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Amazon's New Tool Lets You Write Screenplays for Free

If you have Hollywood's next great screenplay but lack the funds for Hollywood's standard screenwriting software, Amazon may be able to help. The online retailer just launched Amazon Storywriter: a free online program that lets budding screenwriters pen TV shows and movies in a standard screenplay format.

Amazon isn't offering this tool entirely out of the kindness of its heart, though. The company has its own production arm, Amazon Studios, and it wants more original screenplays. Built directly into Storywriter is a method to submit your freshly completed script straight to Amazon's programmers.

To use the program, all you have to do is visit the Amazon Storywriter website. (If you don't have an Amazon account already, you'll need to sign up for one as well, but this is free and requires only a valid e-mail address.) From there, you can start writing a screenplay right away, or you can import one from a Final Draft or Fountain format.

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I toyed around with Screenwriter for a bit to see how it stacked up to Final Draft, the standard industry-grade screenwriting program. Not surprisingly, Amazon's tool is not nearly as robust as its $170 counterpart. It doesn't learn your scene locations or character names to automatically fill them in as Final Draft can. You can't collaborate with another writer in real-time, assign spoken voices to your characters, read comprehensive reports about your screenplay or track changes in a comprehensive editing mode.

What you can do, though, is write a screenplay in an industry-standard format without too much difficulty. Amazon's Storywriter covers scene headings, character names, dialogue, transitions (these are more appropriate for shooting scripts) and action beats. If you don't know how to differentiate between the various components of a screenplay, you can just click on the appropriate selection in a menu on the right-hand side of the screen, and the software will automatically put your dialogue or scene heading in the right place.

As always, though, there's no such thing as a free lunch. Amazon Studios, the force behind the original programming on Amazon Prime (Mozart in the Jungle, Transparent, Alpha House and more), accepts unsolicited scripts, and is in the habit of producing many pilot episode. If you have a sitcom, hour-long drama or kids' show to pitch (Amazon Studios is especially fond of kids' shows), the company wants you to write it and send it along. In fact, Storywriter even includes a Submit to Amazon Studios button in the options menu.

Of course, you don't have to submit what you write; you could just keep it for yourself, or export it to PDF or FDX (Final Draft) format. You can even use it on your phone or tablet, or download a Chrome app in order to employ the program offline, which should come in handy if your trendy coffee shop of choice does not have steady Wi-Fi.