Having been educated in traditional screenplay format, and then at some point drifting incredibly far away from it for my comic writing, I have what’s become a constant back and forth on script formatting. I’m one of those guys who finds that form can help dictate content, and so tend to morph what format I use to the project I’m working on.
A few of the companies I do work for hire for have standard format (i.e. the Manga Adaptations I do) that I have to use, which is fine, and ultimately, that’s become the ‘voice’ for that work. Similarly, I began using a new, different format last month, which I sent over to Ms Marvel writer Brian Reed, and he found it totally unusuable, and today, after I asked him about how he formats he sent over a few samples of his formatting style.
What spurred it on is that I’m working on a big action book for a publisher, and as I started working in my new ‘standard’ format, it just felt ‘wrong.’ So, I applied Brian’s more screenplay like style, and found myself humming along, more or less. While working with Wheaton on our book together, I decided to use that comic book format because it’s so radically different from screenplays, that I think it’ll actually open him up to the uniqueness of the medium just by sheer nature of it being a different set of instinctual movements than using Final Draft.
I’ve been in that strange place as a comics writer where I’m working on books I wrote a few months ago, as well as stuff that’s going out for the first time now, so I’ve really been going through these old scripts, and seeing the changes in what I do for either speed, clarity, or tone has been a bit of an eye opener.
There’s also the issue of word processors. I use four different word processors throughout my writing process. I’ve been using Scrivener for projects with lots of research, or with a longer story arc, Pages for more ‘straight forward’ writing, Neooffice for formatting before sending, Final Draft for Screenplays or anything short in the screenplay format, and Office 2008 for drafting with integrated notes. Now, ultimately, I’d prefer to be down to just one or two of those programs, but each offer some features that are unique.
The only one that technically could replace the bulk of them is Office 2008, but, thus far, I’ve found it to be a complete misstep in the old work horse of a program. It’s clunky, awkward, confusing, and managed to screw up my Mac when I installed it. Hooray for Microsoft! Lukcily, the track changes feature continues to be unmatched anywhere else, except maybe Final Draft, which is unfortunately not owned by most editors I work with. Scrivener has an integrated screenplay format you can use, but, thus far, I’ve found it less intuitive than Final Draft, but, the research options make it a much more formidable program, and considering the tricks Brian showed me, it seems to really be getting the job done. Pages is great for formatting… it does things in a way that’s extremely intuitive, and frankly, I don’t have to worry about it being wrong. Neooffice seems to work well enough, but the tab system and general formatting usage ends up just confusing the crap out of me most of the time. Both of them seem to not quite handle the track changes properly from someone working in Office.
It’s still a bit strange to me that comics have yet to really settle into a style, but, I suppose as each writer’s style and voice really do come through in their scripts (I mean, what other medium is it considered okay for a writer to draw in his script to describe something?), that’s it’s only neccessary.
The other thing that I’ve been noticing, at least for me, is that by using these different formats, it allows me to really distinguish, in my mind, between the projects. As though, by switching up the how, it allows my brain to switch the what, and focus on the work I’m doing.
Mind you, I’m on deadline and writing about formatting, which might mean it’s not quite working as planned.