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.

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