Writers’ Software Adds Features

I predict this is the first and last time I will write about software on this blog. If that prognostication proves false, may the high-tech gods not hurl down a thunderbolt and crash my computer.

Zadie Smith, the British writer whose fifth novel Swing Time was just published to good reviews, has suggested that novelists divide into two categories: Macro Planners and Micro Managers. As I intend to explore this taxonomy in a future post, I will only summarize it here. Macro planners lay out a story’s structure in advance, while micro managers make it up as they go along. I am a macro planner; Smith a micro manager.

Compared to novelists, scriptwriters include a higher proportion of macro planners. This is because scripts – whether for the stage or the big or little screen – place a premium on economy whereas novels have an appetite for digression. If a novelist wants to wander around a character’s mind for 30 pages, go for it. That sort of meandering would render any script dead on arrival.

Macro planners need planning tools. These can be scribbles on a cocktail napkin, typed notes, an outline, Post-It notes, or index cards. It would not be all that unusual to employ all of these at one writing stage or another.

Final Draft” is the dominant scriptwriting software. This is particularly true for the L.A. crowd (TV and movie writers), but it is also used extensively by playwrights, including me.

Scrivener” is another writing program, popular among prose authors, that is also used by many macro-planning scriptwriters as an auxiliary to Final Draft. Scrivener’s appeal to scriptwriters is its capabilities for organizing, outlining, and index-carding – those tools prized by macro planners.

Final Draft recently released an upgrade, “Final Draft 10“. My response when I first heard about it was ho-hum, figuring it was just another software upgrade featuring marginal tweaks in order to get more money out of me.

But as I investigated further I discovered powerful new features in this upgrade, including something called a BeatBoard. Imagine an entire office wall covered in corkboard on which hundreds of index cards are pinned and moved around as a story is created and refined. (Walls like this can be found all over L.A.)

Well BeatBoard is a digital wall to which digital index cards of varying sizes and colors can be affixed and moved around. Furthermore, the screen can be divided so that one portion is the script and beside it is the BeatBoard wall (see below). This mirrors my own writing process. By conducting that process digitally, I gain a whole new level of efficiency.

fd10_features_2000x1250_structurepoints_win

Prose writers who use a similar macro planning process – historians, biographers and memoirists come to mind – might also want to take a look at Final Draft because it includes a text writing option in addition to various scriptwriting templates. By using a plain text template a prose author would gain access to the powerful new BeatBoard feature while writing her manuscript.

I have been using Final Draft 10 for a month or so and am delighted with the BeatBoard feature. Writers who dwell among the macro planners might want to investigate further.

Don’t miss a thing. Subscribe to Duane’s blog and posts will be delivered to your inbox. Just click on “Email” in the upper right (under the “Stage Door” image) and follow the simple instructions. Only takes a few seconds. You’ll then get a confirmation email.

Cartoon Tomfoolery (#544)

You are invited to play this quick minor league-version of The New Yorker Caption Contest. Every week I enter the magazine’s contest, using it as a comic writing exercise. Below are five captions. Three are the magazine’s semifinal selections, one is the winner, and two are mine. See if you […] Continue reading »

Separating Art from the Artist

If the estimation of art depended on the personal behavior of those who create it, the world’s artistic heritage would be vastly reduced. We value art for its ability to stimulate us intellectually, move us emotionally, delight us aesthetically; not because its creator is a paragon of virtue. Indeed, many […] Continue reading »

Cartoon Tomfoolery (#543)

You are invited to play this quick minor league-version of The New Yorker Caption Contest. Every week I enter the magazine’s contest, using it as a comic writing exercise. Below are five captions. Three are the magazine’s semifinal selections, one is the winner, and two are mine. See if you […] Continue reading »

Cartoon Tomfoolery (#542)

You are invited to play this quick minor league-version of The New Yorker Caption Contest. Every week I enter the magazine’s contest, using it as a comic writing exercise. Below are five captions. Three are the magazine’s semifinal selections, one is the winner, and two are mine. See if you […] Continue reading »

Pixar Exec Discusses Storytelling

The animation film studio Pixar is responsible for some of the most successful movies of the last two decades, including Toy Story, Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Monsters, Inc., and Cars. The worldwide income of Pixar films is $10.8 billion. For screenwriters and other professional storytellers, Pixar is more […] Continue reading »

Cartoon Tomfoolery (#541)

You are invited to play this quick minor league-version of The New Yorker Caption Contest. Every week I enter the magazine’s contest, using it as a comic writing exercise. Below are five captions. Three are the magazine’s semifinal selections, one is the winner, and two are mine. See if you […] Continue reading »

Wagner as Monster and Redeemer

Richard Wagner reigned supreme over the arts in the 19th Century. That is not only history’s judgement, it was also Wagner’s. The maestro’s many problems did not include a diminutive ego. Wagner’s abilities rose to the level of genius in the way we think of for Shakespeare and Mozart. (One […] Continue reading »

Cartoon Tomfoolery (#540)

You are invited to play this quick minor league-version of The New Yorker Caption Contest. Every week I enter the magazine’s contest, using it as a comic writing exercise. Below are five captions. Three are the magazine’s semifinal selections, one is the winner, and two are mine. See if you […] Continue reading »