Tag Archives: Rewriting

iAnnotate PDF: A Screenwriter’s Review

Whenever someone asks me about screenwriting books, Your Screenplay Sucks!:  100 Ways to Make It Great by William Akers is always on the list of must-haves.  Yesterday, over on his equally-valuable blog, Akers made a short post about printing to proofread.

As I read the article this morning, a wave of guilt washed over me.

Oh, not because I don’t print to proofread as Akers suggests. For me, it’s a necessity — physically editing with a pen in hand opens my eyes to things I simply don’t see on the computer screen.

The reason I felt guilty was because I hadn’t written an article about the best sawbuck I ever spent:

App: iAnnotate PDF
Price: $9.99 (iTunes)

In short, this iPad app allows me to proofread and markup .PDF scripts as if I were writing on paper (with or without a stylus).  And that’s just the beginning.  The care that has gone in to making this a solid app is really astounding.  Having been in the technology business for over 15 years, I’ve spent a lot of money on software — iAnnotate PDF is hands-down the best value I’ve ever gotten for my money.

Following are some features/examples of how this app has revolutionized my writing:

  • Edit any .PDF document.
  • Size is close to a printed page.
  • Dropbox Support!
  • Don’t want to print 100+ pages when you review another writer’s script?  Now you can send them a flattened .PDF with your notes and edits (extremely valuable for professionals and aspiring writers active in screenwriting groups).
  • Text Box Notes (copy and paste into your screenwriting software of choice).
  • Oops!  Didn’t mean to cross that out!  No problem…  delete and redo.
  • Non-Intrusive Toolbars/Menus.
  • Stock and Custom Stamps.
  • Read produced scripts from your favorite online archives and keep a library with notes.
  • Highlighting.
  • Insert pages into any .PDF document.
  • Stops Killing Trees!
  • Customize and Add Toolbars.
  • … and the list goes on!

At first, I was concerned that using a stylus on a tablet wouldn’t be an adequate substitution for putting red pen to paper.  Within the first few minutes, I actually found it better.

My wife and I just spent a week in Nuevo Vallarta, Mexico (the Nuevo/Puerto Vallarta area is awesome!).  Each morning, I would head down to the pool with my cup of coffee, iPad, and stylus, and have a couple/few hours of solitude before everyone else showed up.  I edited over 90% of the script on the trip.  And with WiFi and Dropbox support, I was able to back up everything whenever I wanted.

Following is an app screenshot (I use the highlighter tool to mark words that should be capitalized):

Who would have thought that sitting by a pool in Mexico I would find peace in crossing out chunks of words I had toiled over.  Long before using this app, I knew I was becoming a better writer when I was more excited about deleting than adding.  Irony, anyone?

Since there doesn’t seem to be a full-featured screenwriting app for the iPad coming any time soon, I find iAnnotate PDF makes the iPad a great screenwriting tool.

What motivates and inspires you?

While there’s an infinite amount of motivations for success, I suppose most of us aspiring screenwriters are driven, at least in part, to see our work on the screen; to be blessed to have our stories told; to make a living by doing what we love, etc.

Then, sometimes, there are those things that both motivate and inspire.

Once I’m in the chair, click the Final Draft icon, and get lost in the script, what carries me?  What tethers my soul to the story and, at the same time, keeps me accountable to change what I love in service of what is right for the story?  What gets me excited to read a fellow writer’s script and provide quality feedback?  What won’t let my mind stop attacking a logic problem for days on end?

Lots of reasons.  But one of them is…

I want my story to be worthy of a Thomas Newman Soundtrack.

Even when I’m not listening to music while writing, it’s subtle motivating inspirations like these that help me to stay true to the story.

What motivates and inspires you?

The Dark Night of the Rewrite

Sure, we’ve all heard it time and time again…

“Writing is rewriting.”

Or, as Ernest Hemingway so clearly stated it…

“The first draft of anything is shit.”

This is not a “tips and tricks” or a how-to article.  Rather, I just wanted to share a quote that helps me every time I get frustrated with having to rewrite something for what seems like the umpteen-millionth time…

One of my all-time favorite films is M. Night Shyamalan‘s The Sixth Sense.  I find it to be a fantastic and well-executed idea and  also love the storytelling pace of this film and his equally awesome Unbreakable.  Both of these films were strong inspirations for my script Sawbuck.

Some  years ago, I stumbled upon an article from ScriptWriter that included the following quote from the writer/director about writing The Sixth Sense.  The highlighted portion is the line I often think of while rewriting:

“The first draft was bad, so I threw it out and started again on page one. Second draft, the same thing. I threw it out, page one again. It started out as a movie about a serial killer with Malcolm as a crime photographer. Then I realized it was me doing The Silence of the Lambs [screenplay by Ted Tally based on the novel by Thomas Harris]. It wasn’t until about the fifth draft that I really began to figure it out. It was then that I realized that at the end he realizes he’s dead. It took me five more drafts to execute it right.

(click here for the full article — an excellent read!)

Wow.  My assumption (and maybe that of others) was that the now-famous story structure/twist of The Sixth Sense was the driving force behind the story from the beginning.  Finding out that wasn’t the case, and hearing that even great creative minds struggle, not only makes my process easier, but also reminds me that I’m not fixing mistakes when rewriting, but actually discovering the story.

It’s also a good reminder that all the effort I put into story beats and note cards is not meant to create the final “structure,” but rather to create a vehicle to set out and discover the story I was driven to tell in the first place.