360XQ Day 23: Ulysses and minor-league hacking

Three weeks into my residency, I came to the end of the first rough draft of my new play.

Three weeks into my residency, I came to the end of the first rough draft of my new play.

Today I completed the first draft of my newest play, written completely by hand, in ink, in a paper notebook.

I have one week left in Mexico. The next task is to digitize this thing.

Next steps

I’ll now type up the entire play, and as I go, I’ll be doing two things: editing and formatting.

  1. Editing: I’ll expand upon some shorthand ideas, fill in some blanks. I’ll cut some overly-wrought monologues. I’ll start to bury blatant statements into subtextual exchanges. I’ll work on each character’s voice and vocabulary.
  2. Formatting: From the frantic scrawling of the past few weeks, I’ll organize everything into dialogue and action, set scene breaks, and just make it look real pretty. I’ll also be able back up the draft, so that if my paper notebook falls in the lake, I won’t have to kill myself.

The software conundrum

After my previous rant on how much I hate pretty much every piece of software ever made, and yesterday’s advocation for using Fountain to type up my plays, the question is: what program am I going to use? More to the point: how will I make it work for playwriting, as opposed to screenwriting?

Playwriting v. Screenwriting

Screenwriting has a very specific format, so there are more tools designed to keep things unified. There are always exceptions, of course, which I think will continue to become more common. But at the end of the day, it has to work on a film set with as little fuss as possible.

Playwriting is not as hard-set of a standard. There are certain rules that we all more or less agree on, but they often change, and many of them can be bent or even broken quite easily. Playwriting is more like poetry than fiction: sculpting the form is part of it.

Still, that doesn’t mean I can just do whatever-the-hell-I-want and no one will care. The main thing is that it needs to read easily, and translate well to a rehearsal and staging. That takes a format that is different than a screenplay, which is designed to be filmed. So, now what?

Introducing Ulysses

As I mentioned previously, there are many apps currently supporting Fountain, the new screenwriting syntax that I want to use.

I am writing this post on Ulysses, a pretty snappy Markdown-centric writing app. It’s proven to be fantastical for blogging and article-writing. Ghost, which is the platform I now blog on, is also part of the Markdown party, so everything plays together nicely.

However, the reason I started to use Ulysses is that I thought maybe, just maybe, it could become the center for all my writing projects: blogs, articles, playwriting and screenwriting. I’d like to make that happen.

The problem

Ulysses is not, in fact, a current supporter of Fountain. They say they will change that, but it remains to be seen.

In the mean time, I could just use one of the Fountain-ready apps for screenwriting instead, and do everything else in Ulysses.

But…that still doesn’t help me format things for stage plays instead of screenplays.

The hopeful solution

Ulysses allows you to customize your Markdown rules. If you’re willing to put in the time, you can basically just create your own format (this is what I did with Pages).

I realized this because Jennifer Mack has created a step-by-step tutorial on Faking Fountain with Ulysses. Jennifer, you rock.

Playwriting is more like poetry than fiction: sculpting the form is part of it.

Since Ulysses allows this level of customization, it only stands to reason that I could do the exact same thing that Jennifer has done—but set things up for playwriting instead of screenwriting.

So, playwrights, I am going to take some time and create this custom syntax. And then I will post the details here. And then we will all be the most savvy playwrights ever.

Right? Right. Here we go.

Next up

How I stay organized. The geekiness continues.

UncategorizedChad Eschman