. I’m glad you like it!
      1) Husband is magician and writer? Sounds like a great guy! It’s the expression of creativity that drives us.
      2) I’m glad you feel that you need this program. I agree! Every writer does. Helps you to think through lots of inspirational questions.
      3) Good luck finding the OYN book. It is great and a good companion to the program. BTW, all the text from the OYN Workbook is in the instructions in the program.
      4) Yes, you can use the program to work on world building for Fantasy. Built right in, just for you!
      6) Android app: The plan is to make a web-based version that will be viewable on any and all devices. But there is no release date for that…
      7) Yes, the music player can be inspirational and distractional… (I just created a word!)
      Good luck!

  7. I for one am SO EXCITED to get this!! Katie, you have truly made my writing life easier by turning the workbook into software 🙂

  8. Stela Pasic says

    I am so excited about this software. I created a Scrivener Template with the workbook questions so I can start over with every new project, but this seems like an easier way to do this! I will definitely try it out! A QUESTION: I am planning to use this on my work computer and my home computer – will I be able to install the software on two computers with the same licence?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yes, feel free to install the program on as many of your personal computers as necessary.

  9. Courtney Kleefeld says

    I’d like the “he” in the character section questions to be changed to “he/she” or “them” so I don’t feel as weird filling in the questions for my female characters. Also, it’d be great if we could add questions we want to answer about the character, and if the questions already on there were genre neutral – or you could have a different set of questions for different genres!
    I’m super excited about this software. It’s great. I’m trying to figure out how much of it to use and how much to not use.

    • Hi Courtney,

      I’m glad you like the software. A good place to ask your own questions of your characters is on the Freehand Interview section under Characters.
      As far as adjusting the gender in the questions depending on the character, that would be quite the programming task… But, I’ll take it under consideration. Thanks!

      • Katharine Mills says

        I hope you do get the opportunity to make the character options gender neutral; I also found “the default he” most disconcerting on my first tour through the program just now and frankly disappointing.

        • Eleanor Bush says

          Me too; I’m sort of appalled. I bought the software today on Amazon, and I wish I could return it. I don’t like spending money on such chauvinist products.

          • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

            Eleanor, feel free to email me. I’d be happy to help you get a refund. However, this is something we’re planning to update in the next upgrade.

  10. Ryan Hilary says

    Hey Guys, really great program. It’s helping me tremendously. My only comment is: do you plan to offer a plugin that would allow PDF exports (or even Word)? That would be really helpful!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hey, Ryan! The software currently allows you print to pdf (you’ll need a program like Cute PDF) everything in the program. You can also export the scene-list section as a txt doc, which can be edited in Word or Scrivener.

  11. I reluctantly purchased this program. I did so, not to have yet another writing program, but how it was tied to the book and workbook. I am so glad I did. I started a test project just to play around with it and become familiar with how it works. I started with just a character I already had quite well established for my writing project. I learned so much about him just by answering all the prompts in the Characters tab. Amazed myself what came out of it.

    Thank you K.M and thank you, Bob Miller for a wonderful writing tool.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Aw, that just totally makes my day. 🙂 Awesome to hear you’re finding the program useful, Jaci. Happy outlining!

  12. Only available on Amazon?

  13. Philana Crouch says

    Let me first say, I really love using the OYNW software. I had purchased the bundled Kindle version of the book and workbook, but I wasn’t sure how to use it in that format. I also didn’t want to have to purchase a paper copy for each book I might want to write. Plus, I prefer to work digitially. I didn’t want to do all the work of creating the outline by hand and the have to type it up to get it into Scrivener. This is really a great tool.

    I’ve run into one problem. Has anyone been able to get the native Save as PDF (or Print to PDF) feature for macOS to work with OYNW software? I’m having problems getting it to work. I’d like to be able to “export” my premise, character, setting, and worldbuilding, and other sheets to PDF’s to include in Scrivener. That way I don’t need to have both programs open when trying to write the first draft. So far it doesn’t show up in the print dialog.

    • Hi Philana,

      I agree with you about not wanting to write all of my outlines out on paper first. I was working on a 5-book series and had already bought 3 copies of OYN workbook when I got the idea to create the program. So, not having to retype what I’ve written is good.

      And that brings up the subject of exporting to pdf. Although the Mac allows you to export anything to pdf that you can print, the OYN program wasn’t created to export to pdf since that capability isn’t natively built in. It was optimized for printing, so trying to export to pdf won’t work completely.

      One of the things that we can’t control on the Mac when saving something as pdf is the name. It will always be named ‘untitled.’ So if you choose to print 3 sections at once, and then select Export To PDF, each subsequent file will overwrite the previous ‘untitled’ file.

      So the way to work around that, until the next update, is to just export 1 section at a time. Then you’ll have a chance to rename it. Or, if you choose the Open in Preview option on the Mac, then you can view the file and, I think, name it as you wish.

      I’m already working on the next update, which will have a better way to export to pdf, on Mac or Windows. No release date set, but it won’t be a long wait.

      As you mentioned, another, perhaps better option is to have both programs open and cut and paste between them. In my own experience, the only thing I really feel that I need imported into Scrivener is the Scene List, which the program is designed to do. All of the other background stuff about characters and complications, I just keep in the OYN program which serves as my inspiration for the actual writing, which I do in Scrivener.

      But, there’s some options. I hope that helps.

  14. Kushal Thaman says

    I tried to download the software on my Mac OS X El Capitan, and was disappointed to see that the link that led me to was displaying that the product wasn’t available for download. Please help quickly.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sorry to hear you’re having trouble with the install. Can you tell us a little more about the issue? Have you purchased it from Amazon already? If you haven’t purchased and live outside the U.S., try purchasing from my site instead.

  15. Julie Toustrup says

    Hi Bob and Katie,
    Thank you for this truly wonderful program that is excellent in keeping my ideas and crazy thoughts organised, saving me collecting stacks and stacks of paper all over the house.

    I’ve been using it pretty much every day since purchase, but now it’s giving me a little bit of trouble. Every time I open the program it opens to the registration page (maybe that’s what it should do), but now suddenly the entire file containing my book project is “unmodifiable”- I can neither edit nor add. Did I do something wrong? Or is this some kind of bug?

    I hope you can help me. I tried opening the user manual in the help-section, but it wouldn’t open no matter what I did.
    I am using the program on a PC outside of the US.

    Kind regards, and thanks again,
    Julie Toustrup

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Great to hear you’re enjoying the program! 🙂

      It sounds as if your computer may have altered the program’s admin settings.

      Before opening the program, right-click on the icon to choose Properties. Go to the security tab or Compatibility, then select the check box beside “Run as Administrator.”
      Run a Admin

  16. I started a thread on kboards about the software, you might want to join in, K.M.

  17. I purchased the program about a week ago and haven’t had a chance to work with it as much as I’d like yet.

    But today I clicked “Get free updates” under “Workbook” and was given two options: “Open email” or “Okay.” I clicked “Open email and it opened my MS Outlook 2016 and placed two email addresses into the “To:” area. It also added an appropriate subject line. In addition, it added a small popup saying it couldn’t continue because “the other program is open.” My options were “switch to” or…sorry, I can’t remember the second one, but neither worked. Both programs (Outlining Your Novel Software and my MS Outlook 2016) were unavailable to me because the small popup would not let me click them. I shut down every thing else that was open but had to do a hard shut down with both the outlining and the outlook programs running.

    I found a bug report item but it also requires opening of email and I am afraid to do that, so I hope Bob or Katie will see this and offer help. I do want to get updates as they are created.

    Thanks for a terrific program from what I’ve had a chance to explore and I look forward to working more with it.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      So sorry for the trouble! Try it again and click “Okay.” The necessary information about your computer and your version of the program will then be copied to your computer’s clipboard. You can then open your email browser yourself, where you can paste this information and send it to oyndw17 [at] gmail [dot] com.

  18. While I am always ready to try out new software that will give me maybe an edge or a oomph to get my stories moving, I have to wonder. Is this really all that much different than the “Outlining Your Novel” template for Scrivener? It seems quite thorough as well. Either way, I am still in the stage of “Okay I now the structure, but is this particular event X my inciting event or my hook or my first plot twist or ARGGGHHH! ” That’s where I am. I hope this venture though Katie and Bob works out great!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      The Outlining Your Novel Workbook is the complete text, questions, and exercises (plus some) from my Outlining Your Novel Workbook. The Scrivener template I offer includes information from all of my books, but isn’t as complete. Still, you can certainly get away with just using the template. The Workbook software is designed to be a more heavy-duty brainstorming tool.

  19. Hi. I just bought OYN and so far I am enjoying using it. One thing I came up against that I am not sure how to fix is that in the Character / Backstory section it shows Protagonist: Un-named Character at the top. I have already defined several characters and not sure why it won’t reflect my main Protagonist. Any ideas on why this is happening?

    Also, I am not sure this is even possible, but in a future update it would be really nice if the windows could allow user resizing and if each window had a smarter scrolling ability. Currently when I try to scroll / swipe on my Magic Mouse nothing happens. For instance, if you open the Info window you need to activate the side scroll to do anything. It just feels a bit clunky, especially for a $40 app. Hoping for an update soon that could fix this.


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Great to hear you’re enjoying the software! To set the protagonist, you’ll need to go to the first page of Characters > Interviews and make sure you’ve checked *both* the Protagonist and Major character options.

      Thanks for the suggestion! I will pass that on to the developer and see if it’s something we can do.

      • Yup, I have made sure that all characters have appropriate radials checked. So this one is set to Major and Protagonist. Still only displays Protagonist: Un-named character in the Characters > Backstory section


    • Hi Brandon, I’m glad you’re enjoying the program.

      There is a button on the 2-Sentence Premise layout / Situation tab where you choose your Major Protagonist. This is different from the radio buttons on the Characters layout.

      I hope that helps!

  20. Hello! This software is amazing, and sounds like just the right thing I should use considering I don’t really know how to outline at all. I bought the original workbook a few weeks back and want to upgrade to the software, so I’m wondering if the software exactly copies the workbook? Does it have all the same chapters, exercises, and questions/text from the workbook? Thank you! It would really help me in deciding what to use!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Yep, formatting aside, the software is exactly like the paperback version of the workbook.

  21. Thank you for answering my question! I also have another:
    I want to download the software now, but I’m not sure if I should wait until the next update to do so, because I’d rather start outlining my novel with more new features instead of risking accidentally deleting all of my outlining or losing some information when importing to the new update. Is there a possibility for that? If the wait for the update is too long, then I’ll go ahead and download now, but I’m not sure what road I should take!
    Thanks for answering!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      We have the update underway. I’m going to estimate we might be able to have it out within another month.

  22. Horatio Gavins says

    Here’s a feature I enjoy in other software: Full-screen focus mode. Scrivener’s and MS Word’s focus mode takes up the entire monitor, and also helps to limit intrusions generated by incoming messages and email. I know, shut down the email app! I do that when I really need to focus. It helps. But, it is also helpful to have a clear page to work in.

  23. Josephine Becker Palmvig says

    Weiland, you are my writing GURU!! And Bob, thank you for making this happen, I am VERY excited and can’t wait to try this program!

    One QUESTION though,that i can’t seem to find the answer for:

    Can you use the program on your computer, and then edit your plotpoints ect. on your phone on the go? That is, having you story both on the phone and pc, will they automatically sync?

    I actually loved the app Storyplanner, but couldn’t save my story on both devices without saving parts in iCloud, it was a pain!

    Please please please, make this happen if it’s not already thought of 🙂


    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      At this point, no, the program is only available for computers. However, our next project is to work on a mobile version, which would allow you to work on your outline on the go as well.

  24. John Tomasicchio says

    Is it possible to run the software on an iPad?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks for your note! Although we’re working on a browser-based version of the program that would be usable on mobile devices (at least the larger ones like iPad), currently it only works on desktop computers, Mac and PC.


  1. […] use another related program called “Outlining your Novel Workbook Software” (yeah, the name’s a little clunky, and it costs another forty bucks, but that’s all […]

  2. […] My workflow includes my 27” iMac, an iPad, and the use of K.M. Weiland’s “Outlining Your Novel” software. I use this with a writing application from Literature & Latte called “Scrivener”. […]

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