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THE Best Screenwriting Books

 

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Most “best screenwriting books” lists go something like this…

  • Story by Robert McKee
  • Screenplay by Syd Field
  • The Art Of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
  • Making A Good Script Great by Linda Seger
  • The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
  • etc. etc. etc.

This is just boring.

Everyone aspiring screenwriter has heard of (and probably read) these books on screenwriting. Not to mention the fact that many of them fall into the kind of vague, abstract, theory-based advice we do everything possible to steer clear of.

That’s why we’ve chosen as the “best screenwriting books” for an aspiring screenwriter, books that:

  1. they may not have heard of, or read yet.
  2. explain things in a clear, practical, no BS manner.

Here, in our opinion, are some of the best screenwriting books around that you should add to reading list immediately. (It’s in alphabetical order, not in order of preference.)

YOUR SCREENPLAY SUCKS!
by William Akers

Mr. Akers has had three feature films produced from his screenplays, and this book is great for writers to really get to grips with the bare essentials of the craft. His points on honing and editing your sentences are particularly helpful if you’re one of the many writers who suffer from overwritingingus.

Read Your Screenplay Sucks! >>

THE COFFEE BREAK SCREENWRITER
by Pilar Alessandra

Pilar’s friendly but no-nonsense approach shines through in this really helpful little book aimed at those with 9 to 5 jobs and or kids who have trouble finding the time to sit down and write. Highly recommended.

Read The Coffee Break Screenwriter >>

THE SEQUENCE APPROACH
by Paul Joseph Gulino

“The Sequence Approach” by Paul Joseph Gulino is just about the only book apart from our own that focuses solely on sequences. Paul chooses a handful of diverse films, from Toy Story to The Graduate and breaks them down into sequences, the method taught at USC.

While we don’t agree with all of the analysis, it’s a great companion to our own book and learning how there’s more than just three acts to screenplay structure.

Read The Sequence Approach >>

INSIDE STORY
by Dara Marks

Quite simply the best book on screenwriting theme there is. If you’re struggling with how to track your protagonist’s arc, this is definitely the book for you. In it, Dara reveals how the internal character development of the protagonist informs the overall story and theme. Essential reading.

Read Inside Story >>

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THE HOLLYWOOD STANDARD
by Christopher Riley

Formatting can be a real pain in the ass, but this book by Warner Bros. script processing department whizz, Christopher Riley, is our book of choice when it comes to formatting decisions. While not perfect, it answers pretty much any question you’re likely to have.

Read The Hollywood Standard >>

MY STORY CAN BEAT UP YOUR STORY!
by Jeffrey Alan Schechter

Did you know that act one in a screenplay has twelve very specific plot points? This and other powerful, story-telling techniques that Hollywood screenwriters have been using for decades, are revealed in Jeffrey’s book. A hidden gem and one of the best books on screenwriting on how to set up the core conflict in your script.

Read My Story Can Beat Up Your Story! >>

MASTER SCREENPLAY SEQUENCES
by Script Reader Pro

Hey, you didn’t expect us to leave our own screenwriting book out did you? This book reveals the hidden truth about screenplay structure, missing from many books and courses — sequences. It will teach you how films as diverse as Wolf Creek and Bridesmaids are made up of more than just 3 acts but are actually underpinned by 7 self-contained sequences — each with 3 acts and 7 major plot points of their own.

Read Master Screenplay Sequences >>

SAVE THE CAT STRIKES BACK!
by Blake Snyder

The Save The Cat books get quite a bit of flak from some writers. This is understandable, but this is the best screenwriting book for understanding concepts and loglines that we’ve found anywhere. Whether you agree or disagree with much of what Blake says, this book is worth a look if only for its method on how to come up with a rocking logline.

Read Save The Cat Strikes Back! >>

INTO THE WOODS
by John Yorke

This is book is by a British writer so there are quite a few references to movies and TV shows anyone living outside the UK may not of heard of. Nevertheless, this is definitely one of the best screenwriting books currently on the market. It’s packed full of insights that will help even the most seasoned writer.

Read Into The Woods >>

We would also highly recommend reading more general books on the film industry and theory such as:

Cinematic Storytelling by Jennifer Van Stijll, Down and Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind, Breakfast With Sharks by Michael Lent, On Writing by Stephen King and Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman.

In other words, you need to pretty much immerse yourself in the world of cinema, 24/7. Learn as much as you can through reading, not just script writing books, but books about directing, editing, acting and producing as well. It all helps!

So, there are choices for the best screenwriting books available. What do you think are the best books on screenwriting you’ve ever read? Let us know in the comments section below if you think we’ve made any glaring omissions!

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8 Comments
  1. Michael Williamson says:

    I am bit disappointed that Richard Walter’s (UCLA) Essentials: The Art, Craft and Business of Television and Film Screenwriting is not included in this list; I put him above Robert McKee, easily.

  2. Victoria says:

    Read The Nutshell Technique be Jill Chamberlain. It will be on this list after you read it.

    1. SRP says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Victoria.

  3. John Carey says:

    “The Screenwriter’s Bible” “Your Screenplay Sucks” “Screenwriter’s Compass” all very much worth reading, studying, and then going over your script again, and again.

    1. SRP says:

      Agreed, John 🙂

  4. Lance Thompson says:

    Good list. I would add “The Elements of Screenwriting” by Irwin Blacker. It’s been around forever, concise, useful.

  5. Tully Archer says:

    “Writing Movies For [Fun And] Profit” was great, in my opinion. Hilarious as well as informative.

  6. Thomas says:

    No books here on alternative structure, anti-narrative, post-structure or multi-protagonists.

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