Over the past year I’ve been thinking seriously about scriptwriting for the first time in a long time. A few screenplay ideas have offered themselves up as they always do — the majority of them irreverent comedies I’d like to write mostly to entertain my dull self — but I’ve also had a stageplay nagging at me in an uncomfortably persistent manner. As professional writers do when faced with the harrowing prospect of devoting time and energy to new projects, I finally relented to inspiration and budgeted some haphazard internet surfing time to looking at productivity tools as a begrudging means of avoiding any actual work.
Scriptwriting Software in Context
Before I offer up the results of my lackadaisical survey, a word about scriptwriting software in general. Computer technology has advanced so far during the course of my life that where success was once solely determined by performance specifications and productivity, high-tech hardware and software are now indisputably fashion-first industries. Precisely because everything from processing power to storage can be had in generic abundance for literal pennies, the marketplace is now more concerned with metrics like hipness, cultural relevance and branding than reliability and usability. Even something as purportedly revolutionary as the tablet computer is, for all its hype, simply a more comfortable way to kill time on the couch, albeit with panache.
So if you take nothing else from this post, remember: scriptwriting software will not make you a better writer, a more professional writer or a more successful writer. Most of the scripts I worked on for cash money were either written on a typewriter, typed up by someone else on a typewriter or word-processing program, or written by me on a computer using a now-defunct commercial package of macros compatible with various versions of Microsoft Word. Even when dedicated scriptwriting applications hit the market I stayed with my old-school methods, and I don’t remember feeling as if my work suffered. In fact, to the contrary, I often had a sense of smug satisfaction when I encountered grumbling comments from early-adopting and agitated peers who hd slaved themselves to a fussy proprietary formatting program. Life lesson: be very leery of installing an additional layer of balky complexity between you and your work.
A decade later, when I was primarily writing for interactive companies my work flow became even simpler. I still used Word, but instead of buying a new version of macros ever year or two for each new bloated release from Microsoft, I grabbed a small set of freeware macros off the internet that covered 99% of the formatting I intended to use. Small customizations to the default settings covered the rest, and all without so much as a separate interface or complex control-key learning curve.
Whether I’m really, truly interested in writing a script (or two, or five) I don’t know. One thing I am sure of, however, is that for the time being I’ll be happier pretending those shiny new ideas in my head won’t go to waste, so looking at scriptwriting software seems a reasonable response in any case. It’s probably been eight years since I used even the simplest tools for scriptwriting, and if I’m going to revisit that mode of storytelling I should probably do so cognizant of the latest tools. Particularly if the features I care about most are available in a single product, eliminating any need on my part to create workarounds or hacks, or to once again bend Word to my rusty iron will. [ Read more ]