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PRODUCT REVIEW: Final Draft 10 - Is It Worth It?

Katiedid Langrock, writer and TV development exec., reviews the new features in Final Draft 10 to see if the upgrade is really worth it.

Katiedid Langrock is a Hollywood scriptwriter, TV development exec., author, internationally syndicated humor columnist and guest lecturer. She recently founded Write in the Wild, a nature-based writers retreat and creative space for story classes and script consultations, which blends her years of story coaching experience with her previous job as an adventure tour guide in the Australian Outback. Join her in breaking story around the campfire. Scrawl outside the sprawl. Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter: @WriteInTheWild

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I had just arrived in Los Angeles. Not to live but to examine – examine whether I had the courage to try out this town, this industry. I knew I wanted to write television, but I didn’t know exactly what that meant. After graduating from a college that didn’t offer a film major, I took a job in Philadelphia writing obscene bumper stickers. The evenings were spent formatting Word docs into TV spec scripts.

Rather serendipitously, the weekend I arrived in Los Angeles – specs for Gilmore Girls, My Name Is Earl, Joey, and What I Like About You shoved in my backpack – the Screenwriters Expo was at the Los Angeles Convention Center. It felt destined. I called my parents and begged for a loan. At the Expo, I listened to panels, spoke to writers and eventually found myself in front of the booth for Final Draft.

I had never heard of the software and knew nothing about it other than it was out of my price range. I showed the Final Draft booth employee my TV specs written on Word, meticulously formatted with the utmost care.

“Sure, you can probably tell I formatted in Word, but who cares, right? As long as it follows the same basic formatting.”

The worker put a thick Final Draft 7 box in my hand. “Everyone cares. If you don’t take yourself seriously as a writer, no one else will, either.”

I handed him my just-in-case-of-emergencies credit card and never looked back. That has always been the magic of Final Draft. It is now and will forever be the screenwriting software brand associated with taking yourself seriously as a writer. Final Draft owns that emotional tug.

It’s been over a decade since I got my first Final Draft, and I’m happy to say that the software has grown with me. Final Draft 10 is a mature software for a mature writer. Without losing any of the simple and intuitive formatting techniques that easily engage novice screenwriters, Final Draft 10’s new features cater to experienced scribes. A few of the previous versions seemed to have come out before they were able to fully accomplish what they set out to do. As a consumer, I didn’t always feel I was getting enough bang for my buck. Final Draft 10 feels different. It has considered writers' needs and enhanced the writing experience at every stage of the process.


The Beat Board and Story Map are the two hot new (trademarked) features of FD10. It’s a little odd for me to describe them as two separate features; they are so intertwined with each other that it’s a little hard to determine where one feature ends and the other begins.

The Beat Board is awesome and should be loathed, despised and used for target practice by any company that sells outlining software. Basically, if Contour and Save the Cat screenwriting software gave birth to a corkboard and then that corkboard ate a box of crayons before going into surgery to have a digital-change operation, you would have Final Draft 10’s new Beat Board.


It's perfect for newbies trying to get their thoughts in order, but it also has the capacity to facilitate professional scribes, who have specific page count guidelines to abide by because they, ya know, are actually getting paid to write.


This brings us to the Story Map element. The Story Map enables you to set the number of pages you want to write to and then color-code your scenes – a feature particularly handy for television writers, who often seem to be considered second-tier when it comes to the demographics screenwriting software programs are going after. A bar at the top of your screenplay allows you to easily determine where your scenes are falling in comparison with where they should be and the length of such scenes. Veterans and baby writers alike can appreciate the ease of looking at a simple rainbow bar to reveal where the script gets bloated and action slows.

The Beat Board and Story Map are legitimately handy tools. Life-altering? Probably not. But the features were clearly designed by writers for writers, and Final Draft has taken the time to fully develop them so you can easily toggle from script to Beat Board to Story Map and back to script again with simple intuitive clicking. It works the way you would want it to work, and that is clutch. Final Draft’s real gift has always been its ability to enable its scribes to write as quickly as they dream, and these tools meet that standard.


Clearly, the Story Map becomes exponentially more useful once you start filling in your scenes, but that is not the only new feature in Final Draft 10 that facilitates the writing process. The long-awaited "collaboration" feature is now here.

Congratulations, Final Draft, on the birth of a feature you’ve been laboring through for years. Forceps were undoubtedly needed on this delivery, but now she is here and she is beautiful. I don’t know how much we can really blame Final Draft for those earlier versions when the collaboration features were, well, terrible. Really, we needed technology to catch up with the needs of writers who work with partners. But it has, and here we are. Similar to the setup utilized by GoToMeeting, the process of writing a script together on Final Draft is as simple as typing in your Wi-Fi password.


Now you can finally write that unicorn sci-fi dramedy with your elementary school pen pal from Macedonia. Write on, friends. Write on.


The other great asset during the writing process of Final Draft 10 is your ability to not only use the many templates offered but also easily create your own for a screenplay style uniquely your own. You can then keep it to yourself and not let anyone witness or share in your genius (I’m looking at you, Tarantino), or you can share with a friend, such as your unicorn-loving Macedonian pen pal.


Any decent writer knows that writing is rewriting, and Final Draft 10 has decided to assist this process along, as well. Not only can you now view notes boldly and brightly on the side of your script but also you can write alternate dialogue within the pages.

The latter feature is particularly beneficial to TV writers who are paid to punch up the humor in a script. With a simple click, multiple options for a joke can be added without bloating the length of your script and affecting page count. The alternate dialogue tool is also perfect for rewriting when you know what you want a character to say but aren’t exactly sure whether it fits into the scene. This tool enables you to play without having to save multiple (read: endless) versions of your script.


Final Draft 10 – is it worth it? That, my scribbly scribey friends, depends on you, your wallet and your writing style. If you have a writing partner with terrible breath and just can’t stand to be in the same room with him/her, then yes, the collaboration feature will be worth its weight in Tic Tacs. If you are an outlining fanatic, someone who struggles to write to a set page count or, perhaps more commonly, someone whose scripts tend to become stale somewhere in the middle and lose the interest of readers, the new features on Final Draft 10 are for you. Or if you don’t own Final Draft yet, then yes, by all means, buy this product. Because the truth is that experienced readers can tell the nuanced differences with Movie Magic Screenwriter, Celtx, Trebly, Scriptly and Final Draft; and if you’re not going to take yourself seriously as a writer, no one else will.

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