Setting up a stage-writing template in Final Draft 9

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

I used to love working with Celtx. It was really intuitive and made writing for the stage a real breeze. It created a format for stage plays that's recognisable and easy on the eye and gave your script an air of professionalism. 


Celtx still does all that, but unfortunately, they changed their business model.


It used to be an application that you could download onto your PC / laptop and could use offline and save your work to the Celtx Cloud.


I've written many of my stage-plays with Celtx, and really found it to be a great piece of kit. There's also an iOS version which was really great to use as well. There's an Android version which I've never really used, but I believe that that works as well as the iOS version.


The desktop software was free and the iOS version was about a tenner, I think. 


But:


A couple of years ago, Celtx stopped supporting the desktop app and took the whole application online.


You can still write your script using exactly the same formatting templates, but you have to do it through your browser.


I don't like this - I don't want to write online; it doesn't feel secure (although I'm assured that it is).


The Templates

Some of the really useful features from the old desktop application have disappeared (radio play formats!), and what happens when you can't get online but want to do some writing?


No.


It doesn't work for me.


Other Versions

The iOS app has gone through many versions and has gone from brilliant to glitchy, and back to good.


Don't get me started on the Mac Store version.


It feels like the great features that were available for free are no longer with us and it's all been replaced with an entirely inferior product.


I fell out of love for Celtx. I'm pining for it.


The Search

So, I went on the search for other script-writing software. Lots of people just use Word or Pages, but that just means endless tabbing around the page and it really interrupts the flow of writing, I

think.


There's loads of options - Scrivener seems like a popular choice. It’s a desktop application with a reasonable iPad version and has very good UK stage-writing templates, as well as BBC Radio Play and Screenplay templates.


I've recently started Scrivener and, so far, I really like it; very flexible and particularly affordable.


Fade In is quite popular with some of my students, although I haven’t given it a go myself.


Final Draft

But I eventually bit the bullet and went for Final Draft. 


Final Draft is expensive, and it's certainly not without its glitches.


Final Draft 9 looks a bit pre-millennium (although I believe that that's been addressed in Final Draft 10) and it can be a bit laggy, I've found. 


But, in its favour, it's very customisable.


You can change the background page colour (essential for those of us with scotopic sensitivity) and you can create templates and download professional templates.


Final Draft is recognised as the industry standard - particularly for screen writing (if not necessarily for stage- or radio-play writing). It's such a shame that Celtx moved on, because it covered all of those formats perfectly!


Final Draft’s Stage Writing Format

The stage format that is available within Final Draft's list of templates is the American format. It's not nice. I'm really not a fan! (Sorry America!) I don't think it's easy on the eye and I don't think it's as widely recognised by industry in the UK.


So, I created a template that I now use which replicates all of the features of the old Celtx stage-play format.


The video below goes through the process - it's quite simple and you only need to do it once and then save it. Make sure you duplicate it before you start writing your next masterpiece, so that you've always got a blank version.



Stage Directions

One of the eternal questions regarding stage-play writing is whether to include detailed stage directions. Playwriting applications help your script to LOOK right, but if you're sending your script away for competitions or readers, they should also READ right.


We get asked all the time about whether to include stage directions in a play script. And screenwriters also ask us how to make stage directions succinct and purposeful.


Regardless of the medium, your stage directions should be driven by action. Check out our blog about writing effective stage directions.


WriteForTheStage playwriting courses

Please do add your own comments to this blog. If you have a preferred application you use for stage-writing or radio-play writing, please share.


And if you want to speak out in support of Celtx, please do. I don't want to bad-mouth it - I'm just going from my own experience of it. I used to love it. I wish I still did!


Find out more about WriteForTheStage playwriting courses.


The WriteForTheStage Podcast

Have you listened to the WriteForTheStage Podcast yet?


We share writers tips and conversations with established playwrights.


Series 1 provides an in-depth exploratory of the 3-act structure for playwrights and screenwriters, while Series 2 is looking at various approaches to playwriting.


Thanks for reading!

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