Wednesday, May 12, 2021


Just over a year ago I reviewed the online plotting software PREWRITE. Since then PREWRITE has evolved and added several new features, so I thought it was time to update the review and let you know what those features are.

PREWRITE.COM allows you to work on one project for free and has a monthly subscription service for those people who want to work on more than one project at a time. Premium membership is a reasonable $9.99 a month and offers you 20% off if you pay annually, so it's very affordable and won't put a dent in your pocket.

The first big change is that PREWRITE is no longer just for screenwriters but for other creatives as well. There are now added templates for branded content, viral videos, web series, podcasts, tutorials and one for novelists due to be introduced soon. So whatever your written project PREWRITE can help you create it. For now though, let's focus on the screenwriting aspect of the software.

Once you've named your screenplay file you can then set your initial structure to help you get started. Here you can choose from a three act structure, a four act structure, half-hour sitcom, one hour drama, Freytag's Pyramid, Turn & Burn - CJ Walley, Save The Cat, Story Maps - Daniel Calvisi, Story Circle - Dan Harman and The Hero's Journey - Joseph Campbell. The great thing about this is that once you have created your file you are not restricted to the initial template you have chosen and are free to swap and change to your heart's content. You even have the option to chose a template of a well known movie from the database, like SKYFALL for example.

Another feature that was introduced quite early on, not long after my initial review, was the ability to import FINAL DRAFT files into PREWRITE enabling you to rework old projects, iron out their flaws and reinvigorate them. I found this a very handy tool with a feature project I wanted to rewrite and it gave me the opportunity to see where the structure needed changing and what story elements were working and which ones weren't.

The export feature has also changed slightly with any  notes you've made now showing in FINAL DRAFT where they didn't before. This means you can open your FINAL DRAFT file and focus on getting the writing done without having to refer back to PREWRITE to check your notes.

All in all the new features enhance an already brilliant piece of software, making it more accessible and flexible than before, allowing you to be at your creative best.

Below, for those that need reminding, is the initial review from April 2020.

When you own a writing blog you get a lot of random people sending you writing based stuff to read or use asking, sometimes begging you to review them in your next blog. I ignore most requests - unless they're of immediate interest - and I've always only reviewed those books/services/resources I have thoroughly tested, enjoyed and found to be informative and helpful so that my readers know if I recommend something then it's worth getting/using.

A couple of months ago I received an email asking me to review an online resource - PREWRITE.COM - for outlining and plotting screenplays, utilising online cloud storage for projects at a reasonable monthly payment, all completely downloadable to FINAL DRAFT once your projects are created. I have to admit I was dubious, after all why pay a monthly subscription for something when the good old faithful index cards and a pen will do?

In the past, I admit I've used the SAVE THE CAT software but found it to be restrictive, formulaic and frustrating to use, which is why I eventually dumped it. What writer wants to follow rigid rules when they're trying to be creative? Not me! I want to be able to write what I want, where I want and when I want and freely explore my ideas without any confinement or restriction. It was for that reason I casually dismissed PREWRITE.

Three weeks later I remembered the email and as I was about to start plotting a new feature film I thought I might as well give it a go. I'm very glad I did. PREWRITE has all of the functionality of SAVE THE CAT and much more besides, with none of the restrictions and frustrating little niggles that plagued the SAVE THE CAT software. PREWRITE is actually better than having index cards and a pen, giving you the unrestricted freedom to be creative while providing valuable extras that actually enhance your creativity rather than stifle it. PREWRITE gives you unlimited freedom of choice.


No faffing about here - choose a picture that represents your story, give your project a title, jot down your logline, choose your genre and theme and add your name as the author... it's that simple and quick to get started.


I had a lot of fun with this section. You can create your characters with complete freedom, exploring their wants and needs in the story and how they're going to find/get to them. You can even search the movie database to find a picture of the perfect actor to play any of your characters and if they won't do you are also given the freedom to upload your own pictures. The only limit here, as with the rest of this online software, is your imagination.


Again you have the freedom to choose how to view your story as you create it. Timeline, cards or page view... yes, please! Add cards to your Act One, Act Two and Act Three, move them around and delete them if you need to. Add a heading, write out your scene action in the action box, add notes below, add characters to each scene so you can see at a quick glance who appears in each scene, tag how your theme is explored, rate the emotional value of your scene, keep track of plot threads over several scenes and even add an image to sum up each scene... it's so glorious and helpful it made running away with your idea and getting it down on the page fun and as easy as breathing.


If the above isn't enough for you then you can explore every aspect of your characters and your plot in the story stats section, analysing the heck out of it.


There are even examples of well know films to explore and a help menu that will walk you through getting the most out of using this software.


I only have two and they're minor. The first is that this is an online resource only at the moment. I would love to see a software version you can download to a computer or tablet. The second issue is that your projects are stored online and like most writers who are obsessive with backing up their work every few minutes will know, there's a worry that as it's stored online you could lose all your hard work in the blink of an eye. If PREWRITE could find a solution to both of these issues then the program would be perfect.

PREWRITE is so usable you can go into as little or as much detail as you need to match your creativity. It is a blindingly brilliant bit of kit that not only helps you be creative but actively encourages you to be so and I heartily recommend all writers give it a go and see for themselves.

Happy writing!

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