Writing software

(Olga Markovic) #1

Hey everyone.

Just wanted to ask what software other writers use for writing their web series.

I recently purchased Final Draft 11 (first time user) but it doesn’t seem to have a way to do multiple episodes that are linked, it seems you just have to open a new document for each episode. This makes the beat board and story map harder to use since you cant just have it all linked in the one document. Or alternatively I guess I could put all the episodes in 1 document and therefore be able to link to the beat board.

Unlike Celtx which has a dashboard for the series with all the episodes making tagging for scheduling etc easier. Celtx just turns out more expensive at something like $40 per month for the episodic version.

Up until now I have just been using the free Celtx version putting all episodes in the one document.

Just wondering what others use for their web series writing/scheduling software and if anyone had any tips/ideas as to what they do. That would be super helpful.

Thanks :slight_smile:

(Bri Castellini) #2

Tagging writers! @HackettKate @movieguyjon @ghettonerdgirl @filmwritr4 @OSTSG @hermdelica @Psinapod @Alicia_Carroll

(Meg Carroway) #3

Maybe I’m just calling the same thing by a different name, but what is a beat board? And how does it interact with your actual documents? I just have a beat sheet of my outline and then I write it based on that, just switching tabs.

(Herman Wang) #4

Honestly, I just use a standard word processor (from LibreOffice) in conjunction with a spreadsheet to hold my beat breakouts. It’s probably a little more manual labour but I haven’t yet made the plunge into scripting software.

And I do my entire season (6 episodes, roughly 5 minutes each) in one document. For the small amount of script I write, it’s reasonably manageable, but if I were to write a TV series, I’d definitely use something like Final Draft.

(Bri Castellini) #5

Yeah same- I write everything in one document (though I do use either Final Draft or the cloud service Writer Duet) because my writing process is founded on momentum and starting new docs for each episode breaks that for me

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #6

I use Celtx (free version) and label the episodes within my Season script. When I write, I do it all at once then go back and edit to see where the episode breaks should be. This has worked for me so far.

(Bri Castellini) #7

Wait so you don’t write your season with episode breaks in mind? You write it like a screenplay and just section it out later? That’s crazy to me! But I’m also very much a structured writer, so I like to know what my cliffhangers are and where my final beats are and things like that.

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #8

I wrote each episode separately for my 1st Season and that didn’t work as well because the story seemed choppy (in comparison to 2nd season). When I went back to episode break for Season 2 there were some cliffhangers or obvious moments to end the ep. I guess because I have “source material” I write it all at once and that makes sense to me.

(Bri Castellini) #9

That is so fascinating. Do you write full length screenplays as well? I think for me I struggle a lot with stories that are that long without “breaks” so knowing what each episode will be makes outlining way more straightforward and makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something periodically even when the overall project isn’t done yet.

(Ghetto Nerd Girl) #10

I have written full length pieces, but they’re not as fun because it’s not as “punchy” to me. When you write a web series you cut out a lot of fluff because you want each second of screen time to count. That doesn’t happen as much in feature scripts. I still wonder how they find the right times to put commercial breaks in feature films on TV. Sometimes the break is very abrupt!

(Arthur Vincie) #11

I wrote the whole first season in one script in Final Draft, and figured out the episode breaks once I had a draft - but I kept everything in one script even after I figured out the breaks.

I scheduled the shoot as a regular feature film in MovieMagic Scheduling (relatively expensive but I’ve had it for a long time).

I used to use Word for writing. But as a line producer I had too many producers expecting me to digest FDX files.

(Alicia Carroll) #12

I am VERY passionate about software discussions! I personally think Final Draft is overpriced, and unless a production buys it for me, I refuse to spend the money. Here is what I do/have/would spend money on:

  1. Fade In! - my current software, per the suggestion of Craig Mazin on script notes, I gave it a try. It does pretty much everything Final draft can do, with the added bonus that you can import and export to other script file formats!!! Game changer!!! So i can import a final draft file, edit in fade in, and export to final draft if I am sending to a collaborator or someone that needs it in that format. It’s a flat fee, and you don’t have to pay for upgrades like final draft. It’s my favorite so far.
  2. Writer Duet - great for writing teams! They have a free version and a paid version, and it’s cloud-based. I found it was super easy to save versions and track changes without things getting confusing.

Other notable options:

  1. Highland - a free write software that lets you not be bothered with formatting on the first write. Can also be compatible with other file formats and is an affordable option. it was created by a screenwriter, so that is a bonus.
  2. Adobe Story - a good addition if you have a creative cloud subscription. I like their project panel, it makes it easy to look at all the projects you are working on and toggle between them. Also integrates well with production and post-production tools - anything part of the Adobe suite pretty much, which is very helpful.

As for saving episodes in one file - I’ve actually never done that before! Could be an interesting tactic, but I tend to focus more on having my outlines or more arc-based work in one document, but episodes are written individually. As long as you stay organized off the page, it shouldn’t be an issue. I come from television, so I think I just adopted those tactics. I also have a writers room for my show, so we had to write episodes separately - which made the ease of changing file formats in Fade In super important!

Hope that helps!

(Bri Castellini) #13

FYI- Adobe has discontinued Story so if you have any files up there you gotta download them before it totally goes away

(Jonathan Hardesty) #14

Not sure if it has the specific functionality you’re looking for but all my screenwriter pals recommend Fade In. I’ve used the fully featured free demo (uses watermarks) and really like it compared to literally any other screenwriting software. Not nearly as buggy, a prompt support staff and just a cleaner and easier to navigate interface. Again, not sure of its deeper features, but it was a pleasant way to write S2 episodes of Flagon.

(Melissa Malone) #15

I’ve been using CELTx free program for what feels like a millions years… Like @ghettonerdgirl we write our seasons out in full length and then make the episode breaks later down the line. So we just write everything in one document. :grinning:

(Bri Castellini) #16

What does everyone in here use for outlining/developing? Just a text doc of ideas? A particular program? I used to use Scrivener back in my prose days and it had an awesome outlining and character building section, but I don’t want to have to buy it again if I’m not using it as my primary writing destination anymore and I’m curious how everyone organizes their planning process!

(Arthur Vincie) #17


I’m usually stewing for a while on a project before I write it so I don’t outline much. I’ll just go off and write some notes down in a text do if I get stuck.

(Herman Wang) #18

(Spoilers if you haven’t seen The Spell Tutor Season 3 yet)

This is an outline from our Season 3 arc. The story points are on the left, the grid on the right is so I can get a good sense that the characters are being seen enough, and there’s enough of the “good stuff”: action and magic effects.

(Emma Drewry) #19

a program that I don’t think gets enough love is (building off bri’s quick mention) Scrivener which is $40, allows notes, multiple episodes, research, folders, etc., and can export in fdx format, plus it also has formats for essays, comic books, interactive scripts-- a ton of stuff. i use final draft for a solid 60% of my writing, but if i’m doing episodic drafts i use scrivener for planning. you can do split screen and have notes AND a script open in the same program which is also super helpful. it also has a 30-day free trial (and that’s 30 days of use not thirty days from start to finish-- it only counts the days you open) if you want to test drive it.

i’m a huge fan & recommend it for anyone writing anything

(Emma Drewry) #20

this is what my scrivener process looks like-- it’s blocked out because i’m under an NDA. i have folders for specific beats, folders for the actual script, and i use split screen to remind myself of notes while i’m assembling and smoothing. i often have much more extensive set ups than this, esp when i’m doing episodic, but the computer those were on was recently stolen :sweat_smile: i usually edit in final draft after i’ve gotten the first draft on the page, but i’m such a pre-planner that i just can’t write my first drafts in final draft