Screenplay books come in different flavors and from different perspectives and offer varying degrees of instruction.
William M Akers’s Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great stands apart from the crowd in a good way, and what I particularly like is the checklist he’s compiled over the years, derived from recurring mistakes he’s seen:
- If the camera can’t see it, you can’t write it.
- Putting backstory in the first act is a mistake nearly everyone makes.
- Good dialogue answers the question, but leapfrogs OVER the obvious answer and gives us new information — while still answering the question.
- What you’re writing is actor bait.
- Make all characters, even in small roles, have specific, fascinating, memorable character.
- The slugline tells you where the camera crew is standing when shooting.
As Akers says, “all artistic pursuits are about discipline,” and his book provides precise guidance to help you efficiently improve upon your work — “guidelines to make sure the reader keeps reading.”