Tools of the Trade

Over the past few months I’ve been setting things up so I can work properly on books, scripts, articles and such.  A major issue with scriptwriting is the very strict formatting, whether writing for radio or screen.  Course advice was extremely strong: use screenwriting software to ensure formatting compliance.  I’ve had a look at a number of tools recommended by the BCU screenwriting lecturer, Andy Conway, but the major issue was compatibility with Dragon’s NaturallySpeaking (Dragon). It’s not that there was a problem with Dragon, just that change of formatting options were all in special mouse-operated pop-ups that it was impossible to control with normal voice commands.  The only way to rectify it is via Dragon macros that were unsupported in my SFE-standard version of Dragon (SFE:Student Finance England through which I receive my Disabled Student Allowance (DSA)) (too many brackets!).

We’ll come back to that later.

As far as screenwriting software is concerned, Final Draft seems to be one of the major heavyweights. However, I found the cheaper Celtx and Scrivener high in functionality and easy to use. After trying both, I found Scrivener much more relevant for my purposes as it was not just focused on script- or screen-writing but on writing as a business, as a whole. Further, it was a locally-run piece of  software, not geared towards the web.  This is important as I live in the sticks and often have to visit places where I do not have a fast broadband connection!  Scrivener is also very affordable, had a whole load of useful formats built-in, had an organisational structure that I found intuitive and immensely useful and allowed flipping between scenes really easy.  However, a trawl of the web, questions to Dragon support and information from BCU showed that use of any of this, like the other (vital) pieces of software were totally reliant on the Professional edition of Dragon.

A discussion with the ever-helpful BCU Student Services and my local DSA assessment centre resulted in the upgrade being approved.  It’s approval was a complicated by my laptop deteriorating but, when the software finally arrived, it proved such a boon that use of Scrivener and scriptwriting became a delight.  Dragon’s macro definition tools were really easy to use: all of a sudden, all I had to say was “Script Dialogue” and dialogue formatting appeared; likewise “Script Scene” pulls up a scene heading and… well, I think you get the picture.

Joy!

It’s not all roses-round-the-door, though.  I find Scrivener’s generation process is still a bit hazy, cutting dialogue at odd places and not following all the best-practice rules. As a result, I currently have to export the script to Microsoft Office/Word (do I need to link to that? Oh, okay) to finish it off, a process that is sometimes error-prone as the criticism from my screenwriting module showed.  However, the Dragon–>Scrivener–>Word–>Script process is not too onerous and actually enables me to produce something!

So, that’s okay for scripts, but what about eBooks?  Most of my writing is currently into Word as that interfaces really well with Dragon.  I use Scrivener to track ideas, series developments and to log character profiles/backgrounds (I have not yet built my own template but duplicate an existing character and modify it). However, generating an active index in Word and getting the Kindle Previewer to recognise the Table of Contents seems to be impossible, despite following the instructions and using every piece of advice I could find – and I’m pretty competent in Word.

So, more research needed.  After trawling round I found Calibre, an eBook support package. Frankly, it is fantastic.  It means a bit of painful keyboard use but it is another easy-to-use package and generates the ToC and an ePub package without any fuss whatsoever.  I was really excited when I ran my current Protected Worlds novel through the process, loaded it into the Kindle test reader and everything appeared as it should.

Yet more joy! Excited, I emailed Andy to mention my new find, only to discover he knew about it and had used it himself. Hmmph. I wish I’d asked in the first place.  😉

So, the Ebook process is now current Dragon–>Word–>html–>Calibre–>ePub format with support from Scrivener. It may end up having Scrivener in place of Word as the more I use Scrivener, the more I like it.  However, I now have usable tools in place for screen, radio, paper and eBooks, everything, it seems, I need. Hurrah!

:sigh: It’s a great feeling of relief.  🙂

Have fun, and take care.

Other useful links for tools…

Notjohn’s KDP Blog page – a useful page on bits to add/modify before generating the final epub page. This is useful. I have not read his book, yet, but he regularly appears to update it.

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