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by Script Reader Pro in Screenwriting Books
March 12, 2018 41 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. This post may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links, you won’t pay a penny more, but we’ll get a small commission. 

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: These best screenwriting books are in alphabetical order, not in order of preference.)

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.

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 out 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 subheading, 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 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson

best screenwriting booksWhether you want to write short films, features, adaptations, genre films, ensemble films, blockbusters or art house movies, this book takes you all the way from choosing an idea to plotting, writing and rewriting. The 21st Century Screenplay is essential reading for newcomer and veteran alike and definitely one of the best screenwriting books you should read.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? The book features a range of insider survival tips on time-effective writing, creativity under pressure and rising to the challenge of international competition.

Read The 21st Century Screenplay >>

The Nutshell Technique by Jill Chamberlain

best screenwriting books
In this book, sought-after script doctor, Jill Chamberlain, focuses on one key fact: while many aspiring screenwriters can write snappy dialogue or create interesting characters, many fail to craft a compelling story. Instead, they create a situation. Her “nutshell technique” shows you how to take an interesting situation and turn it into a story.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? It’s very hands-on (which we love) and uses a ton of examples from well-known, up-to-date movies. Such as how your protagonist’s “want” expressed at the beginning of Act 1 should be granted at the end of Act 1, but not in the way they expected…

Read The Nutshell Technique >>

Getting It Write by Lee Jessup

best screenwriting books
Out of all the screenwriting books on the market, very few address the problem many writers face once they’ve completed a great script: what the heck do I do with it now? That’s what Jessup tackles in this fantastic book: how to market your screenplay (and yourself) in the industry.

While there’s no sure-fire formula to success, follow the pragmatic advice laid out in this book and you’ll be far ahead of the majority of other aspiring writers when it comes to starting a screenwriting career,

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? Jessup is a highly sought-after authority in the industry who knows exactly how it works and what the best approaches are to break in and achieve your goals.

Read Getting It Write >>

best screenwriting books

On Writing by Stephen King

best screenwriting books
Don’t let the fact that Stephen King writes novels rather than a screenplays put you off. This book is universally recognized as a classic text on the art of writing, regardless of medium. The first half is a memoir detailing King’s journey from unknown writer to best-selling author. The second lays out his personal tips on how to write—95% of which is just as applicable to screenplays as to novels.

WHY IS IT ONE OF THE BEST SCREENWRITING BOOKS? King is a master of the craft of writing and packs this book with his very best advice on crafting characters, stories, dialogue, pacing, editing and much more.

Read On Writing >>

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 >>

best screenwriting books
My Story Can Beat Up Your Story 
by Jeffrey Alan Schecter

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 Strikes Back! by Blake Snyder

best screenwriting booksThere’s a whole series of Save The Cat screenwriting books and this second one is just as good, if not better than the classic first one. 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 show 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 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. Its 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

Best Screenwriting Books: The Classics

If you’re wondering where Screenplay by Syd Field or Story by Robert McKee 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

41 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.

  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 🙂

  18. Molly says:

    I second Richard Walter’s book. But I would definitely add Classical Storytelling and Contemporary Screenwriting by Brian Price to the list. It’s both philosophical (why we tell stories) and practical (how to tell a good story well).

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks Molly – great suggestions!

  19. Richard says:

    You left out The Screenwriting Quick Start.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, Richard. I think that’s a great book!

  20. Peter says:

    I’m surprised that Donna Michelle Anderson’s book “Write It, Pitch It, Sell Your Screenplay” is not on your list. I found DMA’s book to be a clear, rational, no-nonsense, unified guide to all aspects of structure, character development and marketing/selling a screenplay.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks, we’ll check it out.

  21. Paul says:

    Pablo Picasso learned to paint first in a Naturalist style before he broke the mould.
    Books are not the place for instruction on anti-narrative or post-structure. That’s more the realm of craft practise, journals and academic analysis.
    Multi-protagonists require brilliant writing talent and craft. Plus we normally only see the resulting film so there is a bias towards Writer-Directors.
    Alternative structure is probably best handled as a chapter in a broader book, but really again it’s an advanced topic for professional writers or the artiste.

  22. Donovan Walker says:

    I flat-out love the “Save The Cat” series, even though Blake forced a complete restructuring and subsequent rewrite of my first project. I now wear a “WWBSD?” bracelet when writing.

    Someone mentioned “The Hollywood Standard” – fantastic book; everyone should own it. However, it is a format guide, not a screenwriting book. It won’t help you with characters, dialog, theme or story, but only help you put those elements down on paper in a way that’ll pass any reader’s sniff test.

    Several of these others sound very interesting. I’m looking forward to getting to know them.

  23. Donovan Walker says:

    Many great creative geniuses adhered to existing forms. Bach, Beethoven, Brahms and Ravel each re-invented music itself with their content, but stuck strictly to classical forms like the Sonata form for a symphony. True, Debussy broke every rule of form just as Picasso did, but unless you are that one in a billion, you’ll succeed far better adhering to established forms. Just re-invent with your content.

  24. Tess says:

    Screenwriting is Rewriting by Jack Epps? I’m reading it now….it’s great.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Thanks for the heads up, Tess.

  25. Mike Laman says:

    I love this list and I could add a few titles from my own library. The problem I have with all these books is: it takes lots of time to read and incorporate their ideas into
    your writing process. Some of these books work against each other. If you’re aren’t careful, you end up reading more about the writing process than doing it. Did or would the great screenwriters of the past read all these books? I doubt it. Read scripts, do outlines, then write, and rewrite. Create new pages daily or you will never produce anything.

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      Yes, you definitely don’t want to get caught up just reading and not writing.

  26. charles mario ruiz says:

    there’s a helluva lo MORE that you left out than those listed…do not have the time to list them all…sorry.

  27. Paul Jacobs says:

    Tһis informatіon iѕ priceless. How can I find more screenwriting books like these?

    1. Script Reader Pro says:

      We regularly feature the best new screenwriting books in our newsletter.

  28. Terence Patrick Murphy says:

    I’d like to put in a plug for my two books, the first is called The Fairytale and Plot Structure; the second is called From Fairy Tale to Film Screenplay: Working with Plot Genotypes. What I do, particularly in the second book, is marry the three-act structure of Syd Field to the work of Vladimir Propp in order to come up with the concept of the plot genotype. The plot genotype is the narrative DNA of the Hollywood screenplay. What I offer is a more detailed understanding of what transpires from the beginning of the movie until the first Plot Point, as that is understood by Field, and then from the first to the second Plot Point, and then to the end of the film. It’s a structure that shows both a kind of uniformity and a nice flexibility. I promise you that you will be given new insights into the structure of all stories by a careful reading of my two books.

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