Nicholas Reicher

Writing Your Next Blockbuster Film or Novel

Category: Software

Cool Software You Need To Own

You know, there’s been a lot of software I’ve used and loved over the years.

Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

 My first PC I shared with my dad. He bought a spreadsheet program, and I actually used it as a word processor for a while, until we got one. I also had a Commodore 64, with all the peripherals. I even had the plotter! And I had some kind of inexpensive word processor for it, I don’t remember what kind. When I’d written my first star trek novel on it, I took in a sample chapter to New England Tech, to see if I could challenge out of the English classes. It worked.

Fast forward to the 90’s. I got a demo of Sidekick, which I wanted, but I didn’t have the money to buy it. Apparently, you can get it for free now, but it’s so outdated and probably won’t run on a 64 bit system. There was Oil Change, which I thought was the coolest program. That one was like $10, but we got it, and all it did was find updates as they came out for your programs, and install them.
Tell you what, they should come out with it again.

I guess I’m a gearhead. I like cool programs, and I can find myself getting fascinated by them. So, what am I using right now?

Evernote. Evernote was one of those things I thought, “Naah…” but gave myself a week to try. I was convinced by day two. One of the first things I’m going to do when I start making more money by writing is to get the next level of service in Evernote. It’s $3 a month, but as I recently wrote about all these pay to upgrade programs and services, you can find yourself paying hundreds a month for all these upgrades and services! Evernote is your brain on the internet, literally. It is amazing. I use it for everything – far more than I did with One-Note. Many diehards are switching to One-Note, but I’m staying put. I went the other way. I use it to clip articles I want to read later. I can write snippets in it I’ll use over and over again. One thing I keep in Evernote is the code I use for the photo credits on this website! Copy, paste. I brainstorm in it for movie scripts and novels. I often write out my beat sheets in Evernote as well. House hunting – I clip screen captures into Evernote of particular houses for sale. I’ve stored all my license numbers and serial numbers of every program I’ve purchased into Evernote. I store passwords and login names to websites in Evernote. And I can set up reminders to myself that I need to re-read an article at a later time so I don’t forget about it!

Thunderbird. I prefer having my email on my computer – that way my ISP can’t eliminate my emails. Some of them I’m even moving over to Evernote, so that way I’ll always have them. And you can even set up Senditlater, which… sends emails out later on, at a specified time. I don’t know why that’s important, but I have that capability.

Scrivener. I almost don’t even use any other word processor any more. Scrivener was $40, and I thought at first that I could write better using Ywriter. Once I began poking at Scrivener, I realized how amazing it was. If you want to change the way you write forever for the better, here’s your answer. I write all my blog posts and social media tweets/posts on it as well. Trust me on this one. People who make the plunge and buy it all say the same thing – you can’t go back to any other word processor.

Dropbox. I recently had my Windows 8.1 get corrupted, and that took an entire night of redoing and reconfiguring everything. I’d gotten Dropbox recenly before that, and everything I had in Dropbox was untouched by the disaster. I finally set up Scrivener to back up automatically to Dropbox. Every program I use that makes automated backups all goes into Dropbox. And the great news is, when I upgrade my laptop and install dropbox, once I sign in, all my files will download again!

Final Draft. I’ve got the latest version, and very glad to have it. They got with Blake Snyder and added his “save the Cat” beat board to it, and I actually use it to death! I won’t write in the script until I’ve used the beat board part of Final Draft. I actually find myself wondering how FD users ever managed to live without it! I save all my files to Dropbox, and this way my producer knows when I’m working on the script – he gets little popups that tell him when I’m modifying the script.

Conclusion

These are five programs I can’t live without. I also use a Bible program because I’m a man of faith, but in respect of those who may not be, I’ll avoid discussing that one as well
What programs do you use instead of these? What program can you just not live without?

5 Must Have Computer Programs for the Novelist

Like Michael Hyatt, I strongly believe in recommending programs I use a lot. I’ve found if I keep silent about a program, it just… disappears! Like Quicksite Website Builder. I loved that program back in the 1990’s.
So what am I using, and for what? Let’s take a look!

Scrivener. I can’t talk enough about how great this program is. I’ve written blog posts both recommending it, and trying to expose the madness of trying to use Libreoffice, Open Office or Microsoft Office to write a book. Scrivener has a million features that speed up the writing process alarmingly. No more “seven years to write a book”! Scrivener has a corkboard to pin ideas and scenes on, templates for locations and characters to fill in descriptions and bio’s, and more! I also write this blog in it. The eBooks I’ll be giving away in the future will also be written in Scrivener. And once I take the plunge into social media, I’ll be planning my writers’ platform campaigns on it.
Dropbox. Dropbox is more than just a cloud backup service. If you connect to a publisher or a producer via a shared folder, they know when you’re working on something. Just enough to make you paranoid when you get the dreaded message, “so and so edited your shared file…”. A recent corruption of my Windows and the mess from resetting everything has made me a sincere believer in Cloud Storage. I save all my movie scripts and my Scrivener writing files to Dropbox!
Evernote. The description of this I got from Michael Hyatt really wasn’t enough. He described it as a “note taking research tool” – but Evernote’s staff describes this as “Your brain on the internet”. They’re not wrong! I used to print PDF’s on my hard drive for later study and research, but that stopped when I got Evernote. Many Evernote users are transferring to OneNote, which makes no sense to me… I’m finding a million uses for Evernote. Seriously, I hope this service keeps going for another 50 years, so I don’t have to live without it! I clip images, web pages, Zillow house listings, articles, bookmarks! I make to do lists, notes to my self, journal entries (when I remember to! Aaaugh!), ideas, lists, appointments, contact info… and a hundred other things I’m forgetting.
Final Draft. There is no substitute for writing Screenplays. I think that Screenplay writing is a necessary skill for novelists to learn – nothing else will teach you how to be CONCISE with your words, and hard hitting with dialogue, beats and emotional impact. I know there’s other software out there for writing Screenplays… but this is really the only one you should get. Save up for it, and try Fade In until you can afford Final Draft.
Dramatica. It’s huge, bulky, poorly explained it its documentation, clunky, ugly… and there’s no substitute to make you THINK your way through your novels! It asks a million really annoying questions about how your characters interact. Your supporting character has a character arc … so how does that impact the protagonist? ARGH! A Million questions like that! It’s great. Expensive. Use Contour while you save up for it.

Conclusion

These are the five programs I cannot do without as a writer!

What programs do you use and recommend? Do you have a different use for the ones above? Discuss it below!

How to Organize Evernote to get Maximum Results

I’ve only recently found Evernote. Before this, I had a series of programs I used for this kind of thing, such as Notebrowser, then OneNote. Then I attended a Michael Hyatt on-line seminar, and he recommended Evernote.
So the next day, I downloaded it, gave it a try. I looked up how to use it. By Day three, I had deleted Notebrowser and OneNote off of my computer, and imported all of my data into Evernote.
So, how can you maximize your use of Evernote?

  1. Clipper browser plug in. This is an obvious “duh” moment. Get this for whatever browser you’re using. This way, you can download articles (I use Simplified Article for almost everything), and bookmarks when you get to the end of your free limit. Like Dropbox, I probably should get a premium account, because for two months running, I’ve managed to get within 5 megabytes of my limit on the free account. When I’m looking at houses on Zillow, I sometimes do a screen-shot. But that’s it. Screen-shot, bookmark, simplified article.
  2. Categories. You only have so many categories you can make. Me, I use categories and tags interchangeably. Evernote calls their categories “notebooks”, and you can make a stack of notebooks. So, under the writing stack, Ill have notebooks for articles (I’m writing), writer’s college notebook (for any on-line courses I take), and Writing. Think of it this way… notebooks are the rough category, tags are the identifiers for specifics. I’ve actually found the key to finding whatever I want is to have LESS Notebooks, and MORE tags. Michael Hyatt recently came to the same conclusion. I have a total of 8 stacks, and 9 Notebooks not associated with stacks. The Key is tags.
  3. Tags. Here’s where you get specific. You almost can’t have too many tags. I have right now about 140. You need to schedule one day a month to review your clippings and make sure everything is correctly tagged according to mentally how you want your tags to work. Like stacks, you can nest your tags. For instance, under Godzilla, you could put Mothra. Do your searches for things under Tags, and you’ll find what you’re looking for a lot faster!
    Templates. You need to have a notebook for Templates, and drag it to your task bar. See my article on Evernote Templates for why.
  4. Timers… you can schedule something in Evernote. Why? You can clip more simplified articles in one afternoon than you can read in a month. So tag them “to be read” and important ones… set a timer! It will remind you to read it.
  5. Journaling. If I could remember to do this daily, this could be a powerful tool for later work! I just keep forgetting to do this. Create a notebook and call it 2017 and just title each note with the current date.
    Checklists. I can make checklists of to-do’s, things to buy, story ideas, conference calls, etc
  6. Note taking. I often use my Evernote to take notes on things I discuss with my producer during the skype calls.
  7. Article Writing. I can plan out articles, and even write them in Evernote.

As you can see, there’s a LOT you can do with Evernote! But be aware… Proper planning prevents poor performance. Organize your Evernote, and you’ll be surprised how much more productive you can be!

How do you use Evernote? Discuss it here!

Seven Scrivener Tweaks

I’ve got a couple of followers who are writers themselves, so… here’s some Scrivener tweaks that will help out a lot!

  1. Where are you backing up to? If you haven’t specified a directory for Scrivener to back up to, it’s not backing up. it’s just overwriting what you just saved. Make a directory in Dropbox called “Scrivener backups”. Set all of your Scrivener projects to backup to that directory. After you do the first one, the rest seem to default to that. The backups are saved in a dated zip file.
  2. Keywords. These are not project keywords – I’ll deal with that next – but these are keywords. Enter keywords like “Location”, “characters, “POV”. Now when you go to Scrivenings view (third icon), theres a scroll bar with a little box at the top. Click that box, and you’ll see the keywords you just entered. You now can track who what when where why how all tracked in your Scrivenings view. Make sure you check the “word count” option, so you can see your word count per scene.
  3. Project Keywords. Okay, I just found this one recently. Under the Project menu, there is an option. project keywords. Enter in all of your major and minor characters. You can edit the little color dots – make sure you do, so that the colors are all distinct. Now, in the inspector, click on the key icon, and… (two ways – number one) click on the plus icon, and type in the name of a character in that scene. (way number two) click on the wheel and open the project keywords box, and drag the names of all the characters in that scene into the keyword box in the inspector. Why? Go to your corkboard, and look at the right hand side of every notecard! You now can see at a glance who’s in your scenes!
  4. Full Screen. I make Scrivener all colorful. But when I’m trying to concentrate on a scene, I go to full screen to start typing. You can choose a backdrop to it, or leave it black. Try both. See what makes you more productive. You can also make it translucent, so you can see your scrivener underneath it. Choose what you like. Or constantly change it. The idea is, to see what makes you more creative, and sometimes changing the display makes you more creative.
  5. Apply icon colors to… This one’s a favorite. The plain Scrivener looks good, but i like to see it more colorful. So, I apply the icon colors to almost everything. Chapters are Green, scenes are blue. Make SURE you’re taking advantage of the labels to determine “chapter” and “scene”. this is how Scrivener is set up, to deal with them in this manner.
  6. Icons – you can add icons to Scrivener, and apply those icons to a scene. I don’t do this, but apparently some people love this. You just have to install icon sets to Scrivener, and then apply them to each chapter-scene.
  7. Cover Creator – This only works in the “Compile to epub” format. Of course, you have to make your own graphic for the cover. I played with it a little, but right now, I’m working on writing and editing,and not ready to self publish.

These should get you started! What Scrivener tweaks have YOU discovered?

Screenplay Software

Hm. What to choose?

The industry standard is “Final Act“. It’s $250, and I had the demo, but… yeah. It’s $250. I really liked it, but apparently a lot of people said it was buggy and crashed and did bizarre things.

One man who had Final Act and was tired of the bugginess and crashes of it wrote the next contender, “Fade In“. $80. Eighty is a lot better than two hundred and fifty. I’m currently using Fade In, but you quickly reach the nag point, and printing my script excerpt on Saturday left the bold announcement on it, “printed using an unregistered copy of Fade In”.

Yay.

Scrivener people apparently rave about the Scrivener-like “Save the Cat“, which is a really odd name for software. It costs more than Final Act at $100.

Scrivener apparently also does screenplays, but I don’t know – It lacks the features of Fade In and Final Act – Enter, then tab, and it suggests who I’m probably about to have say something dramatic. Hit the enter twice, and the dialogue spacing is now active.

Scrivener doesn’t really do that. Scrivener is amazing for what it does, but I don’t see people using it to write feature films.

Which leaves me to wish that Final Act would get together with Fade In, fix the bugginess, and offer the program for $40.

Yes, Fade In is what the pro’s use. It’s so widely used, that I could collaborate with any pro screenwriter using it. And all the programs I just mentioned all use Final Draft extensions to save the file, so that you can mail it to someone who has paid the extra $170!

I guess it is what it is – if you’re going to play at writing screenplays, you gotta pay the piper, buy Final Act and (sigh) join the Writer’s Guild after your first sale.

Contour

Tried a different program the other day. It’s intended for Script development, but actually, you can use it for novels as well. A good way to describe Contour is like a budget Dramatica, but the way they explain things is… well… much more usable.

Dramatica is an essential program, in my opinion. Highly priced, but outstanding. The only issue is, the interview process they give you is not complete (when you poke through your story in Dramatica, you’ll see what I mean), and the descriptions on what story element you’re filling out is lacking. I suppose despite my high IQ, I should get the Dramatica for Dummys book at some point.

If you’d like to try something similar to Dramatica, but relatively inexpensive, give Contour a try. Mariner Software also has a screenwriting program that’s inexpensive (at this point, I’ve got Fade In and not likely to get something else unless I suddenly get a lot of disposable money, and in that case it’ll be Final Draft), a character creation software, novel writing software and more.

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