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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!

Stay tuned for…

A review of one of my favorite restaurants. Hints (because it’s a secret and I don’t want my wife to know where I’m taking her for her birthday):

Location: SLC

Type of Cuisine: Italian

Cool fact: Located in an old tire shop.

Any guesses???

Perspective | Why?

I have had a few questions from friends and family the last few days about “the blog”. I’ve wanted to write a post like this but haven’t been able to find the right tone yet. But here goes nothin’…

I have always felt that I have the, call it what you will, gift of a wide perspective. I’m a thinker by nature; I can think back to how I liked to know how things worked, so I had boxes of toys and electronics that I had taken apart and put back together as a kid. I can remember how friends used to come to me to help solve their dilemmas because of my seemingly uncanny ability to help them step outside their problem and see it from a different perspective.

When I was serving as a missionary for my church in Washington DC, I was able to experience a lot of different perspectives, and what happened when two different perspectives were shared. It was interesting to hear a perspective from a sister missionary when we arrived in DC from Utah, and she saw some kids playing in the street, when she said “This reminds me of the Cosby show!”

It was also interesting to hear how two people could look at the same thing and come out with two completely different views. Take the LDS, or “Mormon” church…I don’t really need to elaborate to explain how varied the perspectives are here. My reasons for serving a mission was to spread the gospel, or “good news” and share the love of Christ with people. On more than one occasion I was yelled at, injured, and called Satan, because someone else saw my mission differently.

A few seconds listening to the news during an election can show you how opinions may vary on any number of different topics. I’ve actually tried to avoid political conversations for this very reason, because some people tend to take a differing opinion a little to personally.

When I left the mission, I was given a lesson, of sorts, about perspective. It went something like this:

First, this postulate: Truth is a knowledge of things as they are, as they were, and as they are to come.

In philosophy, a phenomenon is something that we perceive, in other words, “Things as they are”.

The other option, then, is when we see something differently from “as it is”. In this case, our perception differs from “truth”, whatever that might mean, depending on the situation.

Someone who has a so-called “narrow perspective”, given this postulate and its explanation, basically is not seeing things as they are, but rather as they choose to see them. The goal – at least, my goal – is to have a larger overlay, which is to say make sure that the way I see things is the way they are. Get it?

Ok, sorry if that was poorly worded or too hard to follow. The gist is, that there are truths and facts all around us, whether or not we choose to see things the way they are is up to us, and would be the determining factor in whether our perspective is wide or narrow.

So what’s the point? Why do we want a wide perspective? Allow me to list a few benefits:

Slower to anger, because of the ability to see other points of view.

Slower to take offense, for the same reason.

Humility, and equally as important less pride.

Charity, because we can more easily recognize the needs of others.

I’m sure there are many more, but for sake of brevity, I’ll leave those very broad benefits as a starting point.

Now, I’ve tried not to be too polarizing with my blog posts and my perspectives, but I also have left out some of the more, um… substantial posts as well. Maybe we’ll get there, but I’m not a huge fan of controversy, so it may be some time coming. We’ll have to wait and “see”.