What Are 5 Screenwriting Tools You Need to Have?

John Turturro and Jon Polito in Barton Fink Meeting
'Barton Fink' (dir. Joel and Ethan Coen, 1991). Shot by Roger Deakins Credit: 20th Century Fox
You need a little more than just your imagination. 

One of the things I love about being a writer is that, for the most part, you just need to have a vivid imagination and the willingness to take some time to put your ideas down. But when you enter into the world of screenwriting, there are a few tools you need that will make the job much easier. 

Now, not everyone needs every tool. Some people get along well with only one of two of them, but I wanted to remind you of what is available. If you're already a pro, maybe you only need one of these, but for beginners, these tools will help you learn the craft. 

All right, let's jump in. 

What Are 5 Screenwriting Tools You Need to Have? 

As I said up top, every writer is different. We all know what our needs are and sometimes those needs change based on the project.

For example, I go back to our genre guide all the time, but I only use the beat sheets once in a while. 

1. Screenwriting Format Guide

Before you start your screenwriting journey, you should learn how to format a script. Formatting is essential to looking like a professional.

Also, the more you know about the format, the better you can use it to communicate your idea to the audience. So check out this simple image that explains a screenplay page and what it should look like when properly formatted. 

2. Screenwriting Books 

We outlined the 20 best books on screenwriting in another post. They range from books that help you with characters to just ones that focus on the philosophy of writing.

The book I am going to endorse is the one I wrote! It's free to download, so if you hate it, no need to return it. I focused on some practical writing advice inside as well as a step-by-step process from ideation to execution.

This combines many of the best practices, tricks, and resources found in dozens of screenwriting books out there on the market. Our main goal with this eBook is to prompt you to put pen to paper—whether this is your first time writing a script or your hundredth. So check it out. 

3. Screenwriting Software 

Guess what? You're going to need screenwriting software at some point. You can write in Word or Pages, but it sucks. You will waste so much time formatting it is not worth it. Especially since you can get several options for free.

We have a guide to screenwriting software as well. Keep in mind, it doesn't matter what software you choose. All that matters is that you can export it to a PDF to send it around places. So pick what works best for you. Utilize the free trials that places offer to get to know all sorts of programs.  

4. Coverage Services 

At some point, when your screenplay is finished, you might want to get some feedback on it.

Now, I am super wary of sites where you pay for feedback, because they are not always incentivized to give the best notes—they're incentivized to get you coming back for more. I did a deep dive on script coverage services to see what they offer and what their honest feedback looked like.

Ideally, you want to make sure you're paying money to get honest feedback that can help you make things better. But a free way to do that is to create a writer's group. That's a way to trade feedback and bolster your ideas without spending extra money. 

5. Online Forums 

Going off of coverage services, there are a ton of online forums built to help educate you. We obviously love it here, at No Film School. But we would be remiss if we didn't recommend Reddit Screenwriting, John August's website, and even a ton of podcasts for screenwriters.

These are great places to learn lessons about writing, hear from professionals, and even find people to add to your writer's group. So check them out as they come. 

Summing Up the 5 Screenwriting Tools You Need to Have 

Hopefully, this list of things helps you on your journey as a writer. There are lots of people out there who want to sell you solutions to the problems you have as a writer. Remember, so many things are available for free, so do some research before you pay for anything.

We have many free resources available on this website, so if you can't find something, let me know in the comments and I'll do some searching for you. 

Now, it's time to get back to writing.      

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