Scripped, Online Screenwriting and Backups

Some screenwriters, whether for reasons of cost or convenience, prefer online software solutions for their script work, whether Adobe Story, Celtx, or newcomer WriterDuet. However, last week the risk of those primarily online services came to public attention with the dramatic implosion of Scripped.

Scripped was an online-only screenwriting and script storage solution, a web-based alternative to using Final Draft or Fade In. The ScreenCraft owned community was languishing somewhat, apparently on the verge of rejuvenation when a total database calamity occurred. All scripts, including all backups, were irrevocably wiped with no hope of restoring them. Due to the diminishing nature of the community, the damage wasn’t as widespread as might have been feared, but for those people still deeply embedded in the ecosystem, it was catastrophic. Those who had not maintained offline backups had lost potentially years of work.

Now, the idea of not taking backups sends shivers of fear up my spine. It’s this kind of terror, combined with poor or non-existent offline solutions, that has kept me from web-based screenwriting software. I know that Adobe Story and WriterDuet have both an offline solution and backup options, but then so did Scripped. Adobe may have more resilient infrastructure than Scripped owners Screencraft, but nothing can really protect you totally from that kind of disaster.

Personally, I write using offline tools, I use Dropbox for day-to-day synching, TimeMachine for frequent backups, and also store timestamped archives of my writing folder on an FTP site. I considered myself slightly over-paranoid in this regard until I started speaking to other people. Additional options included saving timestamped archives onto DVDs, and printing and filing all drafts of all scripts. Those might be going a bit far for me, especially physical copies. Paper is anathema to me, and if I fall out of love with a script, the temptation to shred it might just be too great.

So, what can we learn from the Scripped fiasco? By all means use online solutions, especially if budgets are a concern. But make sure they have decent internal backup solutions, and also store editable copies of all your scripts elsewhere, with as many additional storage iterations as your paranoia demands. Because it’s only paranoia until the unthinkable happens.

Addendum

Craig Mazin and John August go into some detail about the Scripped aftermath in their Scriptnotes podcast.

Also, if you need to recover scripts from PDF backups, this can be done with most files directly in Fade In, but also in Highland.

Christmas Presents for Writers 2014

It’s that time of year again: You have a writer in your life (and this could very well be yourself) and you need to buy them a Christmas present. Stat. Or it might also be their birthday soon and you’re stuck as to what to buy them. Have no fear, we’ve got you covered.

Stationery

Let’s not beat about the bush, writers of all kinds are utter addicts for stationery.  Now, you could go with the traditional Moleskine, but I’ll tell you what, you can’t go wrong with a pack of index cards and some Sharpies.

Sustenance

Writers are terrible at looking after themselves, yet they need regular fueling if they are to continue their good work. They’ll need some snacks of course, but when we say sustenance, we really mean caffeine. Tea drinkers will always need a better mug, but coffee drinkers? What they need is a coffee subscription and, take my word for it, an Aeropress. Best coffee maker I ever tried.

Books

There are about a million books for writers of every ilk, so I’ll restrict myself to three: Rocliffe Notes : A Professional Approach to Being a WriterThe 21st-Century Screenplay and Chuck Wendig’s The Kick-Ass Writer. All three are excellent, and all in very different ways. And let’s face it, they’ve probably already got all the others…

Media

Movies, music, books, movies… (yes I know), writers are continually seeking to fill their creative tanks. You could go with a voucher for either Amazon or iTunes, but they will (possibly) love you forever if you gift them a BFI membership. Similar to that, for a slightly different cinematic experience, the excellent Prince Charles Cinema also does memberships.

Software

A tricky category, but a lot of writers use inferior, free software for their scrivenings. You could either a) beat it out of them or b) buy them Scrivener (perfect for writers of prose and screenwriters wanting an excellent outlining tool) and/or Fade In, which is excellent screenwriting software.

Gadgets

There are millions of gadgets out there that purport to aid the ailing scribe. But really, unless they don’t own a laptop yet, you’d be better off getting them a backup drive to save their most excellent work from disaster! And, for when they need to concentrate in that ever-so-hip coffee shop? Some decent headphones wouldn’t go amiss.

Other

Feedback is always good, but if you don’t feel up to the job, Script Angel do gift certificates. Finally, you can’t buy it online, sadly, but you know what writers need, even crave? Some time and encouragement. If you have a writer in your life, this Christmas make sure that amidst the commercial fury of the season, they get some undisturbed time to write. And when they’re done? Ask them about it and look interested in their response! Cheap to you, manna from the heavens for the writer!

Final Draft 9 vs Fade In – Screenwriting Software Deathmatch

FD9Final Draft 9 has been so long in coming, that it created the vacuum for its competition to exist in. In my opinion, foremost among the competition is Fade In,  so I thought I’d do a side-by side comparison. You can do the same, both pieces of software have demo versions available.

Fade In LogoFirst off, installation. An install program is an install program, but Final Draft picks up early points for country-specific setup. All it does is set a default for paper size and dictionary, but it’s something that Fade In needs me to adjust for every new project.

The next step was importing an existing project. Final Draft is still content to sit at the top of the tree and demand everyone plays with its file format, now updated. The only import functions are TXT and FDX. This in comparison to Fade In: Fade In Import

So, what’s new? Well, on the Mac version, Final Draft can finally go fullscreen. Hardly innovative, every other Mac screenwriting software has had it since it was an option. But finally Final Draft has caught up. I’ve not tried it myself, but apparently the Windows version still doesn’t have full-screen editing.

One useful new feature in Final Draft 9 is Script Notes. This can be used to add specific, script specific notes, edits and comments, but also more general script notes, which could be used for references, loglines, synopses, treatments etc. This is very useful, and currently missing from Fade In.

While not new, Final Draft’s index card and scene navigator are both currently superior to that of Fade In. The ability to directly edit and manipulate the index cards just seems slicker on FD (if not up to Scrivener’s standards) and the scene navigator has the option of scene synopses display.

Another new addition to Final Draft is the character navigator, which now facilitates tracking of characters and changing their names throughout. Fade In has had this for some time, though doesn’t have any additional data, like arc beats, available. It does, though, have the same facility for locations, not present in Final Draft. Personally, this scene/script meta data is something I’d like to see expanded out substantially, taking a leaf from Adobe Story’s book:

Adobe Story's scene meta-dataRuntime, editable, characters, including non-speaking parts, tags, synopses, budget, camera shots… This is the level of metadata I’d like to see. Useful for everyone? No. But you don’t have to use it.

Finally, there are the non-software related elements, the first of which is response. I’ve never had to wait long for the Fade In team to respond to a message, regardless of medium. I’ve never had a member of the Final Draft team reply. Fade In is constantly being updated, while Final Draft has kept us waiting for years for next to no substantial improvements. And price? Fade In costs as much as the upgrade from FD8 to FD9.

So, in summary, for my money I’m going to be staying with Fade In.

Final Draft 9 to be released in 2014

FD9There has been a lot of speculation as to the release date of Final Draft 9, but I have the definitive answer now: Public demos will begin at the end of this month, and the release date will be early 2014, specifically January 6th. The new features are listed here.

There are a number of worldwide user groups at the end of the month to this effect, but the first worldwide demo of Final Draft 9 will be at London Screenwriter’s Festival 2013. I will of course report back from there.

Can’t wait for 2014 for new screenwriting features? Check out Fade In, which will have eclipsed even FD9 if they implement a few features.

Updated with specific release date and link to new features.

Further Update: Check out the side-by-side review of FD9 vs Fade In Pro.

Fade In Screenwriting Software Wishlist

Fade In LogoI spend a lot of time fretting about the tools I use for writing, never quite content with any one tool. Mostly I use Scrivener for all projects, then exporting to Final Draft for completed first draft screenplays. Scrivener works very well with FD8, which is incredibly important. Final Draft 9 is likely to drop any week now, but I keep looking back at other options. CeltX doesn’t play nicely with Final Draft, which is a deal-breaker for me. Adobe Story is still tempting to me, but the free version has no offline option (I write on the move more often than not) and the paid option is a monthly subscription which will quickly eclipse the cost of even Final Draft. And then there’s Fade In Pro. A mere $50, a responsive development team and frequent updates. But, it’s not quite 100% there yet, I’m not quite ready to jump. So, I created this wishlist for Fade In:

  • Index Cards: Being able to directly edit the index card contents, without a keyboard shortcut, would help a lot, as would easier organising, and formatting of the cards. Scrivener does this very well.
  • Reports and outlining options.
  • Scrivener Import:

Fade In ImportOne of the strengths of Fade In is the extensive list of import and export options. However Scrivener projects tend to laid out in multi-level structures, one ‘file’ per scene perhaps. However, Fade In only imports one file at a time, so I have to export a Scrivener project as an FDX and then import that, rather than the Scrivener project.

 

  • Meta Data:

Adobe Story's scene meta-data

Oh please, bring me the meta data! Adobe Story does excellent scene meta-data, I’d love to see something more like that. Running time, both calculated and manually adjusted, time of day, story day, shooting information etc. Also, there’s already a character and location database, but why not have those link to character/location profiles? Similarly project meta-data, like synopses, loglines and pitches; it’d be hugely advantageous to have those all in one file, rather than store those separately in Scrivener or Word files.