Screenwriting Secrets by John Scott Lewinski

Screenwriting Secrets » Microsoft Word

What?! Didn't I say earlier that these big name, word processing/desktop publishing programs can't handle the rigors of screenwriting's unusual formats? Well, it's more or less true, but you can manipulate MS Word into a reasonably effective screenwriting word processor if you choose not to drop the cash on Final Draft or Scriptware.

MS Word offers a Rich Text Format (RTF) that allows files to save several elements with different margins, cases, etc. The margins list in the MS Word toolbar are accessed by running the mouse over the list. While the tabbing and toggling between different element (action, Character, dialogue, etc.) isn't as easy or as automatic as using Final Draft or Scriptware, it's doable. Also, the RTF files don't snap back and forth automatically from character to dialogue, etc. Use of an RTF is much more methodical and hands on.

To create an RTF file, simply save any MS Word document in the format. The file menu's SAVE AS command will give you that option. Now, in PARAGRAPH under the FORMAT menu, set your elements one at time (such as your indent for dialogue, your margins for character names, right justification for transitions, etc.).

The style menu under format also allows you to create your elements. Whichever way you choose to make your screenwriting rules in an RTF file, the various elements should appear in the style menu in the program's on-screen toolbar/ruler area.

Some on-line services (such as AOL) and some web sites offer downloadable templates that create at automatic RTF for you. Grab one of these if you can as they save a great deal of time and frustration.

(Wait! A Microsoft product causing a great deal of frustration?! Impossible! The preceding message was brought to you by Bill Gates, of course.)

Hint: The programs listed above can actually make MS Word RTF files. The program takes any script and exports it to MS Word, more or less maintaining the proper margins and elements. While the document won't work as conveniently as a specific screenwriting processor file and won't make you consider dumping Final Draft for MS Word, it can enable you to swap documents with other writers. A potential writing partner might not have ScriptThing, but the odds they will have MS Word, since, for better or worse, it's the world's most popular word processor.

Naturally, Scriptware and its cousins also import MS Word RTF files back into Final Draft scripts. So, Microsoft Word RTF files as a screenwriting tool are primitive compared to Final Draft, ScriptThing and Scriptware, but it'll do in a pinch.

To order HollyWord, an inexpensive screenplay formatting tool that uses Microsoft Word, click here.

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