To answer the question “Do I need screenwriting software”, no not yet. There is a simple way you can use Word or another text editor that will make the transition to screenwriting software simple.
You will need to buy some screenwriting software eventually. Just not right now. If you are just starting out, this article will give you a method you can use.
There are many options for screenwriting software, so don’t freak out just yet. But you can use Word or any other text editor (and I do for early drafts) to get started.
Important point for you to understand.
Screenwriting software does nothing special except format your work. All the other bells and whistles are not part of screenwriting. They are features that have been added to make you choose their offering. They are a sales tool, not a writing tool.
So how do I use Word?
The most important part of this is to get some basic formatting correct. When you want to indicate dialogue you put the characters name in UPPERCASE. Then on the very next line you put the dialogue.
If you want to add action to your script. Place that in its own paragraph.
Sluglines or Scene Descriptions are in all UPPERCASE and start with EXT. or INT. If you don’t know what that means read this article. Here is an example of a scene written in this format.
Why would I bother doing this?
Firstly, it means you can put off having to buy screenwriting software straight away. Using this method of formatting means you are not wasting your effort. Secondly using this format means you can cut and paste this text straight into screenwriting software and it will format it for you.
This second image is the same text cut and pasted straight into WriterDuet (but I have done this with Celtx as well). As you can see perfect formatting.
The only function of screenwriting software is to format your text. People will tell you that you must use Final Draft, which is of course a lie. Final Draft has the FDX format, which can be used by all applications. The only thing I have ever been asked for was PDF. So in reality, use whatever you want. Whatever you feel most comfortable using.