Best screenwriting books I’d recommend

This list of the best screenwriting books — all of which I’ve read — are useful depending on where you are in your screenwriting journey.

If you’ve already written something, I’d go for Akers’s “Your Screenplay Sucks!,” which will highlight the mistakes you didn’t know you made, and help you correct them. Also, Croasmun’s book on marketing your script is invaluable to help you navigate, with confidence, Hollywood’s world of “no.”

Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great (Paperback)

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If you aspire to writing action, Martell’s “Secrets of Action Screenwriting” is a masterclass in suspenseful screenplay writing.

The Secrets Of Action Screenwriting (Paperback)

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McKee’s “Story” is all about crafting strong characters, compelling scenes, and overall story structure. If you haven’t been able to attend his highly recommend seminars — attended by many Oscar- and Emmy-winning screenwriters —  it’s all covered in this text.

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting (Hardcover)

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A nice addendum to Mckee is Seger’s “Making a Good Script Great,” which will really help you improve your scenes.

Making a Good Script Great, 3rd Ed. (Paperback)

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And if comedy’s your thing, then Kaplan’s “Hidden Tools of Comedy” is the comedy reference book you need.

The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny (Paperback)

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As you’ll find on Amazon, these screenwriting books are highly rated for a reason.

Script coverage: a checklist to RECOMMEND – Part 2

script coverage at the BBC readers roomFollowing up on part one of the “checklist to RECOMMEND,” listed below are key coverage checklist items that, if well executed, will help you avoid the problems with more than 95 percent of the scripts out there. Remember, you are competing with established screenwriters as well as other up-and-comers, so what can you do to get your script closer to RECOMMEND? Continue reading “Script coverage: a checklist to RECOMMEND – Part 2”

Script coverage: a checklist to RECOMMEND – Part 1

Script coverage: checklist to RecommendScreenplay “coverage” and “analysis” tend to be used interchangeably, but there’s one key distinction:

  • Script coverage helps producers make business decisions; whereas,
  • An industry-level analysis of your screenplay helps you improve material before submitting to producers and screenwriting contests.

Additionally, coverage reports actually are more objective than subjective; therefore it’s important to understand how your writing affects coverage and the steps you can take to get your screenplay recommended to producers. Continue reading “Script coverage: a checklist to RECOMMEND – Part 1”

Revealing key backstory in compelling fashion — Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

Chekov caught in the wrath of KhanTo this day “Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan” is widely revered for many good reasons — among them Ricardo Montalban’s memorable performance as well as a certain plot twist at the end — but in this post I’ll focus on the genius of the film’s second sequence and what screenwriters can learn from the well-executed screenplay by Jack B. Sowards. What makes a sequence filled with exposition set primarily in a confined space so dramatic and compelling? Continue reading “Revealing key backstory in compelling fashion — Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan”

A screenplay’s first 10 pages are key

So you’ve finished your screenplay and are ready to shop it around, but how exactly do you know when your screenplay is ready to stand out in the crowded market? Start with the “First 10 Pages Challenge.” Give the first 10 pages to a variety of friends — not all need be trained screenwriters — and ask them to summarize what they think the story is about. They should be able to identify some key story elements that should be present in the first 10 pages of any entertaining feature script: Continue reading “A screenplay’s first 10 pages are key”

How to write a sitcom (step #4): Delivering the snappy dialogue

Andy Kaufman, Danny DeVito from TaxiSometimes it’s tempting to start pounding out dialogue for a scene before you’ve fully plotted the story or thought about core character traits, but such hastily written dialogue quite often is the worst thing screenwriters write — at least during the first draft anyway — because the goal of the first draft is to finish a first draft, not to have in hand a refined industry-worthy screenplay. But it’s okay, because dialogue easily can be improved simply by Continue reading “How to write a sitcom (step #4): Delivering the snappy dialogue”

The importance of specificity and decisions for the writer

Well, as I write this I’m thinking, “George, you have a [expletive deleted] script to finish,” but specificity and decisions are top of mind for me now, so I feel compelled to address these critical issues that are key Continue reading “The importance of specificity and decisions for the writer”

Beyond dialogue: Write the story as characters live it

When I heard a new silent film, “The Artist,” directed by Michel Hazanavicius, was generating a bit of buzz at Cannes this year, I promptly checked for details, but was shocked to discover there was no writing credit, because screenwriting isn’t just about dialogue, it’s about conveying a story. Continue reading “Beyond dialogue: Write the story as characters live it”

The value of a script reading and how easy it is to do it

There’s no greater sense of accomplishment than, after months or perhaps even years of toiling over your script, you get to type those magical words: “FADE OUT.” Your characters have said what they have to say. Your plot has Continue reading “The value of a script reading and how easy it is to do it”