Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Software Or Soft Head?

Is it worth spending a few hundred pounds of your hard earned money on scriptwriting software if you haven't yet been commissioned?

As far as I'm concerned if you're going to set out to do something then you might as well do it properly. The first writing software program I bought was Scriptware. It was very basic and to be quite honest it didn't do it for me. It just felt too slow and other than formatting my script it didn't do a lot else. And to top it all the spell checker was American. I was about to go back to using Word when someone suggested I try Final Draft.

I think the first version I bought was version 3, but now I'm using version 7. What a difference Final Draft made to my writing. It's so much easier to see what characters work, or don't work when you can print off a report of their interaction with other characters. In fact there are so many reports you can print off I haven't yet used them all. Another neat touch I can't live with out is the speech facility which reads your script back to you using digital voices, saving you the effort of trying to track down a friend to read your work for the one hundredth time. The computer doesn't start twitching when you ask it to read through your nine hour Napoleonic mini series for the fifth time.

Another piece of software I have been delighted to discover has helped me to improve my writing further is Dramatica Pro. A friend of mine screamed at me, "Why the hell did you spend all that money on a structuring program when you already know how to structure a script?" The answer is a simple one. Dramatica Pro actively questions your decision making when you're putting down your ideas. It forces you to look at your script from all angles and from different character perspectives. In short it's like having a writing buddy with you every step of the way ready to shout at you when you want to your hero to don spandex to fight crime in North Yorkshire.

Two great pieces of software. Check them out.

What does everyone else use?


Paul Campbell said...

Hi Dom

I found you via Danny Stack. Nice blog!

I use final draft too. Though, increasingly it bugs me. I don't know about yours, but mine wobbles around on the screen and, every now and again just gives up the ghost and I lose everything I haven't saved. It just has a sense of fragility to it, which doesn't inspire confidence.

But it's better than Word when it comes to the script business.

I can't face Dramatcia Pro etc. It's bad enough knowing there's something wrong with my structure, but I can't handle a piece of bloody machinery telling me that too.

I have tried blockbusters, or whatever it's called. But, frankly, bits of cloured paper and a set of felt tips were more versatile and more useful.

And I gave Truby's structure thing a go once. But, although it sometimes gave me hints of areas I hadn't thought about, I generally found it less intuitive and less flexible than keeping a bunch of pieces of paper in a folder.

Dominic Carver said...

It depends which version you have of Final Draft. I remember I had problems with v6 and it kept doing the same thing as yours. But as you said, it's still better than Word.

Lianne said...

Maybe I'm old school, but I just use digiscript( It's free and it's simple to use and it does eveything you need in terms of formatting. Not so sophisticated that it will question your decision making, but I'm not sure I would like that! I've always got the feeling that if I shelled out for Final Draft, I'd just be hopelessly confused by it!

Dominic Carver said...

Final Draft was as easy as pie. It has a tutorial built in and a sample script so you can fanny about with all the tools to your heart's content and not bugger up your own scripts.

I struggled with Dramatica Pro at first though, as it goes deep into the theory of structure. But I wrote my last script using it and found it most helpful for ironing out inconsistentcies in my plot. I'm just finishing of the treatment for a second script with it. But the programme is very deep and you have to read the manual before you use it....several times. And the theory book too. That's a lot of reading.

Lee said...

I've been beta testing a new screenwriting package for the Mac, called Montage. The beta is now at the stage where I feel comfortable using it as long as I back everything up regularly.

So far it's shown itself to be really user-friendly, with lots of great features, and a cheering slant towards newbie scribes.

Which sounds like a marketing plant, I know, but you'll just have to trust me on this.

Dominic Carver said...

Final Draft is a duel platform programme running on both Mac and PC, and all from the same CD. Just thought I'd point that out.

This isn't a marketing plant either..... it's an endorsment.

Just looked at the Montage site. It doesn't state if it has a British Spell checker or script templates for British TV?

Lee said...

It's not well localised yet. It uses OSX's system wide spell check; I've never checked whether that's British or American, although I would suspect the latter.

I'm just using a regular screenplay template, but you can create and edit your own templates really easily. In theory. I mean, it looks easy. I haven't tested it yet, and it could crash.

I didn't know the Final Draft CD was dual-format. That's pretty good.