Descending Into Darkness

Scriptnotes: Ep. 169

Craig and John shake off their Halloween candy hangovers by taking a look at three new Three Page Challenges, full of post-apocalyptic portals and strange signals.

We also discuss writing dark things. Weepy things.

John just launched his first Kickstarter, and we all know how Craig feels about crowdfunding. Will Craig be a backer or bah-humbugger?

In follow-up, we look at the now-announced Marvel superhero slate, and a terrific podcast about pitching.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 11-10-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Highland is great for novels

macbook with highland

In addition to being a swell time to grow a mustache, November is NaNoWriMo — National Novel Writing Month.

Over the next few weeks, aspiring Hemingways and Flynns will attempt to hit their target word counts so that by Thanksgiving they’re finishing a draft. Godspeed to them all.

While novels can be written in just about any word processor, more-sophisticated apps like Scrivener allow for notes and images and virtual corkboards. In my experience, the more bells and whistles an app has, the more time I spend playing with the bells and whistles, and the less time I spend actually writing. That’s partly why I made Highland, a writing app that lets you focus on the words, not the formatting.

Because I’m mostly a screenwriter, Highland is largely tailored towards screenplays. But I also write fiction, and I didn’t want to give up any of my Highland comforts.

Since version 1.4, Highland has included a manuscript mode that strikes a good balance between helpful and distracting. Choosing Format > Document Format > Manuscript adds a single line to your file…

Format: Manuscript

…and with it, makes Highland a surprisingly good choice for writing fiction. When you print or export, you’ll find Highland double-spaces text to common publisher standards, perfect for paper editing.

For an example, compare an original file to the pdf Highland creates.

Highland 1.8.2, new in the Mac App Store today, adds a few extra features novel writers can appreciate, such as on-the-fly word count. (Just click the page icon.)

Want to put a header on every page? Add it below the format line:

Format: Manuscript

Header: MOBY-DICK ORIGINS / Caswell Barthowly

Want to start a new chapter? Use a hashtag, such as

#Chapter Six: The Wailing Whaling

Highland will automatically insert the page break, and center the chapter heading on the next page.1

Highland’s notes, synopses and omissions work the same as always. [[Text in double brackets]] won’t print. Same for a single line preceded by the equal sign =. And you can keep your scraps handy; select a range of text and choose Format > Omit. You’ll leave it in the file while hiding it from export.

In Preferences, you can adjust column width and line spacing, and set your favorite colors for Dark Mode.

If you’re tempted to give Highland a shot for writing your November novel, we have it marked half-off through November 7th. Give Manuscript mode a spin, and see whether its minimalism can maximize your page count.

As always, you can find Highland on the Mac App Store.

  1. Fountain purists are likely scratching their heads at this choice. Truth is, this untitled manuscript format is actually more like Markdown than Fountain. It feels correct for section headers to be printed.

Austin Forever

Scriptnotes: Ep. 168

John and guest host Susannah Grant sit down with Richard Kelly, Cary Fukunaga, Peter Gould, Dan Sterling and Mike Birbiglia to discuss the role of a writer/director, the wonder of television, and the purpose of table reads.

Then it’s questions from the audience: How do you know you’ve found your third act? How does one become confident? Does impostor syndrome ever go away?

This episode was recorded live at St. David’s Episcopal Church as a certified blasphemy-free part of the 2014 Austin Film Festival.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 11-4-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Writer Emergency Pack, now in pre-launch

As I mentioned on the podcast yesterday, we’re getting close to launching a new project called Writer Emergency Pack.

The cover looks like this:

header graphic

As the name suggests, it’s designed as a survival tool for writers. It’s not an app or a book. It’s more like a crowbar for getting unstuck. It’s for screenwriters, novelists, playwrights, students, writing teachers — anyone who deals with story.

We’ve actually been developing it on-and-off for four years, but it became real in the last six weeks. We’ve had a fun time showing prototypes to other writers and gathering feedback. It’s gonna be cool.

Because it’s a physical thing, we’ve had to plan and budget much more carefully than we do with our digital stuff. Atoms scale differently than bits. Make too few, and you run out. Make too many, and you’re sitting on boxes of inventory. Figuring out how to actually make and ship something like this is easily half the job.

When we launch — sometime after Halloween — there will be a short order window to get into the initial run. To make sure no one misses out, we’ve set up a mailing list to let writers know the moment it’s available.

If you’re at all curious, I’d advise you to sign up at Writer Emergency today.

You can also follow on Twitter, @writeremergency. (Tweet ‘Help’ for a teaser.)

The Tentpoles of 2019

Scriptnotes: Ep. 167

Craig and John discuss the 31 superhero movies slated for the next few years. Is it good business or a trainwreck in the making?

How do you move from a vague idea to an actual pitch? We talk about what you say when you’re in the room pitching on a project, and why passion trumps plot in most cases.

We also look at copyright and how the current system is broken for everyone.

Next week will be Craig-less, because we’re recording live at the Austin Film Festival with a bunch of amazing guests.


You can download the episode here: AAC | mp3.

UPDATE 11-4-14: The transcript of this episode can be found here.

Highland works great with Yosemite

We had quite a few inquiries from Highland’s support page this weekend, including:

Is Highland compatible with Mac OS 10.10 Yosemite? Of all the apps I’m running on my Macs, Highland is probably the most important. I won’t upgrade until you give the all clear signal.

Green light. The version of Highland in the Mac App Store runs fine under Yosemite.

In fact, we’ve been running Highland with the Yosemite betas for months, so the past few builds all run fine. Except for a few small UI changes (such as using the green dot to go full-screen), you won’t notice any significant differences.

We update Highland quite frequently. Version 1.8.2, now in review, addresses bugs that users helped us identify under both old and new OS versions. Highland keeps improving because we have seriously committed users.

If it’s been a while since you’ve looked at Highland, you may have missed out on its new line spacing options. You can now choose Tight, Normal or Loose line spacing in the editor view. This ability to customize the editor for maximum readability is one of the clear advantages to Highland’s just-the-words philosophy.

You can download Highland in the Mac App Store.