Screenwriting Books – Do you have a story idea that would make a great screenplay that only you can tell?
If you do, do you know the structure and format to get the screenplay written that will make it into the hands of a Hollywood producer?
When I started screenwriting years ago, I only had a pad of paper and a pen and just wrote. I never read any screenwriting books when I began writing my screenplays.
I had no clue what a 3 act structure was, and now when I look back at my chicken scratch from years ago, it shows how I needed help.
When I write, I have so many visuals in my head that when I try to convert them onto paper, the story gets lost in translation.
That’s why I wished I read a few screenwriting books before I started to create my stories.
If you are starting out in writing screenplays and looking for some great advice, screenwriting books are the way to go. In this post, I will layout the most important screenwriting books that every screenwriter should have in his/her filmmaking library.
10 Best Screenwriting Books On Amazon
Screenwriting Books – My Introduction
If you are just starting to write screenplays, just write as much as you can. Call these the garbage drafts.
They are not something to be thrown away, just something to go back to once you understand how to write a screenplay.
But how are you going to learn to write a proper screenplay without education?
Well, that’s where a really good screenwriting book comes into play. From the first few garbage drafts you have created, you know what your story is.
Once you understand your story, it’s time to put the pieces of the puzzle together to complete the story.
With great screenwriting books, you can now appreciate the art of screenwriting, and screenwriting will become a remarkable journey.
Screenwriting Books – The Toolbox
With the knowledge that you will gain from reading these great screenwriting books below, you will begin to develop a “toolbox.”
This toolbox will be there for when you need a fix in a problem you will face in creating that Oscar-winning screenplay.
There are thousands of screenplays being pitched at any given time in the film industry.
So to get a leg up on the competition, a screenwriter should be looking for tricks, shortcuts, and secret formulas in completing a shoppable screenplay.
Which screenwriting books are the essentials to read?
Just like everything in life, there is always the tried and true that everybody relies on, and then there’s the rest.
The screenwriting books that are my essentials have stood the test of time, and many in the industry rely on them for inspiration.
The non-essentials can include a topic that will stick with you for a long time, but they tend to be forgotten over time.
If you never wanted to write a screenplay, but direct someone else’s vision, reading screenwriting books will assist you to understand plot points and setups.
The screenwriting books listed below are critical reads for the screenwriter to understand the three-act structure, and how to write a great screenplay.
Here are some of the best screenwriting books on Amazon that all screenwriters should take a look at.
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
“Syd Field’s books on the essential structure of emotionally satisfying screenplays have ignited lucrative careers in film and television since 1979.
In this revised edition of his premiere guide, the underpinnings of successful onscreen narratives are revealed in a clear and encouraging language that will remain wise and practical as long as audiences watch stories unfold visually—from hand-held devices to IMAX to virtual reality . . . and whatever comes next.
As the first person to articulate common structural elements unique to successful movies, celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher and bestselling author Syd Field has gifted us a classic text.
From concept to character, from the opening scene to finished script, here are fundamental guidelines to help all screenwriters—novices and Oscar-winners—hone their craft and sell their work.” From Amazon.com.
This is the go-to screenwriting books for many in the industry. If you watch Judd Aptow’s Masterclass on comedy writing and comedy directing, this book is part of his screenwriting toolbox.
In Screenplay, Syd Field can help you discover:
- Why the first ten pages of every script are crucial to keeping professional readers’ interest
- How to visually “grab” these influential readers from page one, word one
- Why structure and character are the basic components of all narrative screenplays
- How to adapt a novel, a play, or an article into a saleable script
- Tips on protecting your work—three ways to establish legal ownership of screenplays
- Vital insights on writing authentic dialogue, crafting memorable characters, building strong yet flexible storylines (form, not formula), overcoming writer’s block, and much more
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers
This screenwriting book for beginners, along with James N. Frey’s The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, helped me get out of the doldrums as I contemplated draft 4 of my first screenplay.
Although I had pretty much worked out the plot bugs by the end of draft 3, the screenplay still seemed limp and the characterization uneven.
I knew I needed a fresh take on my characters and their basic predicament — The Writer’s Journey helped me see that I already had all the elements of a great tale, but just needed to use them to better advantage.
I re-mapped the entire story using ideas from this book and could feel the characters and plot taking on new life as I created a new outline.
Half-way through draft 4 (rewritten from scratch), I feel much more in command of my story and love for my characters.
The individual scenes fit together in a way that they hadn’t in previous versions, partly because some got moved to create better motivation and partly because I can now see better what role secondary characters play in the story overall.
I would certainly recommend this essential screenwriting book as a tool for revitalizing a screenplay that has gone stale or gotten bogged down in the middle.
Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need
Here’s what started the phenomenon: the best seller, for over 15 years, that’s been used by screenwriters around the world!
Blake Snyder tells all in this fast, funny and candid look inside the movie business. I have purchased this book three times because I have reread it so many times that the ink started disappearing.
“Save the Cat” is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying, including:
- The four elements of every winning logline
- The seven immutable laws of screenplay physics
- The 10 genres that every movie ever made can be categorized by ― and why they’re important to your script
- Why your Hero must serve your idea
- Mastering the 15 Beats
- Creating the “Perfect Beast” by using The Board to map 40 scenes with conflict and emotional change
- How to get back on track with proven rules for script repair
This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a showbiz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat.
Save the Cat!® Strikes Back: More Trouble for Screenwriters to Get into … and Out of
Inspired by questions from his workshops, lectures, and emails, Blake listened and provides new tips, tactics, and techniques to solve your writing problems and create stories that resonate:
- The 7 warning signs you might have a great idea or not
- 2 sure-fire templates for can t-miss loglines
- The difference between structure and formula
- The Transformation Machine that allows you to track your hero s growth step-by-step
- The 5 questions to keep your story s spine straight
- The 5-Point Finale to finish any story
- The Save the Cat!® Greenlight Checklist that gets to the heart of every development issue
- The right way to hear notes, deal with problematic producers and dive into the rewrite with the right attitude
- Why and when an agent will appear
- How to discover the potential for greatness in any story
- How to avoid panic, doubt, and self-recrimination… and what it takes to succeed and dare to achieve your dreams
- Get ready to face trouble like a pro… and strike back!
The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny
While other screenwriting books can give you tips on how to “write funny,” this book offers a paradigm shift in understanding the mechanics and art of comedy.
Plus, offers proven, practical tools that help writers translate that understanding into successful, commercial scripts.
The Hidden Tools of Comedy unlocks the unique secrets and techniques of writing comedy.
Kaplan deconstructs sequences in popular films and TV that work and don’t work and explains what tools were used (or should have been used).
- I have personally attended one of Steve Kaplan’s workshops, and he knows what it takes to write funny.
The Artist’s Way Starter Kit
The Artist’s Way Starter Kit includes Cameron’s two most important Artist’s Way tools-The Artist’s Way and The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal-bound together for a bargain price.
This attractive package-shrink-wrapped and with a bellyband-will inspire anyone contemplating beginning the Artist’s Way program to plunge right into this life-changing twelve-week program!
The Artist’s Way is the seminal book on the subject of creativity. An international bestseller, millions of readers have found it to be an invaluable guide to living the artist’s life.
Still, as vital today—or perhaps even more so—than it was when it was first published one decade ago, it is a powerfully provocative and inspiring work.
In a new introduction to the book, Julia Cameron reflects upon the impact of The Artist’s Way and describes the work she has done during the last decade and the new insights into the creative process that she has gained.
Updated and expanded, this anniversary edition reframes The Artist’s Way for a new century. Julia Cameron keeps row after row of journals on the wooden bookcase in her writing room, all containing Morning Pages from more than twelve years of her life.
The journals, she says, listen to her. They have been a company on travels, and she is indebted to them for consolation, advice, humor, sanity.
Now the bestselling author of The Artist’s Way offers readers the same companion, in which we may discover ourselves, our fears and aspirations, and our life’s daily flow.
Readers will find privacy, a portable writing room, where our opinions are for our own eyes.
- The Artist’s Way Morning Pages Journal prioritizes the day, providing clarity and comfort. With an introduction and instructions on how to use this journal, by Julia Cameron, readers will uncover the history of their spirits as they move their hands across the universe of their lives.
Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time
As someone who has labored through six feature-length screenplays, I can tell you this: Pilar Alessandra’s book will help you eliminate problems BEFORE you start writing.
And if you’re stupid enough to write a screenplay, that’s the best place to eliminate them.
Page sixty is where most screenplays go to die and that’s why her chapters on story, structure, and outline alone are worth the price of the book, in my opinion.
Whether you are a beginner or master, there’s something in this book for you.
Plus, Pilar Alessandra is a fantastic person who knows what it takes to make a great screenplay.
I have attended several of her workshops, as well as received advice from her. Trust me, this book will work for you.
Although if you’re just starting out in screenwriting and concerned about the format, I would also recommend Dave Trottier’s “The Screenwriter’s Bible.”
Story Maps: How to Write a GREAT Screenplay
Learn the secrets to writing a GREAT screenplay from a major Hollywood movie studio Story Analyst who will show you how to BLOW AWAY THE READER!
Master the structure and principles used by 95% of commercial movies by studying detailed breakdowns, or “Story Maps,” of several recent hit movies in all different genres, including The Dark Knight, The Wrestler, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Drag Me To Hell and the classics As Good As It Gets and Sunset Boulevard.
You are learning from the pros by studying their work and reading their advice.
This is NOT a formula or just another structure paradigm — it is the view from behind the desk of the people evaluating your screenplay, what they want to read and what they will buy.
With all the competition in the Hollywood marketplace, your script can’t just be good, it must be GREAT.
The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting
Another Veteran script consultant I have attended workshops with and knows the business of screenwriting.
Jill Chamberlain discovered in her work that an astounding 99 percent of first-time screenwriters don’t know how to tell a story. What the 99 percent do instead is present a situation.
To explain the difference, Chamberlain created the Nutshell Technique, a method whereby writers identify eight dynamic, interconnected elements that are required to successfully tell a story.
Now, for the first time, Chamberlain presents her unique method in book form with The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting.
Using easy-to-follow diagrams (“nutshells”), she thoroughly explains how the Nutshell Technique can make or break a film script.
Chamberlain takes readers step-by-step through thirty classic and contemporary movies, showing how such dissimilar screenplays as Casablanca, Chinatown, Pulp Fiction, The Usual Suspects, Little Miss Sunshine, Juno, Silver Linings Playbook, and Argo all have the same system working behind the scenes, and she teaches readers exactly how to apply these principles to their screenwriting.
Learn the Nutshell Technique, and you’ll discover how to turn a mere situation into a truly compelling screenplay story.
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting
Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track.
Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese, and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni.
Writers, producers, development executives, and agents all flock to his lecture series, praising it as a mesmerizing and intense learning experience.
In Story, McKee expands on the concepts he teaches in his $450 seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen.
No one better understands how all the elements of a screenplay fit together, and no one is better qualified to explain the “magic” of story construction and the relationship between structure and character than Robert McKee.
This is one of the must-have screenwriting books that every screenwriter should own.