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THE 10 Best
Screenwriting Books

To Read in 2018



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March 12, 2018 24 comments
best screenwriting books

The 10 Best Screenwriting Books To Read in 2018: Our Recommendations

Below you’ll find our list of the best screenwriting books every aspiring screenwriter should read. The books that have made the list are those that:

  1. Explain things in a clear, practical, no BS manner (much like our own style)
  2. Are maybe underrated and/or you may not have heard of
  3. Will transform your understanding of any given area of screenwriting
So, let’s get straight into the best screenwriting books around that you should add to your reading list immediately.

*Note: The books are in alphabetical order, not in order of preference and we are not associated with any of the writers of these screenwriting books and receive no affiliate payments if you purchase any of them. 

Our List Of The Best Screenwriting Books

Your Screenplay Sucks! by William M. Akers

best screenwriting books
Akers is a lifetime member of the Writers’ Guild of America and writer of three produced screenplays. This book is great for helping writers really get to grips with the essentials of the craft. The subtitle to the book is “100 Ways To Make It Great” and it does just that—with the points on honing and editing sentences being particularly helpful, especially if you’re one of the many writers who suffer from overwritingingus.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? Its no-nonsense approach that will make you see your writing style in a whole new light. Yes, that sentence can go from fifty words, to thirty, to twenty.

Read Your Screenplay Sucks! >>

The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra

best screenwriting books
Pilar is the host of one of the best screenwriting podcasts out there, and now she’s written one of the best screenwriting books on there. Her friendly but practical approach shines through in this really helpful screenwriting book aimed at those with 9 to 5 jobs and/or kids, who have trouble finding the time to sit down and write. As she says in the sub heading, it’s all about writing ten minutes at a time. Highly recommended.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? The book is full of practical tools and exercises that you can run on your story that come in bite-sized ten minute chunks.

Read The Coffee Break Screenwriter >>

The Sequence Approach by Paul Joseph Gulino

best screenwriting books
The Sequence Approach by Paul Joseph Gulino is just about the only book apart from our own that focuses solely on sequences. Gulino 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 analyses, it’s a great companion to our own book Master Screenplay Sequences and learning how there’s more to screenplay structure than just three big acts.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? Not many screenwriting books tackle the subject of using sequences to structure screenplays, but this one does a great job. Definitely worth a look if you’re struggling with structural issues.

Read The Sequence Approach >>

best screenwriting books

Inside Story by Dara Marks

best screenwriting books

Quite simply one of the best books 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, Marks reveals how the internal character development of the protagonist informs the overall story and theme. Essential reading if you want to learn how to make your theme resonate via the hero’s journey.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? While other screenwriting books often include a chapter or section on theme, this one devotes a whole book to it. As theme is such an important (yet overlooked) element of writing a successful screenplay, this is definitely worth purchasing.

Read Inside Story >>

Notes to Screenwriters by Vicki Peterson & Barbara Nicolosi

best screenwriting books

This screenwriting book approaches things from the perspective of notes. How do you deal with story, character or dialogue notes on your screenplay from a professional writer or reader? How do you absorb them and move on with your project without getting demoralized? Each chapter looks at a different aspect of screenwriting and tells you what story notes really mean, and how best to take them on board and make your script even better.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? It looks at how to navigate the often difficult task of taking on board someone else’s notes and applying them to your own work. But because of this unique blend of classic storytelling principles and up to date knowledge of the industry, it’s one of the best screenwriting books out there for aspiring writers.

Read Notes To Screenwriters >>

best screenwriting books
The Hollywood Standard 
by Christopher Riley

best screenwriting books

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 screenplay formatting. The book goes through all the different elements one by one, and while it’s obviously his personal take on how to format a screenplay, it’s a great resource on the subject.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? It focuses purely on formatting, so if you’re wondering whether you should write CLOSE ON: Harry’s nose, or CLOSE ON HARRY’S NOSE, or neither as camera angles are evil, this is the book for you.

Read The Hollywood Standard >>

My Story Can Beat Up Your Story! by Jeffrey Alan Schechter

best screenwriting books

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 Schecter’s book. A hidden gem and one of the best screenwriting books on the market on how to set up the core conflict in your script.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? While most screenwriting books rehash much of the same information on how to write a screenplay in slightly different ways, this one contains things you won’t find anywhere else.

Read My Story Can Beat Up Your Story! >>

Save The Cat by Blake Snyder

best screenwriting books

Out of all the screenwriting books out there, this is one that seems to polarize writers: some who absolutely love it, and others who think it’s too “formulaic.” This is because Snyder lays out in here all the “rules” of writing a successful spec—from the “seven immutable laws of screenplay physics” to his famous “beat sheet.” In our opinion, this book is absolutely required reading and he gets the information across in such a simple and upbeat way it’s, quite frankly, hard to resist.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? The way Snyder breaks down screenwriting into easy-to-understand “rules” is mocked by many but it’s one of the best screenwriting books out there if you’re willing to get on board for the ride.

Read Save The Cat >>

Save The Cat Strikes Back! 
by Blake Snyder

best screenwriting booksYes, there’s a whole series of Save The Cat screenwriting books and this second one is just as good, if not better, than the first. We think this is the best screenwriting book for understanding concepts and loglines that we’ve found anywhere. Its section on how to come up with a rocking logline is exceptional but the rest of the book includes gems such as “the difference between structure and formula” and “the 5-Point Finale” to finish a script.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? Much like the original Save the Cat book, this one is pretty inspiring, and will how you how to find the  greatness in any story.

Read Save The Cat Strikes Back! >>

Into The Woods by John Yorke

best screenwriting books

This is book is by a British screenwriter so there are quite a few references to UK movies and TV shows you may not have heard of if you don’t live there. Nevertheless, this is definitely one of the best screenwriting books to have come out in recent years. It’s focus is on story structure and storytelling as an art-form, and will send you back to your script with a newfound sense of enthusiasm.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? As opposed to being a purely craft-based screenwriting book, this one takes the reader on a philosophical and psychological journey deep into the heart of storytelling.

Read Into The Woods >>

Best Screenwriting Books: The Classics

If you’re wondering where Screenplay by Syd Field or Story by Robert McKee are, well here they are. Below you’ll find the classics found in most “best screenwriting books” lists that are also worth checking out if you haven’t already.

Best Screenwriting Books: Filmmaking

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

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 the best scriptwriting books, but books about directing, editing, acting and producing as well. It all helps.


So, these are our 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, and also if you think we’ve made any glaring omissions!

best screenwriting books

  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.

  7. Jacob says:

    I love your list! Thanks for putting this together. I’ve read most of these books and I have to agree they’re great to nail the screenwriting basics. My favorite one is Inside Story – it was super helpful!

  8. Shiv says:

    I second reading the Nutshell Technique by Jill Chamberlain. It’s one of the few books that links character arcs to plot points in a simple and easy way to understand and implement.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Shiv, not read this one so I’ll check it out.

  9. Alex says:

    I am surprised Screenplay: Writing The picture
    By Robin U. Russian and William Missouri Downs is not here… I highly recommend it… it makes things easy to understand and flows seemingly throughout…. Student at A University studying Film and Television and that book really is great

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Great idea – thanks Alex.

  10. Sandra says:

    You can be assured I get everyone on the list. Great list of screenwriting books. I also like the book screenwriting for dummies.

  11. Jack says:

    I’m not sure about Save the cat – he complains about more complex screenplays.

  12. Pauline says:

    I have never seen such a variety of Screenwriting books that deal with the problems I am having with my scripts. You can be assured I get everyone on the list.

  13. Gary says:

    How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn is a good one too.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      It is – thanks Gary!

  14. Sam Kesler says:

    Thank You! Great list.
    Other favorites of mine:
    The Secrets Of Story – Matt Bird
    Screenwriting For Neurotics – Scott Winfield Sublett
    Extreme Screenwriting – Barb Doyon

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Interesting additions – I’ll look into those. Thanks a lot!

  15. Mario says:

    I highly recommend the power of film by Howard Suber

  16. Jonathan says:

    The Hollywood Standard by Christopher Riley is my bible!

  17. DIANE WILLIAMS says:

    The Anatomy of Story by John Truby. It helped me pick out the best elements of a true story to tell.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes that’s another good one – too many to list 🙂

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