There is so much confusion and misinformation about what you need to write a screenplay. I wrote this article to cut through the confusion and give you straight answers from my 20 years of experience.
What tools do you need to write a screenplay? Here are my top 10 most recommended suggestions.
10 Tools You Need To Write a Screenplay
You absolutely need these ten tools for your best chance to write a quality, marketable screenplay as fast as possible. Here’s the quick version of the list and then we’ll break them down for the rest of this article with my specific recommendations:
- Screenwriting software
- Screenwriting AI writer
- Screenwriting computer
- Screenwriting desk
- Screenwriting chair
- Screenwriting speech-to-text software
- Produced scripts
- Screenwriting books
- Screenwriting course
- Community and coverage
1) Screenwriting Software
You need professional screenwriting software if you are an aspiring screenwriter. Screenwriting software does all the technical work for you so that you can focus on writing the best script.
Using writing software took me from a beginner to a professional, paid writer.
I can’t tell you how much time and energy I wasted before finally getting professional-grade software. It’s not cheap, but it’s worth it.
The industry-standard screenwriting software (and my personal recommendation) is Final Draft.
Here are a few other options I recommend:
The good news is that most of this software is a one-time payment (instead of an ongoing monthly fee that never ends). You buy it once and it’s yours forever.
Sure, you can buy upgrades in the future if you want, but you won’t have to do that for several years (or ever).
After you finish reading this article, check out my list of lower-priced options and even free screenwriting software.
2) Screenwriting AI Writer
AI writers (artificial intelligence writers) are a relatively new phenomenon that is growing into a viable option for scriptwriters.
Sure, AI writers have traditionally been used to write articles and marketing copy but they have become increasingly sophisticated over the years.
Personally, I’ve used AI Writers to develop character backstories, describe scenes, write dialogue, expand sentences, rewrite sentences, or condense sentences (and more).
AI can now follow script patterns, come up with outlines, and offer a variety of ever-increasing value to writers everywhere. You still need to do the bulk of the story work, but AI can help.
I can’t overstate how much using AI writers has changed the game for me.
My favorite AI writer is Jarvis. This is simply the most sophisticated AI tool I’ve ever used. Right now, you can get a 7-day money-back guarantee when you try it out.
Here are two other AI writers I really like:
These AI writers might not have been built specifically with screenwriting in mind, but they work. That’s all that really matters.
For marketing and copywriting (such as on social media, etc), an alternative to Jarvis is Anywords.
Of course, all this software won’t do you any good unless you get yourself the best screenwriting gear.
3) Screenwriting Computer
The best computer for screenwriters is hand-down the Surface Laptop.
It’s my personal favorite because it’s super-fast, light, and just makes everything easier. You don’t want to worry about storage space, loading times, or anything else except writing your script.
In my experience, it works better than even higher-priced computers.
I can take mine everywhere— from my local coffee shop to my Dad’s lakeside cabin in Tennesee. Not to mention the beach!
As for accessories, I like:
4) Screenwriting Desk
If you write at home, ruining your back by constantly writing on your bed or couch is not ideal. That’s why I set up a “home office” with a desk and chair specifically for writing.
I take writing very seriously (It’s my full-time gig after all).
You’re going to need a desk when you start selling those screenplays, so why not get an early start on setting up your workspace? I believe it’s also a way to help manifest your dreams.
The right desk will be durable, allowing you to keep working at your peak performance for years without worrying about getting a new one.
Whatever desk you choose, make sure it fits into your writing room (such as the corner of your bedroom or living room) and gives you enough space for your computer, chair, notepads, and other tools.
My favorite screenwriting desk is the Cubi Cubi computer table (I like the ivory with black metal frame but, you know, do you).
5) Screenwriting Chair
You have your computer and desk, now you need a chair. I know these are pretty obvious tools, but they had to be mentioned. Therefore, I’ll keep this section short.
You’ll be spending hours and hours in a chair, so you’ll want something comfortable and good for your back.
I suggest this ergonomic chair. I have this exact kind of chair and have been using it for years without any trouble.
6) Screenwriting Speech-To-Text Software
Using speech-to-text software can double or even triple your writing speed. I find myself writing so much more content.
Having solid writing speed is essential for every writer, but especially important if you ever want to write under a deadline (even a self-imposed one).
For me, sometimes the dialogue and description flow better when I’m speaking rather than typing. I still do a lot of typing, but using this kind of software helps break up the writing process.
You can just let the words type themselves.
What’s the best speech-to-text software?
My favorite is Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional. There’s nothing as good on the market, as far as I’m concerned. It learns your voice fast and makes very few mistakes (like most cheaper voice-to-text software or apps).
You really do get what you pay for with this one.
Here’s why I’m in love with this tool:
- You can pair it with a separate Dragon Anywhere app on your smartphone or bluetooth headset/mike to write literarally anywhere.
- It learns your most used words and phrases, even industry jargon (it’s like copy and paste for your words).
- You can actually perform repititive functions with it like creating documents.
I love to pace, especially when I’m buzzing with excitement over a brand new scene.
By the way, the best headset microphone I found that works with the software is the Plantronics Voyager Bluetooth. It might be the most comfortable headset I’ve ever worn—and the noise canceling is hard to believe until you try it.
7) Produced Scripts (Two Best Sources)
Here is some of my secret sauce. If you take this tool seriously, it could very well be the reason you write scripts that turn into movies while others sit around and dream.
Why is studying produced scripts so important?
When you study produced scripts (scripts made into movies), you learn the formulas of what really works directly from the source.
Scripts are meant to be made into movies, so it makes sense to study what has actually been produced. Don’t waste time on “secrets” that didn’t make it to the big or little screen.
Studying produced scripts from movies and TV shows lets you see how an idea was fleshed out into a movie, and whether or not it turned out to be any good. If the film did well, then it further confirms that there was something about the script that appealed to a large number of people.
Studying produced scripts also gives you fresh ideas and perspectives on the story, and how it could be improved.
You can get a feel for what did or didn’t work in other people’s movies, which can lead to new insights into your own writing.
Here are two great sites where you can access scripts:
8) Screenwriting Books (My Favorites)
By this point, you have all the tech and gear you will ever need, plus a ton of produced scripts that will teach you more about professional screenwriting than any book or course.
However, I’ll make an exception for a few books and courses.
But only a few. Most rehash the same ideas in different words or different ways. For the most part, once you’ve read ONE good book or taken ONE good course, you’re set.
If you’re going to invest in screenwriting books, don’t listen to anyone but William C. Martell (or, at least, listen to him the most).
He’s a real working screenwriter and the best teacher of practical screenwriting I’ve ever seen.
The best part is that his books and audio lessons are super cheap. His book covers are crap (see what I mean). But his advice is golden and actionable. That’s what matters. You can use his insights right now, today.
And it works.
If I were you, I’d gobble up all of his Blue Book series. I have almost all of them (definitely all of the main books in the screenwriting series).
Here are my favorites:
- The Secrets of Action Screenwriting (Don’t let the title fool you, the principles in this book appy to any genre)
- Outlines And The Thematic Method
- Secrets of Visual Storytelling
- Secrets of Story Well Told
- Dialogue Secrets
- Act Two Secrets
- Hook Em’ With Your First 10 Pages
- Grand Finales
One of my other go-to screenwriting books is the classic Save The Cat by Blake Synder. It’s a classic for a reason.
9) Screenwriting Courses
There are very few courses out there worth spending money on, but a good course is priceless.
If you read the books I’ve suggested and study produced scripts (especially in your genre), you probably don’t even need a course.
The single exception is when a course can shortcut your way to success.
So, here are my only two recommendations, based on what type of scripts you write:
- Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting (MasterClass) for movie scripts
- Shonda Rhimes Teaches Writing for Television (MasterClass) for TV scripts
10) Community and Coverage
Along with immersing yourself in actual produced screenplays, building a community and seeking professional feedback is the tool that is going to take you the furthest in your career.
Everything else will help you get there faster.
Community and coverage (script review and feedback) ensure that you get there the right way at the right time and stay there as long as you want.
Get much-needed feedback from these sources:
- We Screenplay
- Script Pipeline
- Screenplay Readers
- Script Reader Pro
- Bulletproof Script Coverage
- Story Sense
- Script Shadow
- The Black List
Yes, you can get feedback for free from your friends, family, and other aspiring screenwriters. That’s great, but it’s not the same as professional feedback that you pay someone to give you.
You want someone to rip your script apart (gently) so that you can rebuild it better than ever.
My top pick for coverage? The Black List.
Here’s a good video about the benefits and challenges of getting script coverage:
What Tools Are Required for Good Script Writing? (Beat Your Competition)
The most important tools of a screenwriter are your understanding of story and your flexibility with language. You must make words stomp, pounce, and judder across the page.
You must write characters into situations that shock and delight readers (and eventual viewers).
The very best tool for good screenwriting is a good story, well told.
If you want to go above and beyond (and knock out even more of the competition), get these tools:
- A website to create an online portfolio. You can create one for very little money with Bluehost and WordPress.
- Camera equiptment to film and promote your script: Get either the Black Magic Ursa or the Black Magic Pocket.
- YouTube Channel (free) to promote yourself and your work.
- TubeBuddy software to help you pick good video topics, make video thumbnails, and get traffic to your videos.
Final Thoughts: What Tools Do You Need To Write a Screenplay?
I thought it would be helpful to drop all of the top ten recommended tools into a table for easy reference.
So here it is:
|Final Draft||Best screenwriting software|
|Jarvis||Best AI writing software|
|Surface Laptop||Best screenwriting computer|
|Cubi Cubi Computer Table||Best screenwriting desk|
|Ergonomic Chair||Best screenwriting chair|
|Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional||Best voice to text software|
|Simply Scripts||Best website for produced scripts|
|The Secrets of Action Screenwriting||Best screenwriting book|
|Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting (MasterClass)||Best screenwriting course|
|Script Reader Pro||Best script review and feedback|
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