My Writing Workflow

Most of you probably don’t care, but for the few writer friends I have, you might like this.

After a few months of searching I think I’ve finally landed on my “preferred” way to write screenplays – and I assume it would transfer over to any other type of writing like blog posts, short stories, etc.

The problem I had was having to learn different key commands for each program. Screenwriter is different than Final Draft which is different than Celtx which is different than Adobe Studio…and the list goes on. I didn’t like having to remember “do I press tab or enter key to start dialog…” and other things like that. I felt like a big chunk of my time and energy was being spent on remembering which one to press, pressing the delete key if I got it wrong, or pressing a combination of other keys to figure out/remember which one I wanted. Only after a few consecutive days writing in one program did I settle in. But that’s too much time.

When Alan and I first started writing together in 2008 we used Movie Magic Screenwriter. It was the first program I used since we were also working with other writers that were on PC and it – I believe – was the only one that worked on both platforms at the time? I could be way wrong with that one. But I became comfortable with it and so I never needed to use a different program.

Years later I tried out Final Draft because it seemed to be the *preferred* application of *professional* screenwriters that I followed either through their blog or twitter feed or podcast. It pretty much did everything that screenwriter did, without digging too deep, and so I didn’t feel the need to drop the cash on another expensive writing program. Plus, in the demo I discovered that I would have to relearn a new set of keystrokes to write in this program, which I didn’t really want to do.

Another year or two later and along came Celtx. It was a free software that you could use, collaborate with others in the cloud, and it had some built in tools for production as well. I felt that if they were going to make it so cheap ($5 a month for your own “Studio”) I’d spend the time to learn how to write in it. We wrote a lot of scripts in it and it worked really well, especially it’s cloud storage and ability to open documents, share with others, etc. Over the year or two we’ve been using Celtx they’ve improved a lot – but we ran into a roadblock a month or two back: simultaneous writing.

With Celtx, because everything now is saved to the cloud when you manually press the “Save” button, you ran the risk of overwriting the work someone else did. Say Alan & I were both working on the same script on two different computers. We both open the script from the cloud to our desktop apps, and start writing. If Alan saves his work it will update the master copy online, but then if I save later it would wipe out any changes he made because they were never updated on my version. That was a huge problem. We contacted them and though they were working on a solution, the best they could do right now was to say “well, just don’t do that.”

So, some searching landed us on Google docs. Pretty much an unlimited amount of people could be working on a document at the same time, and all changes are updated in real time. I found one interesting way to work was to have different writers use different colors so you could see who was making changes. That was probably overkill for us but at least we now had a way to write in real time if we weren’t in the same room on the same workstation. Add in some google video chat or FaceTime and you’re set.

Now, that solved that problem, but what about script formatting? If you just start typing, how do you know that once you import it into a screenwriting application that the formatting will be correct – dialog as dialog, character names centered on the page in all caps, etc?

Enter Fountain. Not really an app or a file format, it’s just a syntax – a set of rules used to make sure that when you import a text document that it will format correctly. I started using this and the first thing I realized is a faster rate of output – it took less time to write five pages than it did in an actual script writing program because I didn’t have to think, or tab, or hit enter tab enter delete to figure out what button is the right button. You just write.

One final thing, because I wanted my cake and to eat it to, I started looking into minimalist writing applications, one that could do fullscreen mode, looks good and clean, and could keep me focused on the writing. I settled on iA Writer – you can find it in the app store on your mac computers, ipad, etc. The best features are fullscreen mode, focus mode, and it’s cloud storage. I open a document on another device and it picks up right where I left off. I actually really like writing on my iPad because I have less distractions there (somehow), and with a full size bluetooth keyboard my typing isn’t any slower than on my laptop or desktop.

So, there you have it. Hopefully there’s something useful in this post for you, because this has really been a game changer in how easy it is to write and how much more output I’m able to do.

30 by 30

I was inspired by a friend of mine to write this post. It was actually a lot harder than I thought it would be, mainly because I started thinking about what my goals said about me…was I too focused on money? Was I too concerned with career goals? Was I giving enough focus to family and the spiritual side of my life?

Well, all those things aside, here’s my list of 30 things I want to do by the time I’m 30, which is November 12, 2012. I’ve added some comments that I didn’t include when I posted this list elsewhere, for all you faithful readers🙂

30 by 30

1. Buy a house, at least 50% down
We really want to get into a house, but we don’t want to end up house poor a year later. While I’d love to get out of debt and pay for everything the rest of my life with cash, never needing to rely on a stupid credit score again, this might be a more realistic goal.
2. Buy a car with cash
Cars may be the worst “investment” around. They depreciate faster than anything else, they cost a lot, etc. etc. I hate how much I want nice cars, but for this first one I’m looking at a used (2009) Volkswagen Touareg 2.
3. Trip to Europe w April
I’m thinking a good 3 weeks and limiting it to 3 countries…hmm, lets say France, Spain, and Italy🙂
4. Music Lounge to 100,000 subscribers
5. Produce a TV show
We had a pitch meeting last Friday that I don’t want to jinx, but it looks like it’s got a pretty good shot. For my own silly reasons I looked up who the youngest executive producer on a network TV show was, and Josh Schwartz had the reigns of “The O.C.” at 27…
6. Produce a full length feature that gets picked up for distribution
It’s the biggest dream right now.
7. Renew rock climbing membership, go at least 1x per week
8. Complete Olympic triathlon
I did a few sprint lengths in the summer of 2008, and it felt great. I want to do more…
9. Complete half triathlon (70.3 miles)
This one will be a challenge. I figure if I can train over the winter and complete a couple Olympic lengths next summer, than 2012 can be the year of the Half Tri.
10. 10% body fat by 28, maintain/stay under 12%
Should come with the training for the triathlons and the rock climbing.
11. Invest $10,000 (rothIRA, stocks)
12. Habit of reading scriptures every day
I’ve been lax since about 6 months after returning from my mission. While I won’t be able to devote 4+ hours a day to scripture study till after I retire, or die…, I need to get this back into my daily routine.
13. Mountain bike in Moab
Always wanted to. Sub goal – buy a mountain bike. I had two but they got stolen from the bike rack when I was in college. Lame…
14. Go on a cruise
15. Become conversational in Spanish
16. Become conversational in 1 other language (French?)
I figure I already kinda know French, so if I learn Spanish then French might come a lot easier? Or maybe I should do them in reverse order… either way, Mom, April – I’d like Rosetta Stone for Christmas🙂
17. Guitar: (100 covers)
18. Cook more nice meals for family/fam & friends.
Because life is meant to be shared
19. Habit of writing every day.
Been good this week! Now to keep it up…
20. Piano: 100 covers
21. Play sax in a combo type setting at least 1x per month.
I’ve put it off for too long. I need to get back into playing saxophone regularly, because it’s an other-worldly experience when I’m performing.
22. Repair & improve credit score/ history
23. $25,000 in savings
24. Finally train Toby.
25. Make $100,000 in one year.
26. Get completely out of debt ($35,000?)
27. Go canyoneering
28. Backpack the Uinta trail (78 miles)
Maybe I just want you to think that I’m this rugged…
29. Complete a century (100 mile road cycle)
Only twice as long as the bike portion of a half triathlon!
30. Start the Smith Family Fund
Kind of a secret for now, but I want to start a fund that is available to anyone in the family (however many people “family” includes) who is contributing to the fund. Could potentially be used to help fund missions, college, service endeavors, investments, etc.
There you have it! If you came here you got more than what you probably wanted to know but it’s good to write stuff like this down in public places so that people can slap you around if you’re not doing what you said you wanted to that one time on the internet. And with that, I’m off to bed. Night all!

Music: Worth Repeating – The iPod Iditarod!

Like the title for the new year’s resolution I mentioned in the last post? So it’s a work in progress – but I think it works so far. The Iditarod is an annual dogsled race that takes place in Alaska every year. I find it especially appropriate because of the analogy – 16 dogs to each Musher, and a race that spans over 1100 miles in around 2 weeks. My Iditarod is 26 letters of the alphabet, over 52 weeks, and covering over 160 gigs of music – over 30,000 songs! So, if you want to just see the progress of this adventure through my iPod, that’s what to look for.

So, here’s the premise, as a refresher: 52 weeks in a year, 26 letters in the alphabet, so that’s two weeks per first letter of the bands I’m listening to during those 2 weeks. I’m assuming I’ll have an easier time with the ‘Q’s’ and ‘X’s’ than others, so I’m not going to be too strict on the timeframe, except that I want to finish by the end of the year.

So, we start off with the letter A. (I actually haven’t started yet, but I’m hoping that over the next few days I’ll get through it and be able to report back). Really what I’m looking to accomplish is 2 fold:

1. Identify my favorite artists and genres of music, so that I can expand my music library to get more of the things I assume I’ll like.

2. Achieve a greater ability to describe music – what it sounds like, who it sounds similar to, what I like and why I like it.

That’s the plan at least. We’ll see how it goes…

2010: Worth Repeating

So, here we are. 2011. That’s twenty – eleven, not two-thousand and eleven, by the way. One of my new year’s resolutions this year is brevity…

2010 (twenty-ten) was a great year. Atop the list of amazing things that happened is that we conceived a child! A baby boy that is joining our family mid-February, some 5 weeks from now. We are excited, to say the least.

Also up towards the top was the opportunity to go on tour with Neon Trees as their Front Of House Engineer (the “sound guy”) and production manager. I spent most of November and part of December touring around the country with them, and am looking forward to doing more shows and touring this year, as they are an amazing group of friends and extremely talented musicians.

Given the chance, I’d repeat 2010, or at least, have another year just like it. But I wouldn’t give up the bigger and better opportunity of looking forward to a brand new year. 2011!

So, in familiar fashion, I’ve got a few new year’s resolutions for this year, but wanted to blog about just one.

I realized while I was out on tour last month that I have a decently large music library, some 200 gb and counting. There was a lot of music I loved, even more that I listened to often, and probably ten times that that I had either listened to once or not at all. Sad really.

So, here’s the plan. I’m taking every two weeks in 2011 and giving each letter of the alphabet some ear time. At the beginning of every two weeks, I will download all of the music that was recorded by artists starting with that letter, and play through. I hope to find some music that I love, discover some music that I should have a long time ago, and weed out some that really has no place in my music library – I mean come on, I can’t blog about music without being at least a little snarky and stuck up…

So, here’s to everyone enjoying 2011. Wish me luck, because I’m gonna be a DAD soon!

A return to “Focus”

A few posts back I commented a little about Focus, and how I felt “spread too thin” with all of the projects, work, goals, life, etc…

I’ve had a little while to think about it all–and admittedly, not much changed. Until, that is, I ran across this:

I’ve been tuned in to Leo and his blog ZenHabits for a few years now, and whether he knows it or not, I am a pretty devout reader. He has been able to accomplish what some small part of me desires: freedom from distraction, minimalism, simplicity…zen?

I’ve been reading through this free book of his over the last day or two, and man, is it good. Already I’ve seen some things that I wanted to change, and the few that I have implemented have helped get me on the path to more focus.

This all came about because of a strong desire to do so much, and feeling like I had so little time to do it. But, the reality is quite contrary to my perception. I have lots of time; that I tend to fill with distractions like TV shows and movies, internet browsing, emails, twitter & facebook, etc.

So, to the point: if that sounds at all like you and you would like some help freeing yourself from the distractions that impede your creativity, I point you to Leo’s book on focus. It’s free, and he’s encouraging people to get it, read it, and be changed for the better. In case he ever sees this blog post: thanks Leo.

Worth Repeating: LDS General Conference

Most, if not all of you, know that I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I was born my mother was a member and my Dad was Catholic. He converted when I was seven, and everyone in my immediate family is now an active member of the church.

When I was 19 I left to serve a 2 year mission for the Church in January of 2003, and returned in 2005. I have been married in a temple of the Church for time and all eternity. Soon my wife and I will be bringing a child into the world, and he will be sealed to us as well.

Twice a year, there is a General Conference held by the leadership of the church. They update the members of certain statistics, and we are given an opportunity to sustain the leadership of the church.

Just as important, we are able to hear inspired words from our leaders, including the President of the Church, currently Thomas Monson. We believe him to be a prophet, a man that is led by God, and is a living witness as to His reality and His gospel.

The conference occurs every October and April, and this past weekend was the most recent conference. One of the speakers mentioned a time when he was asked why he lives the way he lives, why he believes what he believes. His answer: “because I believe the Book of Mormon is true.”

I’ve been asked many times in my short 26 years on this earth that same question. And whether I knew it or not, my answer is the same. I live the way I live, make the choices I make, and believe what I believe, all because I believe – I know – that the Book of Mormon is true.

Because I believe that the Book of Mormon is true, I believe that Joseph Smith was a true prophet of God. I believe that he saw Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father as an answer to his sincere and humble prayer.

Because I believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet, I believe that he was inspired by God, and received revelation from Him. We have those revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants.

Because I believe that Joseph Smith is a prophet, I believe that Christ restored His church to the Earth through him. He restored the priesthood, which is the authority to act in His name.

Because I believe that Christ restored His church through Joseph Smith, I believe that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is the only true church on the earth, containing the priesthood authority, and direct communication with God. I believe that there is a living prophet today and that he receives revelation on our behalf.

And it is because I believe all these things that I live the way I do, and act the way I act, and believe what I believe.

We are blessed, all of us, not just the members of the church, to have a prophet on the earth today, one that can receive revelation on our behalf. I encourage you to read the things that were said this weekend here.

In addition, I’m going to attempt to be a better “example of the believers”. It was an inspiring weekend for me, and hope that you might look into some of the things the leaders of the church are saying during this time.

General Conference: Worth Repeating

Worth Repeating: Focus

Wow, has it been…nevermind. Yes it has, but I didn’t make any promises to the frequency of blog posts (I think…), so here we go, another blog post. Yeah!

I was talking with a friend tonight (HEY PATRICK!), and we got rolling into some pretty good stuff. It reminded me of some quotes I read, credited to the great Andrew Carnegie:

The average person puts only 25% of his energy and ability into his work. The world takes off its hat to those who put in more than 50% of their capacity, and stands on its head for those few and far between souls who devote 100%.

As I grow older, I pay less attention to what men say. I just watch what they do.

Concentrate your energies, your thoughts and your capital. The wise man puts all his eggs in one basket and watches the basket.

Concentration is my motto – first honesty, then industry, then concentration.

Here is the prime condition of success: Concentrate your energy, thought and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged. Having begun on one line, resolve to fight it out on that line, to lead in it, adopt every improvement, have the best machinery, and know the most about it.

I hope you took the time to read through everything in italics, as there’s some food for thought there. Here’s what I’ve been chewing on:

Currently I’ve been splitting my focus on a few different endeavors:

  1. A new website that I’m not saying much about, but am in the stage where I can’t move forward without investors and their corresponding dollars.
  2. Writing a screenplay that I’m not talking much about because the first draft isn’t done yet.
  3. Sending out query letters to agents and managers for a screenplay my writing partner and I wrote.
  4. Pitching 2 different movies and a TV pilot to anyone who will hear.
  5. Finding enough freelance work to pay the bills and keep me from a $10 job at Costco.

So yeah, spread a little thin I may be.  And it all hit me tonight.

I’d been thinking about this stuff all day, but maybe that right there is the problem, I’d been thinking about all this stuff all day. Is my focus split too much? Too many eggs for not enough baskets?

So I’m having trouble deciding how to move forward from here. Do I keep going full steam on all endeavors at the same time? Or should I focus on bringing one to fruition before moving on to the next project? My deal there is how do I know which one to work on first? Dilemma!

So, while I do feel that focusing more is important, I’m not sure how to implement it. I’m open, nay hoping for comments and your perspective. Hence the blog title…

For those less inclined to comment, would you take a second to vote on a poll?