Scrivener and Radio Drama

Hi there!

One of the main areas of my work is writing radio drama. I have written 9 produced pieces and created my own mistery series on CD with two more episodes in the work. So far I have used Scrivener only for the conceptual stage up to the point where I write my first draft. (I also use it to write TV scripts and prose.) I use my own template for Final Draft to write the actual script, mainly because of the auto-insertion of the character names. After all, it is a lot of dialogue…

But I’ve never really been happy with this or any of the formats used in commercial radio drama in Germany (frankly they’re unreadable), and I wonder if anybody else is using Scrivener to write radio drama. How do you use it? And what do the commercial formats in your countries look like, if there are any?

Thanks for any thoughts on this!

Best, Arne

Hi Arne,

I use Scrivener for radio drama here in the States. We don’t really have a standard ‘commercial format’ for radio drama here, 'cause only about three people in the country get paid for it. Other than Scrivener, I use Movie Magic Screenwriter which came with a radio theater format (I think…maybe I made it myself a while back…) Main difference is the character name and dialogue on the same line.

So far my process has been to write a first draft in Scrivener using the stage play template, then export to MMS for formatting and rewrites. I just found a radio play template for Scrivener, though (look for the link in the FAQ/Tips section) so I’m anxious to try it out.

Oh, and I use really short character names in Scrivener, then do a global replace in MMS…

Dear Mad,

thanks for the reference to the template that I just downloaded. I will have a look at it later (cause now I have to write something). The idea with the short names that you find & replace later is also very clever, I’ll be doing that, too, I guess.

What kind of stations still do radio drama in the States? And how long are your pieces? - And on another note, don’t you have things like direct sell through of radio drama on CD without the broadcasting bit? That’s what I do mostly.


Ok, now I had a look. I simply cannot write scene description in a way it screams at the reader. Even if only between 10 to 20 people ever read my script (that’s pretty much the number of people involved in the production process), my aim is still to give them a nice and emotional reading experience. And you cannot do that with ALL CAPS UNDERLINED. I guess I need to come up with my own template, just like I did for Final Draft. Well, next time I have some time on my hands, I shall learn to construct templates in Scrivener…

I know from a number of writers in Germany that they make a living from their radio works (not only drama). They get more money for it than for texts published in newspapers and magazines (sometimes they even can use texts, mainly prose, in both formats which means at least double income for the same effort) and books.

It is due to the fact that Germany has a non-centralistic structure, federal countries (tiny compared to yours in the US of course) which have quite a number of non-commercial radio stations with a relatively huge budget.

So if you’re lucky it might be that one of these stations airs your radio drama and it will be handed around the stations and gets airplay again and again. Plus, audio books have been booming here for some years now.

Because of that even I, being a notorious Mr. No-Money, thought about writing a radio drama …

But since it is not more than just a thought I don’t have any experiences with radio drama templates.

When it comes to character names I suggest apps like TypeIt4Me, TextExpander or Typinator (I recommend Typinator). You define a number of shortcuts which automatically extend to your character names. You can even group them and disable them all together after you have completed your drama.

If you prefer replacing them not on the fly but at the end of your work you might find TextSoap handy.

What I like about both type of apps is that they work system-wide and not just per app. So you can use them while drafting in Scrivener and the same ones later in, say, Final Draft.

All true, suavito,

but public radio is such a closed shop, it’s not easy to get your foot into the door. I suggest looking closely at which station prefers which format / genre etc. Most of them have quarterly radio drama magazines with the listings of their shows and some articles plus all the contact info you need. Some are for free (Deutschlandradio is very good and free), some cost a little. You can order them on the websites of the stations.

In Dusseldorf, you can get radio drama funding at the Filmstiftung NRW, but it’s recommended that you apply only if you already have a radio station on board the project, preferably WDR.

The audio book market is booming but an altogether different beast to tackle. It’s much more diverse, but that means you can find a niche for yourself more easily, just like I did with my own mystery show published on CD (and downloadable via iTunes etc.).

Thanks for the software tipps. That sounds really useful, and I never even knew such a thing existed! I will definitely have a look at that!

Cheers, Arne

A couple of things…

Firstly, I put together a radio script template for Scriv which is here:

Secondly, it’s really interesting to hear about radio drama outside the UK.

We Brits are utterly spoiled for radio drama, since we have Radio Four. I don’t know the exact figures, but it’s apparently the biggest single commissioner of drama ever, anywhere.

Most days, week in week out, there’s a couple of half hour sitcoms, a 45/60 minute new play, and a 15 minute soap as a minimum. The technical production and acting is always pretty good – if anything the writing can be the weak point. That’s a lot of airtime, and they’re always actively on the look out for new writers – from the BBC’s point of view, it’s a relatively cheap way of developing new writing talent, and one they’re prepared to take risks with. With comedy especially, Little Britain, Mighty Boosh, Goodness Gracious Me, and loads of others started as radio series before they went to TV.

The only downside is that it doesn’t pay much, about £3k for an hour.

Hi Arne,

Can you post a link to your show. I’d love to listen to it, even if my German is terrible!


Dear spinningdoc,

I wish anybody here would be so clever! The worlds of radio and television seldom overlap in Germany, even though people are usually working in the same buildings, and so it’s like a completely new career if you add radio drama to your protfolio, even if you are an accomplished screenwriter. But having said that, it is a place where more risks are taken and where the writer is much more in control and even respected as in tv.

Hi, Chris!

The show is called “Peter Lundt: Blind Detective”. You can get some free samples and also download whole episodes (but you have to pay for that) here:
It’s also on iTunes, but probably just on the German shop, I’m not quite sure about that. Or try to find them on CD via or, the covers are really nice and you can always get a good deal there :wink:
The show has been running for 4 years and 8 episodes so far and has just undergone a complete relaunch at another label, and I just finished writing episodes 9 and 10 plus a live version that’s to be performed later this month. It’s a really nice feeling to have something progressing and growing over such a long time that is so much your own!

By the way, anybody out there with experience in writing live radio drama for the stage?

That’s awesome Arne, congratulations on your success and thanks very much for posting the info. I’ll do a search for your stuff when I get home tonight.

While we’re posting links to our stuff (and why not?), here’s mine: some Robin Hood comedies in the style of ‘Round the Horne’, commissioned by a local commercial station to mark the local Pride event. (Beware, contains bad puns). (and click on the ‘they asked for innuendo’ link on the right hand side.)