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What is Screenwriting Software?

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  • Written By: R. Kayne
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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Every day, Hollywood is inundated with thousands of unsolicited screenplays mailed by hopeful writers looking for that big break. This excludes scripts generated from within the industry by successful writers, directors and actors. With such stiff competition, an unknown writer needs every advantage. Submitting a screenplay that is not properly formatted alerts the Hollywood reader to the fact that the writer is a novice before even a single word is read. That could be why so many hopeful writers have turned to screenwriting software.

Screenwriting software takes the tedious work out of formatting a screenplay and allows the writer to create work in the industry format by default. Shortcut keys and other conveniences make writing a screenplay with screenwriting software a breeze. Master scene headings or slug lines, character's names, action and parentheticals are all preprogrammed —- no need to write macros or rely on manual tabbing or guesswork.

There are several screenwriting software packages available; however, there are two main packages used within the industry: Final Draft and Movie Magic Screenwriter (formerly ScriptThing). Other screenwriting software includes Scriptware, Sophocles and Page 2 Stage, to name just a few. No matter your preference, good screenwriting software will make it easy to type your script so that your energies can be saved for the writing process itself.

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A handy feature in some screenwriting software is the ability to use "virtual index cards" to plot out the screenplay structure, scene by scene. With this comes the ability to move scenes around and rearrange events to see what works best. The package might also contain a text-to-speech module for assigning voices to characters' names in order to hear dialog spoken aloud. Standard features include a spell checker and thesaurus.

Some packages also contain production features, such as the ability to number scenes or keep track of revisions. Although tracking revisions can be handy for writers working through drafts, most production features are directed towards the actual production process and will not be necessary for a writer looking to create spec scripts, or unsolicited scripts on speculation. A new writer might naively number scenes, thinking it makes the screenplay look professional, while in fact it's another giveaway that the writer is a novice.

In addition to screenwriting software, closely related software packages can help a writer to define and develop characters and storylines. Some of these software packages also offer scriptwriting ability, but the focus is on the creative side, or tools for story development. A few well-known and popular examples are StoryView, StoryCraft and Dramatica.

Each writer must find the tools he or she needs to make the writing process work. Some people will find one package ideal, while others may find it distracting or difficult. Most story development tools and screenwriting software packages offer free demo trials.

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bythewell
Post 3

@Ana1234 - Even the best screenwriting software isn't going to do anything you can't do yourself with a bit of practice. I don't actually think it's a great idea to use it as a crutch, just because you have to get used to writing a script well, and doing it from scratch makes it easier to learn.

Ana1234
Post 2

@croydon - As long as people have a good idea of how to determine which books are worth reading and which aren't. The television and film industry moves very quickly and a screenwriter who isn't aware of what they expect will find it very difficult to break in.

The same goes for the software. Make sure you've got a type that is actually relevant and is formatting correctly, or it's a waste of money.

croydon
Post 1

Don't just rely on the software to ensure you've got all the conventions of screenwriting done properly in your manuscript. There are plenty of fantastic books out there which detail how to write and format a script and it's important to do your research.

There are also collections of scripts online so you can get an idea of how a scene is detailed on paper before you try to do it yourself. Watch your favorite movie and then read the script carefully. Screenwriting software can be very useful, but it's not going to do the work for you.

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