The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

F is for Final Draft

My work, whether books, screenplays, stories, or
whatever, are written using two different software
programs: Microsoft Word, and Final Draft.

I love Final Draft because it is a piece of "vertical
market" software that was written for writers,
created for creators. Because of that, it has some
interesting functions that we will discuss. Those
functions dove-tail beautifully with the way I
choose to work.

First of all, I'm not exactly recommending my
method to others. What I AM doing is suggesting
that you find your own way, a path that allows
you optimal access to your particular creative flow.

That said...

Final Draft has one function in particular that I
love. It's three basic modes (script, outline,
and index cards) allows me to "toggle" back
and forth between them, to look at my story as
either text, or blocks of text under major
headings. If I make the index cards small
enough, this allows me to see an entire book,
or movie, on screen at the same time. When
I do this, it seems to allow my deep mind, the
true creative self, to sense the flow of the
entire project, to grasp the whole instead of
being mired in the parts.

One of my favorite tools for plotting is a stack
of 3 X 5 cards wrapped with a rubber band. I
can just write down any scenes that come to
mind, and continuously re-arrange them until
I have a stack of 30-100 cards that contain a
complete story. Then I can transfer that
information to Final Draft, and re-examine it.
And then look at it again in script form, and
slowly begin to build it up to a finished product.
Now, this is where it gets kind of interesting.
A novel contains (according to Steven King),
dialogue, description, and narrative. A script
primarily contains just two of these: dialogue
and narrative. There isn't much description,
and therefore you can create a short-hand
version of a novel in a month or two. Looking
at your story in the form of a script, you can
see if the characters work, and are balanced.
If the story works in the ways you need it to,
if the ebb and flow of tension seems to be
spot-on. If it is...

Well, then I import the document into Microsoft
Word, and spend a few months expanding it
out into a novel, tightening and tweaking.
Along the way new scenes will come to me. In
a novel, there is room to expand and play. But
the important thing is that I have perfected the
spine of my book in only 30-60 days. The
rest of the work is easy, just "texturizing" until
the screenplay becomes a book. I can go into
my characters internally, take side-trips, write
leisurely descriptions...just have fun, really.

I've done about eight books this way, and it
just works.

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