It was not just a life-saver, it was a vital part of the kit. It was called Movie Magic Screenwriter and was developed from the original software called Scriptor in the 1990s. It was both ‘cutting edge’ and ‘industry standard.’
What did it do? Well, it formatted the text as you went. Vital in screenwriting which is technically quite challenging to format correctly. Using the software meant you didn’t have to be thinking about that while you were undertaking the creative /technical challenge of writing for screen. In screenwriting there are many rules which MUST be followed. Movies are ‘big business’ and you have to play by the rules (however ‘groovy’ your concept is.) You have to please financiers and producers and a load of bods who will only accept industry standard in output. Your ‘creativity’ is your own business. But unless you deliver it correctly you’ll not stand a chance. Time’s money, right, they are not there to indulge you.
The screenwriting software served me well through more than a decade writing for TV and film. The latest version I have is Screenwriter 2000 (which tells you how long ago I stopped writing screenplays – 2005 if I’m not mistaken.) They are now on version 6. If you want a history lesson here’s the place to look back nostalgically http://www.screenplay.com/history
However, there are always elephant traps for the unwary. Not all software is created equally and not all writing software is a technical tool. On the back of the entirely useful tools (and yes, they are just tools to make your life easier) for formatting screenplays (and other types of writing) was spawned a load of software which claims to be able to do the creative part of it for you. Run, friends, run for your lives from this sort of software.
Why would you even want a computer to write your work for you (apart from, obviously if you think it’s a way to untold riches)? Isn’t the creative part the good part? If you don’t have ‘ideas’ and aren’t prepared to learn how to construct a story for your given narrative medium then frankly, you shouldn’t bother AND no software is going to save you.
I hit the wall this year. I’d tried everything (except the obvious) and just couldn’t get my story to do what I wanted. It got me thinking nostalgically about the happy days when Movie Magic Screenwriter actually made a complex writing process (developing scenes and narrative patterns) easier. Scrivener seemed to offer some of the same features – and I needed those features.
Enter Scrivener. Stage Left. It has helped me think about, develop and test some complex structures. You, dear reader, eventually will probably be completely unaware of these, as the whole point is for the writer to lead the reader on a subliminal journey as well as the obvious plot/character stuff. The key fact is, it helped me see the ‘story’ in a different way and in doing so helped resolve many ‘issues’ I had which I couldn’t quite see.
I can’t claim to have fully got to grips with Scrivener or all its capacities, and some of them I’m sure I will never use. But I splashed out £32 on it (having used it free for 30 days of course) and it’s the best money I’ve spent this year.
I should add that a really excellent editor (stop blushing Pat) helped just as much. Never underestimate the human touch, honest editorial feedback from someone who ‘gets’ your work is incredibly valuable, but sadly, at least in my case, incredibly rare. But a good editor and a good ‘tool’ share the same fundamental features – they save you time, freeing you to invest that time more creatively.
So, I’m a convert and have added it to my ‘industry standard’ professional toolkit. Note that I still use the word ‘professional’ even though I’ve retired from the ‘profession’. For me professional is a state of mind (or being) not a reflection of income status. I have long said that ‘creativity is not an industry’ but I keep to my own creative ‘standards’ and using ‘professional tools’ as TOOLS is still a great way to create the kind of work I want to create.
The amateur/professional debate is even more complex than the indie/mainstream one. Perhaps we need to look beyond these traditional definitions and redefine as we realign.
Any person who creates knows that ‘free’ is a double edged sword. And that ‘you get what you pay for’ is a complete myth, if not often downright lie. But the problem is not with the creativity, and definitely not with the ‘tools’ of creativity per se. The problem is with the ‘system’ or ideology or marketing or profit motive. That’s what ‘mainstream’ and ‘professional’ is all about.
Between policy and practice there is purportedly a sweet spot which might be termed praxis. It’s rare as hen’s teeth folks. I’d advise you to run from anything which involves creative policy or creative strategy as you would from software that claims to do your writing from you. Unless of course you want to be the next… (insert your own aspirational ‘creative/professional’ GOD here.)
I don’t have Gods, and I don’t talk about software as a fetish item. Tools folks. It’s all just tools to make life easier. That’s all. Use the right tool for the job, life gets that little bit easier.
Will Scrivener work for you? I can’t say. It depends a) how your mind works b) what you want to do with it and c) whether you are willing to learn how to use the tool.
Personally I have no desire to learn how to use twitter or a smartphone – but Scrivener opens up doors for creativity whereas I feel both of the former are simply designed to suck away my time (and time is the currency of pure creativity, in my opinion.)
So. I’m a convert. And in case you’re interested, here are my other ‘tricks of the trade’ as re Industry Standard work-tools.This is not advertising. Just personal experience of how to use my precious creative time most efficiently.
My ‘industry standard’ publishing toolkit includes:
Adobe Fireworks for making book covers. You can’t buy this any more, it’s not supported and I have it on an ‘old’ computer not connected to the internet because when it finally dies I have declared that to be the day I’ll stop publishing. I’m too long in the tooth now to learn ‘new’ complex software – I’ve never fully got to grips with Photoshop – and however hard I try I cannot find anything that does the job as simply as Fireworks for book cover design. I do have an ‘old’ version of Photoshop which I use simply for converting Fireworks jpeg files to ‘industry standard’ pdf files for Ingram Spark.
Adobe Acrobat XI – this converts word documents to ‘industry standard’ PDF text files. You can get ‘free’ conversions but they don’t do the same thing – there are ‘protocols’ that must be followed to get files acceptable.
Microsoft Word. I use Word 2010 – still often regretting upgrading from the earlier version because that shift from .doc to .docx has been a real pain (though now the coders seem to be catching up). I have always found Word (I’ve tried free alternatives) to be the best for text document creation.
And now SCRIVENER.
Calibre (I’m not sure this is ‘industry standard’ but it should be). Again, I don’t know if I use it ‘properly’ or fully, but its become my i ‘go to’ programme for creating ebooks. (I believe Scrivener may have similar functions but Calibre is easy and free so I’m sticking with it for now.)
I’ll not go into a digression about the recent history of ebook formatting/publications except to point out that we live in a fast changing world where what used to be hard is now a lot easier – mostly because the ‘big boys’ now want everyone in the world to be able to upload ebooks. So please, please, please, don’t even think of paying someone north of £50 to format your ebook. Learn how to do it for free yourself! Unless you truly have more money than sense.
My toolkit also houses tools that are ‘more than’ strictly tools including Weebly ( I converted from Wordpress some years ago and have never looked back) and my other big ‘conversion’ of this year; Ingram Spark.
So I guess this year I’ve become a serial converter. Who knew?
I’d held out for as long as possible with ‘keeping it real’ via a UK based print on demand company. Their service started to slip… but they kept the big advantage of a choice of paper stock (something important to me but of increasingly less importance to the reader as we get used to ‘new’ and ‘different’). I was tempted towards Createspace (in a moment of weakness and desperation regarding distribution ‘models’) but they are not a good fit for me. My cold-war with Amazon has had to turn into a peaceful co-existence, but I like to look at alternatives wherever possible. Ingram Spark have provided a middle ground.
All print/publishing is a ‘big boy’ game, however ‘artisan’ we like to think ourselves. And you have to make compromises. In such a situation my stance is to aim for the path that is least bad for me as creator and you as reader – holding the middlemen to account as best I can.
The only constant in this digital world is change. Reacting to change takes time and requires eternal vigilance and constant reappraisal. That’s another good reason why employing the ‘right’ tools for the job can help free up time for the real goal – creative freedom.
By this time next year, a lot of what I’ve written here will be virtual chip paper. But some of the underlying truths remain the same. Which reminds me of an excellent quote:
“Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it. The river was cut by the world's great flood and runs over rocks from the basement of time. On some of the rocks are timeless raindrops. Under the rocks are the words, and some of the words are theirs. I am haunted by waters.”
― Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It and Other Stories
Now that’s a great story about fishing. (and much much more). And it’s something to read while you’re waiting for me to finally catch The One That Got Away. The movie is equally good.
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