Do I Need Software To Write a Screenplay? (Honest Answer)

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I’ve written a ton of screenplays over the years with and without software. When I first started screenwriting, I asked myself this same question.

Do I need software to write a screenplay?

You don’t need software to write a screenplay, but using software will help you plan, organize, write, edit, and submit optimized scripts with higher odds of winning competitions and getting accepted by studios. Screenwriting software positions you as a professional in the industry.

In this article, we’ll look at five good reasons I think you should use software to write a screenplay, the software I use (paid and free options), and what you really need to write a successful script.

Recommended Screenwriting ToolsBrief DescriptionLearn More
Jarvis AI WriterAI writerLearn more
Final DraftProfessional softwareLearn more
Script StudioScreenplay softwareLearn more
Nuance DragonVoice to text softwareLearn more
Screenwriting software—Check out my full list of recommended tools for writers

5 Good Reasons You Need Software To Write a Screenplay

Man writing at a desk with a typewriter—Do I Need Software to Write a Screenplay
Image by author via Canva—Do I Need Software to Write a Screenplay

While you don’t absolutely need software to write a screenplay, I still highly recommend it.

Before we get into the details, ask yourself these questions:

  • Do you want to make money writing screenplays?
  • Do you want to be taken seriously as a screenwriter?
  • Do you think that software can help speed up your process and increase your success rate in the entertainment industry?

If so, I highly recommend you continue reading.

1) Screenwriting Software Helps The Industry Take You Seriously

Let’s face it. Screenwriting is a professional industry with high stakes. The competition is fierce, the standards high.

If you want to be taken seriously as a screenwriter, use professional software.

It often takes an upfront investment of time, energy, and money to make it in the big leagues. And, make no mistake, screenwriting is a big league.

The medical profession requires aspiring doctors to suffer through years of rigorous schooling. Professional licensed and accredited carpenters must complete an apprenticeship.

If you want to become a professional paid screenwriter, then accept the use of professional software as part of the entrance fee.

2) Screenwriting Software Helps You Compete With Professionals

Earlier, I mentioned competition. One of the most important reasons you need software to write a screenplay is to compete with other professionals.

When you send your script to a studio or contest, you not only compete with other aspiring screenwriters. You also compete with professional working screenwriters with a dozen Acadamy-Award-winning movie scripts on their resume.

Simply by using professional software, you set yourself apart from others not willing (or unable) to make the investment.

Screenwriting software is expensive for a reason.

If you truly want to compete on a professional level, get yourself professional software.

3) Screenwriting Software Helps Simplify and Streamline Your Script

You need screenwriting software because the software will streamline your entire process from brainstorming, planning, writing, editing, right on to submitting to studios.

Here’s a breakdown of how screenwriting software will save you time and money:

Step 1: Brainstorming, planning, writing, editing—Use an intuitive screenplay template to structure and write your story so that it is not vague or bloated with unnecessary information, characters, or scenes.

Step 2: Formatting—Use automated screenplay formatting algorithms to meet industry standards with confidence.

Step 3: Submitting to studios—Use screenwriting software to export your scripts for easy submission to studios and contests.

Doing it all yourself without software is possible, but you’ll probably end up with an endless headache. Trust me, I’ve been down that road and it ain’t pretty.

Wrestling all the formatting into the correct shape is super tedious.

4) Screenwriting Software Optimizes Your Script and Story

Ultimately, the strength of your script matters most. Screenwriting software takes care of the “nonstory” tasks so that you can focus on the story.

The majority of screenplays that get made into movies start as scripts written on the computer.

A professional-level program for writing scripts makes it possible to create a quality draft of your screenplay using industry-standard structure and advanced storytelling metrics, all of which are important to those who read and assess your work.

Some software (like Jarvis AI) helps you automatically write, rewrite, condense, or expand your writing.

Other software (like Final Draft) finetunes your screenplay with advanced revision tools such as alternate dialogue and collaboration with other writers.

5) Screenwriting Software Helps You Avoid Script-Killing Mistakes

Most likely, the first person to read your script will be what’s known as a “reader.” This early movie studio gatekeeper quickly dismisses most scripts because of easy-to-avoid mistakes overlooked by the screenwriter.

Screenwriting software is your layer of protection against making these kinds of mistakes. That means you can mobilize all of your energy on writing a better story.

Here is a shortlist of the most common errors readers find in amateur scripts (and that software can help you avoid):

  1. Screenwriting software helps you avoid plot holes—The easiest way to lose a reader’s confidence is by creating plot holes, those unexplained or otherwise illogical scenarios that defy reality and story continuity.
  2. Screenwriting software helps you avoid lack of character development—Characters should not only be fully formed but also relevant to the plot’s main storyline.
  3. Screenwriting software helps you avoid awkward dialogue—Awkward or bad dialogue dramatically hinders the flow of a script. Proper use of dialogue can reveal character personality, push the story forward, and relay vital story information.
  4. Screenwriting software helps you avoid scenes that don’t advance plot—A writer’s worst enemy is the scene that doesn’t further the story. The first order of business for a reader is to find these scenes and excise them (or, more likely, reject your script outright).
  5. Screenwriting software helps you avoid cliched devices—A secondary concern for readers is the prevalence of tropes, those overused story beats that often feel unoriginal and predictable.

What Software Do You Use To Write a Script? (4 Best Options)

What is the best script writing software?

The best scriptwriting software is Final Draft because Final Draft is the national and international standard (used by hundreds of thousands of writers just like me and you).

Final Draft is used by over 95% of professional working screenwriters.

Final Draft offers all the advanced features you need across the full range of your career, from complete beginner to high-paid Hollywood insider. Most studios and networks use Final Draft, so it makes sense to start with the very best.

Here are the top four screenwriting software that I recommend:

  1. Final Draft
  2. Fade In
  3. Script Studio
  4. Slugline

Let me mention one last software that you might not expect.

This software is new and has changed the game completely for me. I produce so much more (and higher quality) content, including stories and screenplays. Since it’s my secret backdoor software, you’ll be even more ahead of everyone else who doesn’t use it.

The great thing is that this software pairs nicely with other screenwriting software to make both even more effective.

I’m talking about my favorite AI writer, Jarvis. It takes some training to maximize the tool, but once you learn it, you’ll be a scriptwriting machine.

You can try Jarvis out right now with a 7-day money-back guarantee.

Yes, it’s used mostly by bloggers and copywriters (like me), but don’t be fooled. People (like me) are also using it to write books, novels, stories, and screenplays.

I recommend trying the Boss Mode for 7 days because it offers you the most advanced features you’ll need for your screenplay. It’s the package I use and I love it.

Do You Really Need Final Draft? (Honest Answer)

I strongly suggest that you, at a minimum, try out Final Draft and Jarvis. No, you don’t 100% need either of them. You don’t need anything to write a screenplay but your brain, your hands (or voice), and a computer.

However, that doesn’t mean it’s the best or easiest choice.

While “need” is a strong word, I do think you’re setting yourself up for success (and avoiding a lot of headaches) by starting with professional-grade tools.

The best time to get used to these tools is today. They will only accelerate the time it takes for you to break into the industry. Some of your competition started using these tools last year, or two years ago. You can catch up much faster with professional tools.

You can also write a better screenplay, win a competition, and get your script turned into a movie.

There are no guarantees in this business, but something that I can almost guarantee is that without screenwriting software, you will wait a lot longer to get your first “win.”

So, why wait?

What Is the Best Free Screenwriting Software?

Even if you don’t use the most expensive software (which is probably the best), you can begin with less pricey alternates.

You can even use free software until you can afford the more professional models.

The best free screening software is WriterDuet. The free plan allows you to write three full screenplays for no cost. You can also format your script to meet industry standards, number your scenes, use outline tools, and take advantage of their tag and filter features.

Just keep in mind that free software is not going to offer all of the features of paid software.

With WriterDuet, the good news is that you can always upgrade to a paid tier (still lower priced compared to other software). This way, you work your way up the paid tiers until you can afford software like Final Draft, Script Studio, and Jarvis.

That doesn’t mean the free software isn’t good, just that it isn’t your best option. However, it could be your best option for now.

Can You Write a Screenplay on Microsoft Word?

You can also write a screenplay using Microsoft Word.

The “screenplay template” in Microsoft Word is available for free from the Microsoft Office website. Simply open a new “screenplay template” in Word and begin writing.

You can adjust the template to meet the specific needs of your script. But, if you go this route, I recommend leaving the template mostly alone so that you don’t unintentionally break the format and disqualify your script from studio or content guidelines.

You can download a free screenwriting template for Word here: Screenplay Template.

Here’s a short 4-minute video on how to write a screenplay with Microsoft Word:

Video by TRCMEDIASTUDIOS via YouTube—Do I need software to write a screenplay?

I think writing an entire screenplay with Word is asking for trouble. Personally, it would drive me nuts.

If you’re going to use Word, you might as well use the free version of WriterDuet. It will save you a lot of time and frustration trying to make Word work for you.

What Do You Really Need To Write a Screenplay?

Ok, let’s get down to it. If want to write a complete, professional screenplay that has a chance to win a competitor or get accepted by a studio, you’re going to need a few things.

Here is a shortlist of my screenwriting tool stack:

These are the bare minimum type of tools you need to write, edit, format, and submit your script. See the full list if you want to be even better prepared.

Final Thoughts: Do I Need Software To Write a Screenplay?

I will end where I started.

You do not NEED software to write a screenplay, but you should get and use it anyway. You don’t NEED a car to get from point A to point B, but it beats walking 20 miles in the rain.

There are a ton of other articles on my website about writing better stories, making money as a writer, and how to write for studios like Disney and SNL. Please feel free to browse around the site.

I don’t want you to miss anything that might help you succeed.

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