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Thread: Screenwriting tips, software, online scripts, recommends, where to submit...?

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  1. #1
    Mostly harmless SuperModerator dpaterso's Avatar
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    Feb 2005

    Lightbulb Screenwriting tips, software, online scripts, recommends, where to submit...?

    Please note: the links to articles, software and screenplay display sites below are offered as information only, gathered together in the one thread for ease of reference. By listing them here I am not endorsing any of the websites or products, which you could find yourself with a simple internet search. Nor are they listed in any particular order of priority or preference. Nor is the list in any way complete, it's just the handful of links and services I've read about. Feel free to recommend any corrections or additions, or to add your own contacts and preferences to this thread.

    The quick, hassle-free version:

    You don't have screenwriting software? Download and install Trelby or Celtx. (Update: change to the way Celtx works, it's in the cloud, you work online instead of downloading the software. I think.)

    You've never read any screenplays before? Stop right there. Go here or here. Read 100 scripts and see how the written words translated into the movies you loved (or hated). Oh, wait, you're special and don't need to read screenplays? Well okay then.

    That's it. Go write a great screenplay. You've watched movies all your life, you know how they work, just do what they do.

    The longer version:

    This message started off small, with just a couple of helpful links, and kinda grew with subsequent edits. If I could figure a way to index various sections so you could click on links and go there, like a web page, I would. Alas you just have to scroll down manually to find the following:

    1. Absolute Write's screenwriting articles & tips
    2. Our Screenwriting critique forum - upload loglines & script pages for feedback
    3. Advice & Tips From Pro Screenwriters & Industry Insiders
    4. Screenplays & Transcripts (to read and download)
    5. Screenplay format guides
    6. Screenwriting software (including free software, downloadable demos, MS Word templates)
    7. Saving your screenplay to plain text format, suitable for copy/pasting into forum messages
    8. How-to books recommended by members
    9. Outlines, Beat Sheets, Treatments & Query Letters
    10. How long should my screenplay be?
    11. Courier Font
    12. Telephone conversations (a Frequently Asked Question)
    13. Two Brads or Three? (a question that also gets asked a lot - really!)
    14. Links to various how-to articles, these are available all over the 'net
    15. "Hero's Journey" templates

    See also:
    • Msg #2 in this thread - more helpful links
    • Msg #3 in this thread - prodcos, agents, managers -- how/where to submit queries
      plus screenwriting contests - a great way to get into the industry


    a. Absolute Write's own screenwriting articles & tips page, which features:
    • Links to spec screenwriters' websites, places to submit screenplays, general screenwriting links, directories, services for screenwriters.
    • Articles related to the business and craft of screenwriting.
    • Interviews with screenwriters, playwrights, producers, and agents.
    • Columns and editorials related to screenwriting and playwriting.
    • Film and Video Reviews
    • Bewares: Post or read warnings
    • Sample screenwriting contracts (option, life rights, release form)
    • The WGA signatory literary agents list
    • Screenwriting terms you should know


    b. You can post loglines and script pages in our Screenwriting critique forum for feedback. The Share Your Work area is password-protected to stop webcrawlers and bots seeing your material. The password is: vista (Note that there's a minimum post rule before you can post something in SYW for critique, see here.)

    Read the sticky threads in SYW Screenwriting before you post for the first time! They could save you a lot of time and hassle:
    ˇ What makes a great logline?
    ˇ If you're posting a logline, READ THIS!
    ˇ How to save your screenplay to plain text suitable for copy/pasting into forum msgs


    c. Advice & Tips From Pro Screenwriters & Industry Insiders

    Author and screenwriter Alex Epstein's Crafty Screenwriting site has interesting info and FAQs. Also see this FAQ on another site, well worth a read if you're just starting out.

    Mr. JayVee's (Jim Vines) The Working Screenwriter blog is well worth a look, go take a peek at the Q&A article and FATAL FLAWS.
    May 09 update: take a peek at this thread which is full of links to articles of interest:
    Here's a "best of" my screenwriting blog...
    (Sept 09 update, website changed to blog, new layout, same useful info)

    Visit screenwriter Bill Martell's Script Secrets site every day to soak up Bill's screenwriting tips. Take a look at the various links to his classes, seminars, CDs, blue books, etc. Bill has also made many of his produced scripts available for educational purposes.

    Another site that comes highly recommended by users is Chris Lockhart's TwoAdverbs which offers industry insider information and much more. Y'all might find Chris's The Construction of a Logline article especially interesting.

    Screenwriter John August has a ton of useful information about screenwriting on his site including scripts, outlines and beat sheets:
    "The best way to learn screenwriting is read a bunch of scripts"
    How to write a scene:
    How to introduce a character:
    How to write dialogue:
    ...and many more excellent articles.

    Lorelei Armstrong
    has a whole bunch of helpful articles at including The Twelve Steps.

    Phil Gladwin, London updated: 1 Nov 2007
    "I'm a pro screenwriter and editor, been in the industry 12 years now, and I've got a blog going on. The most recent articles are a Final Draft giveaway to the most prolific commenter over the next month, reviews of Control and The Counterfeiters, and an account of where I got the initial ideas for the episodes of the Sarah Jane Adventures, a Doctor Who spinoff show that is going out this next Monday on BBC1."


    d. Screenplays & Transcripts

    Go to the following sites to download free-for-educational-purposes screenplays. Pick your top 20 favorite movies, read the scripts and discover how the words translated to the images and dialogue you loved! The answers to many basic "how do I...?" questions can be found by reading scripts! movie scripts TV scripts hosts transcripts from many current and past/cancelled TV shows, if you're wanting to polish up your dialogue. Here are just some sample links:

    Alas all gone now, pages not found as of March 2013. hosts screenplays for television pilots, episodes and series bibles for popular past and present TV shows.
    Ditto, gone, March 2013.

    BBC Writersroom script archive:
    URL updated March 2013, working OK.


    e. Screenplay format guides

    Nicholl Fellowships - Screenwriting Resources page
    Check out the "screenplay format sample" PDF

    From the Writers Resources section on the Script Frenzy challenge website:

    "How to Format a Screenplay"

    "How to Format a TV Script"

    Script Frenzy ran until 2012.

    Samples from BBC Writersroom:

    Page not found, March 2013

    A Google search on "screenplay format" will list a whole bunch of other examples. Screenwriting packages pretty much handle formatting for you, check out the Screenwriting software links below.


    f. Screenwriting software

    Please read all of this section, not just the first paragraphs/links!

    You can download trial versions for the following two industry standard products, each of which will go some way to teaching you correct format. Also take some time to read their onboard help panels and tutorials. Note that save/export/copy functions may be limited, printed pages may have a TRIAL VERSION watermark, etc. Other than that, they're useable. If you're a student, you could be entitled to discounted software.

    Movie Magic 6 (older versions may still be referred to as Movie Magic 2000 or MM2000)
    Downloadable demo allows you to work with a script but then locks the script. Copy/paste disabled.

    Final Draft
    Downloadable demo allows you to edit/save up to 15 pages.

    However if you're an aspiring screenwriter learning the craft and don't need the industry standard packages just yet, there are free and/or cheaper alternatives:

    Celtx - fully functional screenwriting application, recommended by several members. FREE.

    Page2Stage is now free! See post #8 further down this thread.

    Trelby - fully functional screenwriting application. FREE.

    The Rough Draft word processor has a screenwriting mode that's not bad once you get used to it, but may not be as intuitive as other software written specifically for screenwriters (that's my opinion). Now FREE (formerly donationware).
    Update Aug 2008 - new URL, old URL defunct.

    There's also
    Cinergy Script Editor
    from Mindstar Productions. FREE.
    (Needs high-speed link to avoid server time-out)

    Added Sept 07:
    SceneWriterPro <--dead link, March 2015
    $19.99 special offer price at time of editing.
    Downloadable demo won't save or copy/paste.
    Slightly unusual "write one scene at a time" interface takes a moment to get used to.
    Extensive tutorial.

    Added Jan 08:
    An alternative MS Word template:
    ScreenPro, the 5-Star-Rated Shareware Screenplay Template for Microsoft Word 97/Word 2000/Word 2002/XP/Word 2003 for Windows.
    "The shareware version of ScreenPro is fully functional, but does include reminders asking you to buy the registered version if you appreciate ScreenPro's benefits."

    Added May 09:
    "Hollywood Screenplay software now seems only available in CD or download versions from The actual software site seems to have been closed down." (Thanks ATP)

    Defunct/no longer available software which you may see referenced elsewhere:

    Page no longer found, Dec 2012
    If you're a Microsoft Word user, FREE screenwriting templates are available here:

    There's also Movie Magic's cheaper little cousin,
    Hollywood Screenwriter

    Update May 09: no longer listed/available on the Write Bros. site. (Thanks ATP)

    Sophocles - link removed June 2008, support for this excellent package discontinued. (I am not saying there is a beta version floating around on the internet that seems perfectly usable, or that I'm actually still using it.)


    g. Saving your screenplay to plain text format, suitable for copy/pasting into forum messages

    Most applications allow you to save a script or document in HTML format, which can be viewed in any browser, e.g. Firefox or Internet Explorer. If you can do this (check your File / Save As options) it's possibly the easiest way to post your script pages. Save as HTML/web page. Now open the saved html file in your browser. If the pages look OK then copy/paste from your browser into the forum message editor window. Now skip down to the "If you want to preserve script formatting..." instructions below.

    Application-specific Save As suggestions follow:

    Movie Magic Screenwriter users: select File / Save As / change "Save as type" to "Formatted ASCII"

    Final Draft or MS Word users: select File / Save As / change "Save as type" to "Text Only with Layout (*.txt)"

    Sophocles users: select the Print/Preview window / Export button / change "Save as type" to "Plain Text (*.txt)"

    Celtx users: select File / Export Script / change "Save as type" to "Text Files"
    Seems like v1.0 has moved this option, select Script > Export Script > Save as type = "Text Files"

    Once you save to a plain text file, edit this using Notepad or similar dumb text editor to check everything's OK, and to remove any unwanted pages. Once you're done, copy/paste what's left into the forum message editor box.

    If you want to preserve script formatting you can use CODE tags. These can be added manually (just insert [CODE] just before your script pages, and [/CODE] after your script pages). Or, the smarter way, you can highlight your text in the editor window then select the # button from the icon menu above the editor window (if you hover your mouse arrow over the # button it should say "Wrap [CODE] tags around selected text").

    Always select the Preview Post button to check your message will look the way you expect it to before you actually post.


    h. How-to Books

    The following books have been recommended by various board members and will aid you greatly (listed in no particular order of preference):

    The Screenwriter's Bible by David Trottier
    Screenplay by Syd Field
    Screenwriting 101 by Lew Hunter
    The Writer's Journey by Chris Vogler
    Story by Robert McKee

    As well as the authors' sites, you might want to search for these books on Amazon or other book sites or stores for price comparison.


    i. Outlines, Beat Sheets, Treatments & Query Letters

    Sept '08 addition: Query letter article kindly posted by Chris Lockhart of TwoAdverbs fame:

    Writers Store query letter article listed below with other WS articles, also worth repeating here:
    Writing Successful Query Letters by Susan Kouguell

    Query letter tip from screenwriter Bill Martell:
    And a related tip, SUBMISSION DEFINITIONS
    And the self-explanatory,

    Check out Blake Snyder's website, this beat sheet guru and author of the renowned "Save The Cat" book has plenty of info to offer, and has made some beat sheets available on his Tools page:

    Treatment description plus samples from DMScott (Debé?):

    SimplyScripts - Treatments, Step Sheets and Synopsis:
    InkTip's synopsis page:

    Site link removed per request of other site's Webmaster

    Site link removed per request of other site's Webmaster

    Site link removed per request of other site's Webmaster


    j. How long should my screenplay be? spec script length

    Your screenplay can be anything from 90 pages to 120 pages (these are industry limits that should not be exceeded... don't go less than 90, don't go over 120, not if you're an aspiring screenwriter writing a spec screenplay; pros can do what the heck they want). Think of each page as 1 minute of screen time, so 90 pages is an hour and a half, 120 pages is two hours. Comedies and horror flicks tend to be shorter than character-heavy dramas. Me, I aim for around 110 pages, which I've seen pro screenwriters recommend; if my script turns out to be a few pages shorter or a few pages longer then no worries, I'm still within the industry limits.


    k. Courier Font

    Ever wondered about the font you're using, and whether there's a better one? Check out this thread especially the link to ComicBent's excellent article.

    Note that Movie Magic and Final Draft each come with their own default Courier font, which will install on your computer. This makes any debate over which font to use kinda moot. If you don't have these programs then you can download and install the demos and see what all the fuss is about (see f. Screenwriting software section).


    l. Telephone conversations

    This is a frequently asked question so it's probably worth including here until we get a FAQ thread up and running. A quick forum search will list these older threads that may add a nugget of clarity:

    phone conversations
    phone calls in scripts
    Questions re telephone dialogue, montages, naming characters
    One more question re: phone conversations
    Phone call dialogue

    Pretty much all the pro/expert/guru advice I've read suggests the conventions are:

    (O.S.) if the speaking actor is physically in the location but Off Screen.

    (V.O.) if the actor's voice is dubbed onto the soundtrack, e.g. narrator, phone, radio, TV.

    (FILTERED) is a slightly archaic version of (V.O.) which implies electronic distortion.


    m. Two Brads or Three?

    Two. Leave the middle hole empty. Don't ask me why. It's what people say, and people are always right. (Update: apparently it's so script readers can hold the script without getting their fingers cut to shreds! There's a post further down this thread that verifies this.)


    n. Links to various how-to articles

    Thanks to odocoileus for these links:

    Alex Epstein's Crafty Screenwriting FAQ:

    Writers Guild of America, West - "Writing for Episodic TV" table of contents:

    *Some interesting articles found at Michael Hauge's Screenplay Mastery site:
    (If any of these links don't work, try going to the main site and searching for keywords... unfortunately individual web page names can get changed.)

    The Five Key Turning Points of All Successful Scripts





    Jan 2015 update:
    ADAPTATION: Michael Hauge’s 4 Rules of Adaptation

    Found more interesting articles on the Writers Store website which are worth reading, including:

    Writing Successful Query Letters by Susan Kouguell

    The New Spec Style by David Trottier

    Hang Out With Writers To Succeed! by Richard Walter

    Bulletproof your Script against Reader Rejection by Derek Rydall

    Secrets of Blockbuster Movies - Part I by John Truby
    Secrets of Blockbuster Movies - Part II by John Truby

    Conquering The High Concept by James Bonnet

    The Essence of Story by James Bonnet

    Great Characters - Their Best Kept Secret by James Bonnet

    Writing the Blockbuster Love Story by John Truby

    The Thriller by John Truby

    Truby On Structure: Mystic River, Runaway Jury & Intolerable Cruelty by John Truby

    Hero is a Four-Letter Word: Unmasking the Hero by Melanie Ann Phillips

    Hero is a Four-Letter Word: The Villain by Melanie Anne Phillips

    Hero is a Four-Letter Word by Melanie Anne Phillips

    How Old is Too Old to Be a Screenwriter? by D.B. Gilles

    How Do I Critique My Own Work? by Leigh Michaels

    Where Does My Story Fit - TV or Big Screen? by Larry Brody

    Winning Spec Scripts by Richard Walter

    Action vs. Dialogue by Jeffrey Alan Schechter

    How do I Format Simultaneous Dialogue? by David Trottier

    Can I Keep the Rights to my Characters' Images? by Dina Appleton and Daniel Yankelevits

    Five Secrets to Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hauge

    Six Points About Character, Plot, and Dialogue You Wish You'd Have Known Yesterday by Sol Stein

    The Five S's of Screenwriting by Kate Wright

    The Three Cosmic Rules of Writing by Dennis Palumbo

    Plotting Along by Linda Cowgill

    How To Market Your Screenplay by Kathryn Knowlton

    Characterization - The Inner Life by Noah T. Lukeman

    The Power And Importance Of Human Connection To A Great Screenplay by Claudia Johnson

    The Conference Call -- Getting The Most Out Of Your Conference Dollar by Kathie Fong Yoneda

    ...and many more, randomly linked at the bottom of each article.
    And even more interesting articles can be found on Script Nurse

    Screenwriting Education and Screenwriter Resources

    Articles on Screenwriting
    which includes stuff from a whole bunch of names including Alex Epstein
    Improving Your Script
    which has sub-categories:
    General Rules
    Character Development
    Finding Weaknesses
    Script Format Rules
    The Script also has many interesting article links including:
    • Opening Scenes: Force the Reader to Turn the Page - grabbing the reader in the first ten pages (Screentalk)
    • Two Brads or Three? 20 Ways to Better Your Chances of Winning Screenplay Contests (Screentalk)
    • Looking Back and Talking it Over: The Use and Abuse of Flashbacks and Voice-Overs (Screentalk)
    • [Redacted--JDM] Site link removed per request of other site's Webmaster - a good sample for anyone learning how to write a treatment
    • Mr. & Mrs. Smith Treatment by Simon Kinberg (Creative Screenwriting)

    As always, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia has something to say about Screenwriting -- and it's worth reading, many questions are answered and there are many useful links, some of which are duplicated in this thread.

    And if you're in the mood for a laugh, you should read this one too (warning, adult content):


    o. "Hero's Journey" templates

    Perhaps this may also be useful, perhaps not -- I've seen a few posts on various forums commenting on the "Hero's Journey" template for storywriting, which makes for interesting reading: <--now an ad site for spooky Halloween masks!

    And here are a couple of files I uploaded for my own easy reference:

    Hero's Journey
    Star Wars Origins


    if you have any questions or update suggestions, or if you have problems with any of the above including broken links, etc. then please PM your friendly forum moderators.
    Last edited by dpaterso; 06-19-2018 at 05:36 PM. Reason: some older links not working any more, as usual

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