How to Use Scrivener to Write a Screenplay

Scrivener is probably the best word processor available.  Most writers like myself who have been writing for a long time will find Scrivener a welcome addition to their desktop.  I use the program exclusively to write novels, but it has many other functions, one of which is screenwriting.

Here are the steps:

First, open a new document and select “screenwriting” and then “screenplay”.

The next thing you will see is the following screen.  What is great about Scrivener is that it has pre-made formatting for all of the various parts of a screenplay.  It offers pre-sets for actions, parentheticals, shots, dialogue, transitions, or anything a screenwriter might need to format their document properly.

The binder column on the left allows a writer to see each section or scene of their screenplay at a glance.  If a writer wants to switch a scene around or move a scene to another part of the screenplay, they can switch to cork board mode (found in the tool bar at the top).  The writer can then move the scenes around at will or delete scenes which then go to a trash folder in the binder just in case the writer desires to come back and revisit things rejected earlier.  The binder also holds any research for the manuscript which can take the form of any digital medium a writer desires to use from pictures to websites to pdf documents that can be accessed without leaving the program.

A screenwriter can also keep their character and setting sketches in the binder for a quick glance at the characters in their screenplay or settings so that everything can be seen at once without leaving the main document.  This helps a writer stay consistent with descriptions, characterization and setting.

Scrivener also features a column on the right side called the “inspector” which has endless productivity uses.  It can keep track of how many times the writer has revised individual scenes, tell the compiler to include “as is” or in a more defined format, take a snapshot of a scene before editing so that the writer can go back to the original save point, search for key words, make notes in the margin that will not be included on the printed manuscript and much more.

Once the manuscript is completed, Scrivener will print to a pdf, print to a printer or create a digital e-book version effortlessly by clicking “file” then “compile”.  It can also print a proof copy with watermarks and can export to a multitude of formats.

Published by Roger Colby, Novelist, Editor

Roger Colby is a novelist and teacher who has taught English for nearly two decades. He is also an avid reader of science fiction who feels, like many other sci-fi readers, that he has read everything. He writes science fiction for the reader who is looking for the next best thing, something to excite them into reading again. This blog is his journey as a writer and his musings about writing. He also edits manuscripts for a fee and is an expert at helping you reach your full potential as a writer.

5 thoughts on “How to Use Scrivener to Write a Screenplay

  1. I don’t use Scrivener – my software-of-choice is MS Word…and I use it like a typewriter, discarding 99% of the capacity built into the programme. The reason is partly habit; I started off using typewriters. But the more crucial issue is that the software tends to frame the act of creation, often subtly, often insidiously. We become limted by what can be contained on the screen, and the organising principles behind the software. Not all authors write like the creators of Scrivener (or Word, or any of the others) suppose. The trick is finding a tool that works with you; personally, I use pen-and-paper to plan. Then I draft stuff. When it comes to final prep for sending away to my publisher, I go back to paper – I’ll do a printout and work through it in pen and ink.

    That said, of course, everybody’s going to be different and it’s important that each author finds the tool that works best for them. And Scrivener – pretty clearly – is that tool for a lot of writers. Which is a pretty positive thing; what counts, of course, is the end product – great writing – and if we can find a tool that helps us get there, that’s brilliant.

    1. I love that you use pen and ink. I do the same for planning and outlining. Good old yellow legal pad. I will also use old fashioned note cards as well and then arrange them on a table in the sequence I desire. Scrivener is a tool like any other.

  2. I’ve never used Scrivener but I’m a big fan of Celtx. They actually look pretty similar and Celtx is free (I don’t know if Scrivener is). My question is, once you’ve written a screenplay, what do you do with it?

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