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The Best Online Tools for Screenwriters

By July 26, 2017 No Comments


By: Beverly Peders

While most articles touch on every writing program from Final Draft to Movie Magic Screenwriter, outlining the benefits of each and which best to use, we all know there’s more to writing than just the program the script is on. From research to layouts to the music we listen to, everything counts when it comes down to writing time.

Location

While some screenwriters have their cozy nook that’s perfect for writing, I know I sometimes find someplace that was perfect two days ago is now full of distractions. I’m constantly moving around to keep myself focused on my writing. One website I find extremely helpful is Avoid Humans. It uses your location to find places near you and compares it with Foursquare and location data of other people in the same area. Then it shows you the concentration of people and whether it’s crowded or not. You can then choose a bustling coffee shop for the ambiance or a quiet park for silent inspiration.

Organization

Although Twine is commonly used by video game writers, I sometimes utilize this free online story mapping program to quickly layout my ideas. It’s not the most elegant for screenwriting, but it is fun!

Another option is Scrivener. Think of it as your digital corkboard where you can add photos and quotes to blocks of your story that you can move around. From $19.99-$45, some writers swear by it’s ability to conquer their writer’s block in a visual format while others shrug it off after the free trial, preferring paper and pencil or a real corkboard and keeping their money. Try it for yourself.

Sometimes juggling a lengthy story line can be difficult to keep track of. Or perhaps you’re endeavoring to challenge yourself by making a cinematic universe that links together several different timelines. If so, you might find Timeglider a lifesaver. Free for students, this online timeline creator helps you keep everything in place. You can make more important events stand out and write descriptions for events you don’t want to forget about. I will caution, it is sometimes finicky on touch screens. 

Inspiration

When it comes to character design or world building, I am not an artist. For reference photos, I turn to Pinterest. While commonly thought to be a blackhole of DIYs and vegan recipes, I find lots of helpful photography and concept art that I can sort into folders for later use. No need to download photos onto your computer, either, with the Pinterest browser button, you can even save photos to your folders from other sites. Whenever there’s a lull in your creativity, just go through the story’s folder for forgotten ideas or add more for instant inspiration.

Sometimes the best way to get inspiration is to remove yourself from all distractions. If not physically, then from all the distractions on your computer. I’m not just talking the internet, sometimes the biggest problem is the writing program. With ZenWriter, you write on a simple screen with simple text. A blank slate to really get inside your head and get at the evasive creativity that too often is overlooked due to distractions. Peace and productivity.

Editing

Are you guilty of enjoying one too many cliches? There’s a website for that! Cliche Finder sorts through text and highlights the cliches used. From there, it’s your choice whether or not to keep or cut them. A helpful tool for any writer and completely free.

Literature

Sometimes down the revision rabbit hole, frustration peaks and deciding what’s to keep or cut might seem foggy. Stephen King said, “To be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot”. SimplyScripts is a free database of scripts that has everything from musicals to Oscar scripts. From Hulu’s The Handmaiden’s Tale to Stranger Things, SimplyScripts is a database with a lot to choose from. Read the script and then watch the film, working on your script while also taking a break. Who could ask for a better way to hone your skills?

Soundtrack

If you’re like me, music is a must when writing. While Pandora is great for finding new music and discovering artists, Spotify is where it is at for me. I set up playlists for each story and tailor them to put me in the right mindset when I write. With access to thousands of songs and dozens of musicians, you design playlists that you can listen to even when you’re not writing, to encourage inspiration. Best yet, it’s free if you don’t mind the occasional ad.

Instrumental music not your thing? There’s a website called Coffitivity that turns writer’s strange attraction to the white noise of busy coffee shops and turns it into an experience you can have anywhere with internet. The library isn’t extensive, but it does the trick. There are other ambiance websites like Noisli or apps. Finding the right one for you might be exactly what your focus needed.

Accountability

Have difficulty keeping yourself on task? Network with other writers in your area through NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). With active challenges during July (Camp NaNoWriMo) and November, you can meet other writers in your area and engage in discussions, write-ins, and word wars. At the beginning of the month, you set a word count goal. As a community, everyone helps you reach your goal. From challenges to sharing tips on how to get past writer’s block, it’ll be the most productive month ever. Don’t be intimidated by the implication it’s only for novel writers, all writers are welcome and accepted.

It doesn’t have to stop there! A website aptly named Pacemaker, helps you set goals and strategies and record your progress. Nothing is more satisfying than looking at a visual representation of all your hard work. While there are limitations to the website under the free version, only $8 a month can unlock all the other features to help you be the most productive you’ve ever been.

Research

Although going to the library is my favorite part of research, sometimes wading through a lot of scientific papers and research books can be dizzying when researching for a science fiction script. There’s a hotline for that! Yes, you can finally get some real scientific answers about whether or not someone can be infused with pufferfish DNA or how space travel over several hundred years might affect the newer generation’s biology. All without clicking on iffy sources or struggling through outdated studies. Just call 844-NEED-SCI.

Ever had a word that you knew was perfect but everything about it but the vaguest clue had escaped your brain? Well, there’s a way to hunt it down! With Tip of My Tongue you can look through an immense database by meaning, partial spelling, or whatever letters you remember. This is for those of us who know it ends with an “e” and means regret, but staring out the window for an hour doesn’t help. While also being free, it’s also an app so you can take it with you on the go!