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.”
If you aspire to writing action, Martell’s “Secrets of Action Screenwriting” is a masterclass in suspenseful screenplay writing.
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.
A nice addendum to Mckee is Seger’s “Making a Good Script Great,” which will really help you improve your scenes.
And if comedy’s your thing, then Kaplan’s “Hidden Tools of Comedy” is the comedy reference book you need.
As you’ll find on Amazon, these screenwriting books are highly rated for a reason.
Screenplay “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”
Screenwriters are always told to write visually because film is a visual medium, and “SMASH CUT TO” somehow has emerged as a “technique” to convey a sudden cut to a new scene. As Benedict Cumberbatch’s Sherlock would say — actually, he would rightfully dismiss you with, perhaps, a glare, if even that, and move on to higher intellectual ground, where you should be, because SMASH CUT TO, if anything, actually will get in the way of the dramatic transition effect for which you poorly are attempting to compensate. The key to a dramatically effective transition from one scene to the next stems not from terminology, but instead from Continue reading “SMASH CUT TO: Another lame transition”
Comedy is the most challenging genre for one simple reason: what is funny to one person is not necessarily funny to another. But that doesn’t make it impossible to write a humorous film or sitcom, because if you understand the foundation of comic situations you can inject humor into whatever it is you’re writing, regardless of genre, especially if you read Steve Kaplan’s The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny. Kaplan is a long-time comedy consultant in the entertainment industry who successfully has distilled his transferable knowledge into what is one of the best comedy books available. Continue reading “Recommended comedy book: “The Hidden Tools of Comedy” by Steve Kaplan”
[Note: Despite the controversy regarding the fabricated Bob Dylan quotes, I still found this an intriguing read — especially the Pixar collaboration method.]
Jonah Lehrer’s compelling “Imagine: How Creativity Works” demystifies the “creative process” and will empower you to unleash your creativity regardless of your profession. For screenwriters, certainly, “writer’s block” will be a thing of the past. Particularly fascinating is Lehrer’s exploration of how Pixar repeatedly develops incredibly original, entertainting blockbuster films. Of course, another key Continue reading “Recommended screenwriting/creativity book: “Imagine” by Jonah Lehrer”
How you introduce your main character not only affects how the audience perceives your character, but, more importantly, whether the audience is likely to be emotionally engaged with your character, and, therefore, your story. Without that engagement, your story is dead because Continue reading “How to introduce your main character”
Script magazine’s Dr. Format (Dave Trottier) is the go-to reference for the constantly changing landscape of screenplay formatting minutiae, and his latest compilation of what the industry expects in terms of properly formatted screenplays Continue reading “Recommended book: “Dr. Format Tells All””
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 Continue reading “Recommended screenwriting book: Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great”