Friday, April 06, 2007

Tools of the trade

If you're reading this, chances are you might be procrastinating instead of writing. Chances also are that I'm procrastinating rewriting my Nicholl scripts in writing this blog entry. I guess screenwriting is what happens between the procrastination. Except, in the case of one procrastinating London writer, he used the time that he wasn't working on his novel to learn Cocoa and write what appears to be a pretty good writing-outlining-storyboarding package for the Mac.

Scrivener is not a dedicated screenwriting program but does have several features that might make it appealing to Mac-based scripters looking for an alternative to Final Draft. First, according to the website, "it does have basic screenplay and stageplay formatting features." Allowing the user to then import the formatted text into a suite like Movie Magic (or a regular word processor) for fine tuning and cleanup. Second, important to the preparation stage, Scrivener has extensive outline, research, and storyboard tools. For writers who prefer the index cards method of scene arrangement, for example, the program has a virtual corkboard built right in. And you can dump all your related materials, in whatever digital format, into Scrivener to keep it at your fingertips. Other features include full-screen editing mode and document "snapshots," which make it handy to return to earlier versions of a work instantly. At only $34.99, it's also a fraction the cost of Final Draft or Movie Magic. I haven't tried it yet myself but it seems like things are moving in the direction of converging the outlining side of the process with the actual writing tools into a single program.

Also in the same vein is Montage, which I've been checking in on over the past year. Release 1.0, as John August noted, was not ready for prime time. But the Mariner Software folks have been welcoming of the criticism and implemented many of the suggested changes to subsequent revisions. Version 1.2.2 looks and feels much improved. The main stumbling block I had previously -- script formatting that was unwieldy, unpredictable, and not as seamless as Final Draft -- seems to have been resolved. I can type without interruption and the words are formatted on the fly just as I intended. I don't think they've solved the issue of tracking changes to revisions yet, but if you are a Mac user and want basic screenwriting combined with outlining and scene-based arrangement functions, you might give Montage a 30-day free trial now. I think it's close.


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