Technology and the Playwright

My latest blog post on using technology to help you write your play.  It was originally posted on the Public Theater’s blog:  Technology and the Playwright

By Don Nguyen, a member of the EWG 2008donprofile-pic2

As writers today, we live in an age of ever changing technology. And when we speak of technology in terms of writing, I think it’s safe to say there are two kinds of writers: ones that either shun technology or embrace it. I happen to be the latter. I love technology! I kind of have to since I’m also a web developer.

So, today I want to talk about technology and how I use it as a writer. The following is a list of software I use on a daily basis. I have no affiliation with any of the companies, and they are certainly not paying me to include their product on this list.

FINAL DRAFT
(http://www.finaldraft.com) $249 full version/$79.95 upgrade

It’s the industry standard. As a playwright, it might be a little overkill. I know fellow playwrights who use Word or other word processing programs and they get on just fine. I personally like using Final Draft because I don’t have to think about proper script formatting, but also because of revision mode. It will save your life while making revisions during the rehearsal process. It shows you any changes you’ve made to your script by denoting each line with one or several asterisks (*). Then you can print out just the revised pages, hand them to your cast and they just replace the old pages with the new pages straightaway. Also, if you purchase Final Draft, you get three copies. Personally, I have a copy installed on my Macbook at home and on my work computer (which is a Windows based PC). I can edit and save files seamlessly between the two.

Other formatting software is available. There’s also Movie Magic Screenwriter, Celtx, and hybrid programs (formatting and outlining/research software) such as Scrivener and StoryMill. Choose the one that’s right for you.

WORKFLOWY
(https://workflowy.com/) FREE

This is a very simple and elegant browser based outlining program. I didn’t think I would use it that much, but honestly, I use it all the time now.

EVERNOTE
(http://evernote.com/) FREE

Evernote is a program that helps you save information online. You can “clip” almost anything on the web and save it to your Evernote account. It also has a nifty email feature, which allows you to email an article, picture, or any piece of information straight to your account. You can organize it further by putting hash tags in the subject line of the email, and Evernote will turn those hash tags into filtering tags. I use this feature a lot.

DROPBOX
(https://www.dropbox.com/) FREE with limited storage/small monthly fee for more storage.

I use this for seamless file management. Dropbox is a “cloud” service which syncs files between several computers. It basically solves the problem of “Oh damn, I left that file on my computer at home.” Now, with Dropbox, you can access your file anywhere you have an internet connection, whether it be a computer or tablet, or even your smartphone. I sometimes edit my scripts on my computer at work, and thanks to Dropbox, I just go into my local Dropbox directory, and my scripts are synced up with the latest version and ready to go. I have a writing folder that’s placed inside my Dropbox directory on my computer. I save all my scripts to that folder, not only so it can sync to my other computers, but it also acts as an automatic backup for these files. If my main computer completely crashes and I lose all my data, I can go to my secondary computer, which will have the synced file. In the event that all my computers are destroyed at the same exact time, I can just go to my Dropbox account online, and all my files are there. This is a no brainer. Get on this. Other services similar to Dropbox: Box.net, Sugar Sync, Live Mesh.

FACEBOOK
(https://www.facebook.com/) FREE (unless you count the cost of your soul)

I know it seems strange to list this love-it-or-hate-it social media giant. But I have to say, I use Facebook quite a bit to accomplish certain writing or theater related tasks such as staying up to date with other theater companies and fellow playwrights, but I use it the most when it comes to casting. ACTORS, LISTEN UP. I’m going to reveal to you how the casting process works, in terms of readings (and not using a professional casting director). Let’s say it’s the day before the reading and you still haven’t finished casting yet, or an actor has suddenly had to drop out for a number of reasons (this happens all the time), so you frantically game plan with your director and come up with a list of actors that were recommended to you via the internet, and the first thing you do is go on Facebook and stalk them. Here you can find out what they look like (beyond their headshot), if they’re even in town, and if you share mutual friends with this actor. This is pretty much the criteria for a frantic casting session.

IPAD
Prices vary

I use this for general web surfing and for reading scripts. When I’m done with a draft, I like to read it on my iPad. It gives me a sense of accomplishment. There is also an iPad version of Final Draft that lets you read and edit your Final Draft script files without having to convert them into a readable PDF file, saving you an extra step. Also, by reading scripts on your iPad instead of printing, you’re saving a lot of trees. There are apps that allow you to markup PDF scripts, but I find it kind of clunky. Nothing beats a real red pen for that (although I urge you not to use a real pen on your iPad). If you must use a real pen, then see the next item below.

NOTEPAD
Under $10

Yes, a regular pad of paper. Because sometimes technology will fail you.

I’m sure everyone has their own special set of tools when it comes to writing. If you feel like sharing, please post in the comment section below.

Don Nguyen is a member of the 2008 Emerging Writers Group, The Civilians 2010 R&D Group and the Ma-Yi Writers Lab. Don was recently named a Playwrights Realm fellow for 2012/2013. There he will be developing his sign language play SOUND. For more information on Don, please visit his website:thenuge.com.

The EWG is two-year playwriting fellowship at The Public Theater seeking to target playwrights at the earliest stages of their careers. In so doing, The Public hopes to create an artistic home for a diverse and exceptionally talented group of up-and-coming playwrights.