Friday, May 03, 2013

The Writing Week (Vol. 6) part 268 - Using Revision Mode

Up until this point in my career, I've had very little cause to use revision mode in my writing. Sure, I did revision mode a few times with my post-Apocalyptic spec so that my producers could follow my the edits I made. But I didn't really understand the scope of revisions mode, nor did I use them anywhere close to their fullest. I have since started.

As I mentioned a few weeks back, I recently made the switch from using Movie Magic to Final Draft, spurred on by the fact that both my writing partner and producer use Final Draft. More so, that software seems to have very clearly come out ahead as the industry standard for screenwriting. (I miss you, Movie Magic, but the transition to Final Draft has been a smooth one so far.) Granted, I also neglected to use Movie Magic to its fullest extent, but I'm really digging on Final Draft at the moment. 

It took me a little while to get used to the shortcuts in FD compared to those in Movie Magic. Somethings are actually a little more intuitive to me in MM; for example, hitting Enter in MM prompts the next field in a slug line. Doing so in Final Draft drops me down to the action paragraph. For instance, when I used MM, I could intro my slug line (INT.) and hit enter. The software was designed to ask me which location I wanted to use. Writing in one and hitting Enter again would then prompt me to decide which time of day I was setting the scene in. I couldn't move beyond the slug line without either completing it, or telling the system to ignore that field and let me proceed. With FD, hitting enter will take me to the action paragraph, risking a blank or incomplete slug line. Rather, with the latter software, I have to hit Tab to call up the location and then time of day. Hitting Tab in MM would prompt dialogue.

Discrepancies in key commands aside, Final Draft has been pretty intuitive. In addition to, you know, actually writing the script, I've been making use of the above mentioned revision mode features. To be fair to Move Magic, since I didn't really use that feature when writing in that program, I can't compare how it worked. But for Final Draft, it's easy to assign another revision mode (the initial revisions are "Blue" in both name and appearance; the second set of revisions are Pink, and so on). Like with MM, and asterix denotes any line that was edited, added, or cut. Pages that only have one revision pass have "Blue' as their heading. Pages on which I edited the revisions are "Pink" at the top, and so on, making it easy to track what version of the script each page - and whole script - my team is reading. 

Additionally, my writing partner and producer can easily read and mark up the Final Draft document I send them. Movie Magic has some weird settings, whereby it was difficult for me to even open a Movie Magic file I emailed myself. I would have to open the backup version in order to upload the script if I had been working remotely for some reason. WIth Final Draft, the files are universal (like Word documents), so anyone can open them and see all revision marks and script notes. (If you're paranoid about someone stealing your work, that might be a bad thing. But don't be worried. Just be careful who you send fdx files to and go with PDF when in doubt.) Speaking of, Script Notes are a way for my writing partner, for instance, to put his thoughts into the script without throwing off the formatting or page count. Script Notes enable him to tag a little note to any piece of text, which I can then click into to read. It can be anything he wants to make me aware of - "this dialogue doesn't make sense," "this is a typo," "you're brilliant and should win many Oscars." 

Whether you're writing for yourself, a writers group, or more professionally, I encourage you to play around with your revision mode features and see what they can do for you. It beats the alternative (which, embarrassingly, I relied on even until quite recently) of simply saving each draft with a new name or version number and not having any fast way to track where the actual edits were made. Sure, you should still save each version as a new document, but it makes for comparing versions so much easier. 

I guess it's not too encouraging that it only took me a decade of writing to really capitalize on these features, is it?