final draft

Paid And Free Scriptwriting Software Reviews: What Are The Choices?

Offering scripts on the back of crumpled napkins only happens on TV, but if you want to sell your script, properly formatted writing will show your professionalism to a prospective producer is paramount.

Whether you’re chained to a desktop or working from the road, you’ll need a program that allows you to update your script and write the next scene if you have a spare few minutes.

Industry Standard

Final Draft is the industry standard and it’s a great piece of scriptwriting software, but it’ll set you back $199 if you buy it in the US. This is the program that screenwriting colleges as well as the Hollywood kings and queens use, so it’s the one you should use if you can afford it.

Movie Magic Screenwriter ($169) and Movie Outline ($199) have become more popular in the past couple of years. They include more options than Final Draft for the preparation stage when you are making decisions about scene content before you begin writing the actual scenes.

If you’re an Apple fan, then your desktop will probably want to be running Montage($50), although a version of Final Draft is available as well. There are also apps for both Montage and Final Draft available for your iPad or iPhone if you want to write on the move.

Free Software

If you choose to write online, then there are lots of options but Celtx and Plotbot are a good starting point. They’re free to use and will suit those who love to store their work in the cloud instead of on a hard drive. A big plus point for Celtx is that it offers a very intuitive storyboarding feature.

You should try each of these for a couple of days to see which suits your needs. Every user has an opinion on which is best, but there’s no clear winner yet. The advantage of these programs is you can test them without breaking the bank. If you buy one of the paid options listed above, you are likely to stay with that software rather than dip into your wallet again.

It always takes times to learn the ins and outs of software that will save you hours and effort later. Putting in the work early by actually writing something that you might be able to sell is a great way to find your way around these programs.

What About Word?

Half the planet is committed to using Microsoft Word to write their masterpiece and Word fans have one advantage: templates. These are available on Microsoft’s own template site or via a simple Google search.

The templates allow you to write your screenplay with industry standard formatting, but make sure you choose the right format. The UK and the US markets use different size pages, and if you change from TV to writing for the big screen, you’ll need a different design. Turning it into a stage play? Yet another layout will be required.

Extra Features

There are a couple of extra features that might help you make the final decision. A PDF export function lets you send a small file to the reader and gives you some protection against those who just want to plagiarize your script or post it online. Tech experts will be able to get around the PDF format easily enough, but it will stop most people from bothering to steal your work.

You should also look for an ‘export to others’ feature. This will allow you to collaborate with a colleague at a different location. With Celtx and Final Draft you can mix and match so you don’t all have to use the same piece of software.

A handy feature is the ability to revise your drafts by using different colors. This is an industry standard feature which can save hours of deliberation or arguments.

Some programs have a one-click option to allow you to register your script online, direct from your software. This isn’t wholly necessary, but it can serve as extra proof that the work is yours if a copyright issue rears its head further down the line.

How To Master The Structure Of Script Writing

Although writing a short story, play, or novel is not easy, turning a story into a script ready to be filmed is exacting and demands attention to detail. For example, a script has to take into account the visual nature of film and cannot rely on the imagination of the audience. It also has to take into account stage directions and timing, something that a novelist can overlook. Thus, it is helpful for budding screenwriters to have an overview of the script writing process.

Decide If You Want To Adapt A Story Or Write An Original Story

Although screenwriters are responsible for turning a story into a script, they are not necessarily responsible for writing the story. A screenwriter might adapt a story written by someone else or use history and literature to adapt a story. Many of Shakespeare’s plays were based on Plutarch’s Parallel Lives. On the other hand, screenwriters may want to create a script from scratch and not a pre-existing story.

Decide On The Structure Of A Screenplay

There are several ways to structure a screenplay. The classic structure is to divide a screenplay into three acts: the set-up, conflict, and resolution. Countless stories adhere to this format, and there’s a reason why it has been the go-to structure for films pretty much since cinematography began.

Another format is to divide the screenplay into connected sequences, treating each sequence as a self-contained story that leads into another story.

Be Aware Of Different Script Styles

For example, a film script will not have the same format as a television script. Each script has to be tailored to its medium. A television screenplay needs to be aware of commercial breaks and thus prepare the audience to return after the break. A film screenplay has the luxury of longer, uninterrupted scenes.

Use Proper Format

A script is not only a story; it is a technical document and has to meet certain formatting requirements. For instance, scripts must be printed in 12 pt. Courier. Other basic formatting requirements include the following:

  • A scene is prefaced with a heading that indicates whether the scene is internal or external, where the scene takes place, and the time of day – in that order. For example: EXT. HOT DESERT – DAY.
  • A character’s name is first introduced in all-capitals: WILLY WONKA welcomed the guests to his factory.
  • Dialogue is centered and begins with the character’s name in capitals. Descriptions of the character are put between parentheses on a line just under the character’s name. Dialogue, without quote marks, comes next:

So nice to see your smiling faces.

  • Fortunately, scriptwriting software makes this process less tedious. One good open source program that conforms to industry standards is Celtx, which includes a sample of the script for The Wizard of Oz. It also includes templates for theater plays, comic books, novels, and story boards. A popular commercial screenwriting program is Final Draft, which also conforms to industry standards and is widely used by professionals. It is noted for having numerous script templates.
  • In general, a screenplay will be on plain white paper, single-sided, and contain no colored fonts or images. Remember that someone has to at least look at your screenplay, and it may be dismissed if it does not conform to basic formatting requirements.

Prepare Your Script For Submission

There are several tasks to complete when the script is finished and ready for submission.

  • Register your script. The Writer’s Guild of America and the U.S. Copyright office both offer registration for scripts.
  • Write a cover letter. This includes your contact information, but it also contains a logline, a one- or two-sentence description of the story. Also include a 1-7 page synopsis of the story.
  • Submit the script. It’s not easy to get someone to read a script, but try the following. First, find an agent. Producers rarely read unsolicited scripts, so you may need an agent to get a script in front of a producer. Second, enter screenwriting contests and competitions. Doing so is a good way to get someone to read your script, and it can lead to a break. Finally, cultivate a network of contacts. Social media makes this a little easier, but there is no substitute for legwork and making phone calls.

There is no guarantee of success, but making sure that you know the basics will prevent your script from being dismissed out of hand. With a little bit of practice, you’ll find it comes as second nature so there’s never been a better time to get started than now.