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A Flexible MMSW Outlining Feature - How It Could Work

Posted: Sep 21, 2011 9:16 am
by electroglodyte
I’ve been recommending MMSW6 wherever I can ever since it came out and think it’s vastly superior to FD. I'm currently writing a screenplay in MMSW, and while I was going back and forth between MMSW6 and various outlining options, it occurred to me how MMSW could be greatly improved with a particular addition:

There are a variety of outlining and storycrafting applications (Dramatica Pro, Truby Blockbuster, OmniOutliner, basic spreadsheets, and even Goalscape), each with different strengths and approaches, and every writer has different needs when it comes to outlining. MMSW6 to me is more about the execution of producing an actual script, but it also has a basic feature set that could be expanded into a very flexible, powerful outlining capability that can be adapted by writers for their own approaches.

At the moment I’m using the NaviDoc panel to show not just sluglines, but Acts, Sequences, Scenes (as a line of description above the scene heading/slugline level). So at a glance I can see the big picture and where I currently am in it. What would be an extremely useful addition would be to be able to expand the NaviDoc panel sideways, similar to the Scene List/Scene Weave views in Truby’s Blockbuster, or some views that can be created in spreadsheets or OmniOutliner.

To explain in more detail:

What I currently have in the NaviDoc is something like this (indented and colored accordingly):

ACT 1 – Setup
SEQUENCE 1 – Billy finds a dead body
SCENE 1 – Billy at home
SCENE 2 – Billy goes to work and meets Anne

What would be extremely useful would be if this could then extend sideways (potentially taking over the entire window, i.e. the screenplay part would be folded away on the right side of the screen, the same way the NaviDoc can be tucked away on the left side of the screen, ready to be dragged out again), revealing further columns that are definable by the user.

These could then be used to track some of the following:

1. No. of pages

Easy overview of no. of pages (either in decimal or by eighths of a page) per scene and then also totaled up by sequence and act. Allows me to see at a glance that my first act is 40 pages and is in trouble, and I have a few 5-page scenes that could do with some trimming etc.

2. Characters and their arcs/appearances

Who does what when. In the above example I could be tracking Anne, and then find that she doesn’t show up again until page 60, so maybe I should do something about that.

3. Structure steps

Whether you use Dramatica or Truby or Blake Snyder or hero’s journey or whatever method, you can easily see where, say, the inciting incident or the belly of the whale or the midpoint sits.

4. Status / To do

Do I consider the scene finished, does it need editing?

5. And closely related to that: Comments

Possibly including comments from one’s iPartner, the MMSW collaboration feature.

6. Completion (in %)

When I have an outline in the NaviDoc panel, it may be empty scenes/just sluglines, maybe a summary. As I write the scene, I can either indicate manually that this scene is 50% finished (my own guesstimate) or I can set a goal # of pages per scene, and the percentage is then based on ratio of actual pages to planned pages (including going over, in which case it would be e.g. 120% complete).

If the character and structure step columns are user-definable (title of column, color etc.), then virtually any outlining method can be accommodated.

I think this would provide a broad enough framework to suit different writers’ working habits and methods while making MMSW an even more useful environment than it already is. Frankly, it would have me virtually living inside MMSW6 after the initial work that I do in Truby's BB. I wouldn't have to wander back and forth between spreadsheets, OmniOutliner outlines etc.

One thing that impresses me about MMSW6 is its extreme customizability, with very extensive preference settings. While most other apps go with more and more minimalistic preference settings, MMSW6 allows me to finetune my screenwriting experience.

I don't know enough about programming to know how feasible this is, and if extensive work is required, perhaps it could be marketed as a plug-in, like Streamline. I'd certainly pay money for it (or for an upgrade containing such a feature), since it would be so incredibly useful.

I also don't think it would compete with Dramatica (from the same company), since that offers a different aspect of outlining (from what I remember - I haven't used Dramatica ever since I had some demo version of it about 12 or 13 years ago). On the contrary, it could complement it fairly seamlessly.

Anyone have any thoughts on this?


Re: A Flexible MMSW Outlining Feature - How It Could Work

Posted: Sep 21, 2011 9:23 am
by stephenbuck415
I second that.

@electroglodyte, that is one of the best, most well-written suggestions I have ever read (for any product).

Re: A Flexible MMSW Outlining Feature - How It Could Work

Posted: Sep 22, 2011 11:42 am
by electroglodyte
Thank you very much, that's very kind of you.

It just occurred to me that you can get a pretty good idea of how this could work, using MMSW6 right now: when you have the NaviDoc panel open, simply grab it by the right edge and drag that edge all the way to the right of the overall window (i.e. across the screenplay text). What you'll have then is the screen mostly filled with the outline elements. (The screenplay itself is still there in this case, squished up against the right side of the MMSW window.

Now look at that outline, the text lined up on the left, and a lot of space to the right of it, empty lines stretching across the screen. This could be used for all those columns I mentioned above. You pop in here, get yourself organized, see what needs to be done, sort out the outline, and then slide it out of the way again and get back to the screenplay text itself.

Re: A Flexible MMSW Outlining Feature - How It Could Work

Posted: Oct 23, 2011 5:11 am
by KatYares
Love these ideas! The 2000 version of Movie Magic did import Dramatica files - not sure why the MM6 does not - I miss that feature.

Re: A Flexible MMSW Outlining Feature - How It Could Work

Posted: Oct 27, 2011 5:50 am
by Zerro
Oh yes, good stuff electroglodyte! :)

I really do hope the next MMSW has better out lining tools. And btw is about time for an update... Any news about that, anyone? :?: