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?
21 Tools You Need To Write a Screenplay
You absolutely need these tools for your best chance to write a quality, marketable screenplay as fast as possible.
Here’s the quick version of the list (by category) and then we’ll break them down for the rest of this article with my 21 specific recommendations:
- Screenwriting software
- Screenwriting AI writer
- Screenwriting AI image generator
- Screenwriting computer
- Screenwriting desk
- Screenwriting chair
- Screenwriting speech-to-text software
- Produced scripts
- Screenwriting books
- Screenwriting course
- Community and coverage
- Screenwriting Insider
1) Screenwriting Software: Final Draft
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.
Its intuitive interface, extensive feature set, and user-friendly design make it easy for writers to create professional screenplays that adhere to industry standards. Final Draft offers numerous templates for screenplays, teleplays, graphic novels, and stage scripts, and its auto-pagination feature ensures that your script is always properly formatted.
In addition to its formatting features, Final Draft offers several other tools that make writing a screenplay a breeze.
Its beat board and outline editor allow you to quickly organize your scenes and keep track of story elements.
Its Speech to Script feature allows you to write your screenplay with your voice, which can be a huge timesaver. And its SmartType tool automatically fills in commonly used character names and words, making writing faster and more efficient.
2) Screenwriting Software: Fade In
Fade In is an affordable screenwriting software that provides extensive formatting capabilities.
With its built-in default styles, customizable styles, and the ability to create your own styles, you can take control of the format of your screenplay.
Its autocomplete typing feature, which provides as-you-type suggestions for character names, locations, and scene intros, among others, saves time and reduces the chances of errors in your screenplay.
One of the key advantages of Fade In is its ability to facilitate real-time collaboration among multiple users.
Unlike other screenwriting software that restricts access to one person at a time, Fade In permits multiple collaborators to work on the same screenplay simultaneously.
Fade In also offers powerful tools that aid in writing and rewriting.
For example, the Dialogue Tuner enables you to view and edit all of a character’s dialogue in one place, allowing you to check for consistency and ensure that each character has a unique voice.
It also has specialized tools for managing revisions, page locking, omitted scenes, and more, making it an ideal software for professional screenwriters.
3) Screenwriting Software: Script Studio
Script Studio is a powerful tool that offers everything a screenwriter needs to write a professional screenplay.
One of its most useful features is its ability to help writers plan and structure their stories.
With Script Studio, you can easily outline your story, color-code your structure, and drag and drop scenes to reorganize your narrative. This makes it easy to keep track of your story beats and ensures that your screenplay flows smoothly from beginning to end.
Another great feature of Script Studio is its easy script formatting.
Script Studio takes care of script formatting as you type, ensuring that your screenplay adheres to industry standards.
This frees up your mind to focus on developing your story and characters, without the need to worry about formatting your script.
This can save writers a lot of time and frustration, especially if they’re new to screenwriting and not familiar with the formatting conventions used in the industry.
In addition, Script Studio provides comprehensive character development tools that empower writers to construct intricate and lifelike character profiles, scrutinize dialogue, and methodically construct character arcs.
This allows writers to craft characters that are multifaceted, authentic, and engaging.
By using these tools, writers can guarantee that their characters remain true to their personalities and evolve in a believable manner throughout the narrative.
4) Screenwriting Software: Slugline
Slugline is another essential tool for any screenwriter, providing a streamlined and powerful writing environment that makes formatting your screenplay a breeze.
With Slugline, you can focus on the creative aspects of your writing without getting bogged down in the technical details of screenplay formatting.
The software automatically takes care of proper formatting, such as scene headings, action descriptions, and character dialogue, freeing up your time to focus on the story you want to tell.
It’s about simplicity.
Slugline also provides a range of features that make the writing process smoother.
Such as a drag-and-drop Outline Navigator and a bird’s-eye view Timeline that helps you keep track of your screenplay’s pacing and structure.
You can also make use of color-coded notes and scene numbering to organize your thoughts and ideas.
Slugline also comes with a number of improvements over its predecessor, including a dark mode for those long writing sessions, an auto-save function to ensure you never lose your work, and Final Draft import/export functionality.
The software is compatible with everything, everywhere, allowing you to sync your work across multiple devices.
5) Screenwriting Software: Scrivener
Scrivener is designed to make the screenwriting process more manageable and efficient.
Its unique “binder” view allows writers to divide their screenplay into sections and easily reorganize them as needed.
This feature is especially helpful for writers who struggle with organization or need to work on multiple sections of their screenplay simultaneously.
Additionally, Scrivener’s corkboard and outliner features provide a visual representation of the screenplay’s structure, allowing writers to easily see the big picture and make adjustments accordingly.
Scrivener is also a great tool for research-heavy projects.
Its ability to keep background material within reach and reference it alongside the screenplay is a valuable asset for screenwriters who need to conduct extensive research.
The program’s metadata and collections features also provide a way to keep track of useful information, such as character details and scene descriptions, making it easier to stay organized throughout the writing process.
The good news is that most of these software options are 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. See the links at the bottom of this article.
6) Screenwriting AI Writer: Jasper
AI writers (artificial intelligence writers) are a relatively new phenomenon that is growing into a viable option for scriptwriters.
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.
My favorite AI writer is Jasper. This is simply the most sophisticated AI tool I’ve ever used. It comes with 50+ templates, a long-form option (best for screenwriting), and chat.
The pre-designed recipes for creating ebooks from scratch can also come in handy for those who want to turn their screenplay into a book or vice versa.
One of the most significant advantages of Jasper AI is its ability to generate hundreds or thousands of words of original content in less than a minute, which can be particularly useful for screenwriters who need to produce scripts quickly.
Jasper’s ability to produce plagiarism-free content is also noteworthy.
As a screenwriter, you want to make sure your scripts are original and not copied from other sources.
7) Screenwriting AI Writer: ChatGPT
ChatGPT, as an AI language model, is a powerful tool that can assist screenwriters in various ways.
One of the primary ways in which ChatGPT can be useful is by providing writers with ideas for their screenplays. The AI model can generate a wide range of ideas based on different genres and themes, which can help writers overcome writer’s block and come up with unique storylines.
Additionally, ChatGPT can help screenwriters improve their script’s dialogue by suggesting different ways to phrase sentences and paragraphs.
This can be particularly useful for writers who struggle with finding the right words to convey their characters’ emotions or thoughts effectively.
Another way ChatGPT can be a valuable tool for screenwriters is by providing feedback on their scripts.
The AI model can analyze the script and provide insights into areas that need improvement, such as pacing, plot structure, character development, and more.
By using ChatGPT’s feedback, writers can revise their scripts and make them more engaging and compelling.
Moreover, ChatGPT can be used for research purposes by providing screenwriters with accurate information on a wide range of topics related to their screenplay.
Whether it’s historical facts or scientific data, the AI model can quickly generate relevant information that you can plant in your script.
8) Screenwriting AI Writer: WriteSonic
With over 70 templates to choose from and support for 25 different languages, WriteSonic can help you generate high-quality content in no time.
Whether you need help creating a character backstory, a dialogue between two characters, or even a scene description, WriteSonic has got you covered.
One of the standout features of WriteSonic is its text-to-image AI.
This feature allows you to input a description of a scene, and the tool will generate an image that matches the description. This can be incredibly helpful for visualizing the scene you are writing and adding depth to your screenplay.
Additionally, WriteSonic offers a landing page generator, making it easy to promote your screenplay online.
9) Screenwriting AI Writer: INK
While INK is primarily marketed as an AI blog writer, it has a lot to offer to anyone writing a screenplay.
One of the most critical aspects of writing a screenplay is generating ideas and doing research.
INK’s AI-powered content generator can assist you in both of these areas, helping you come up with new concepts for your screenplay and researching relevant keywords and topics to include.
This tool can save you time and effort by providing you with a wealth of information that you can use to craft a compelling story.
Another critical aspect of writing a screenplay is optimizing your content for better ranking.
Finally, the ease of use of INK is a significant advantage for any writer. The tool is designed to be user-friendly, allowing you to focus on your writing rather than getting bogged down in technical details.
With INK, you can create high-quality content quickly and efficiently, freeing up more time to work on other aspects of your screenplay.
10) Screenwriting AI Writer: Rytr
One of the biggest challenges in screenwriting is coming up with ideas for scenes and dialogue that are both engaging and true to the characters and plot.
With Rytr’s AI-powered writing assistant, writers can generate ideas and even full scenes with just a few clicks.
Rytr can help writers refine their writing style and voice. It offers over 20 different tones of voice, each designed to evoke a specific emotion or mood. This can be particularly useful for screenwriters who want to make sure their dialogue and narrative have a consistent tone throughout the script.
The interface is user-friendly and the writing assistant is intuitive, making it easy for even novice writers to get started.
It’s not just the text you need but also a way to visualize your screenplay so that it comes to life.
That’s why we are going to look at AI image generators next.
11) Screenwriting AI Image Generator: DALL-E
DALL-E can assist with this by generating high-quality images based on text descriptions, enabling writers to visualize their scenes and characters better.
DALL-E’s ability to generate images based on specific text prompts can also be an excellent tool for fleshing out characters and settings.
By describing a character’s appearance and personality in detail, a writer can use DALL-E to create an accurate visual representation of that character.
Similarly, describing a setting in vivid detail can help a writer to visualize it better and ensure that it is accurately portrayed in the script.
Another benefit of using DALL-E for screenwriting is its ability to create multiple variations of the same image.
This can be especially useful for exploring different camera angles, lighting, and other visual elements that can enhance storytelling.
12) Screenwriting AI Image Generator: Jasper Art
Jasper Art is a text-to-image AI generator that allows users to create high-quality images based on text descriptions.
It is powered by advanced algorithms that enable it to understand and interpret text descriptions accurately. Jasper Art is capable of creating a wide range of images, including landscapes, portraits, animals, objects, and more.
One of the main advantages of Jasper Art is its ability to generate images quickly and efficiently.
This can be especially useful for screenwriters who need to visualize their scenes and characters in real time. With Jasper Art, writers can input detailed descriptions of their characters, settings, and props, and quickly generate images that accurately reflect their vision.
Of course, all this software won’t do you any good unless you get yourself the best screenwriting gear.
Here is just a sample of how you can use tools like Jasper Art to help create the visuals to inspire your screenplay:
13) 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:
14) 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 a black metal frame but, you know, do you).
15) 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.
16) 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 literally 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 repetitive 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 are 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.
17) 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.
The other tools work great, too, but this tool is one of the reasons I have an IMDb page, get royalties from Amazon every month, and make a living as a full-time writer.
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:
18) 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. 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 apply 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.
19) 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
20) Community and Coverage
Along with immersing yourself in actually 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.
21) Screenwriting Insider
If you can get in touch with an insider in the screenwriting industry you’ll have a major leg up.
Follow working screenwriters on social media, such as Twitter. Watch screenwriters on YouTube – but only real screenwriters who make a living writing screenplay.
Another great resource for a screenwriting insider is a website called The Bitter Scriptreader.
It’s owned and operated by a script reader with 10 years of insider experience.
What Tools Are Required for Good Script Writing? (Beat Your Competition)
The most important tools of a screenwriter are your understanding of the 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 equipment 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 helps you pick good video topics, make video thumbnails, and get traffic to your videos.
Here is a chart with the absolute best tools you need to write a screenplay:
|Best screenwriting software
|Jasper or ChatGPT
|Best AI writing software
|Best AI image generator
|Best screenwriting computer
|Cubi Cubi Computer Table
|Best screenwriting desk
|Best screenwriting chair
|Nuance Dragon Naturally Speaking Professional
|Best voice-to-text software
|Best website for produced scripts
|The Secrets of Action Screenwriting
|Best screenwriting book
|Aaron Sorkin Teaches Screenwriting (MasterClass)
|Best screenwriting course
|The Black List
|Best script review and feedback
Final Thoughts: Tools You Need To Write a Screenplay
What tools do you need to write a screenplay?
Ultimately, the only tools you need are whatever helps you put words on paper, gets your script down, and keeps you plugging away at your next story.
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