Wednesday, December 9, 2009

My Writing Toolkit

"I was curious what software you use for writing your books."
-- Brian I., CA
For years I've been using plain old MS Word for my picture books, my spec chapter books, and even my spec novels. With very minor tweaks, you can set it up to produce a very respectable-looking manuscript. The generally accepted format for all of these is double-spaced and indented at each new block of dialogue or descriptive text. One inch margins all around seems pretty standard, too.

I use a dedicated script program (Movie Magic Screenwriter 6) for my spec screenplays and sitcoms as the formatting in those is a little more complicated than book manuscripts -- dialogue/action/parenthetical/shots and transitions, etc. This software also includes a novel template and that's what I used to write my 2009 NaNo project -- just to mix things up. It worked fine but I wouldn't advise authors to purchase MMS 6 just for the novel template -- Word will do and you probably already own that.

As an aside, I use Final Draft 5 for my animation scripts as that program seems to be a requirement for a lot of shows in this genre. These scripts are almost always written in screenplay format although, obviously, not nearly as long. My copy of FD is ancient and creaky and I should probably upgrade soon but, hey, it's still readable by the newer versions and even the upgrades of these dedicated script apps can be pricey. That said, they really make cranking out a script a lot easier so I'd recommend investing in one if you're serious about a career in features, sitcoms, or animation. Final Draft also has a built-in novel template, but I haven't used it.

Finally, I use an outlining program for my novels and screenplays called Dramatica Pro. It's primarily an organizational tool and I like it because it helps me focus and deepen my story early on, making the actual writing a lot easier. Is a program like this a necessity? No. You can definitely get by with your own personal (and free) outlining method.

There you have it, the complete Novel Project writing toolkit. Now get to work.