Having said in previous posts that some of the best writers do not plan, I thought I should qualify that by saying that if you are starting out as a screenwriter, you definitely need to learn not only about screenwriting, but about the business of screenwriting.
When I first started out, I wrote without reading these books and wasted many hours. Now I refer back to them on a regular basis, while developing my own style based on a synthesis of what I’ve found to work.
So without further ado, here are some of the most notable books on the market, in no particular order:
Save The Cat (Blake Snyder)
No list would be complete without Blake Snyder’s seminal work that boils down screenwriting to an easy-to-understand structure. But beware, this assumes you have mastered the basics of storytelling.
Story (Robert McKee)
McKee’s book is considered the definitive tome on screenwriting. BUT in fact much of this work is critcism. Many of the points raised are valid, but are more of an analysis of what has worked in the past in other movies. However it inspired me quite a bit, and gives you a good working knowledge of many dramatic terms and weapons to add to your screenwriting arsenal.
Screenplay (Syd Field)
This book contains a lot of good basic stuff on structure. But I found his work on character to be more confusing and distracting. Maybe that’s because Mr Field was an actor before he turned screenriting guru.
Making a Good Script Great (Linda Seger)
A more advanced book that assumes you have a working knowledge of the basics and are now having problems with your script. I have used this to varying effect when I got stuck on something. Very in-depth and practical.
Writing Screenplays that Sell (Michael Hague)
A great book for the beginner that teaches you the basics, even going so far as to show you the correct layout of a script on the page in cms and inches! Essential reading.
Raindance Writers’ Lab: Write and Sell the Hot Screenplay (Elliot Grove)
A real gem, this one. Not only does it have a nice “formula” for outlining your script and developing your idea but it has many anecdotes about selling and marketing and breaking down that all-important Hollywood door. Intermediate level.
Tales from the Script (P Hansen & PR Herman)
Why struggle blindly in the dark when you can find out for yourself how the pros made it? Full of invaluable interviews with leading and indie screenwriters. Gives you an insight into the way they work. Recommended for advanced screenwriters.
So there it is. I’ve just dipped my toe into the ocean of screenwriting books. Of course there are many more. Where is Chris Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey” you scream? Believe me, this is only a scratch on the tip of the iceberg. But hopefully it’s a starting point that should save you a lot of that most precious of commodities, time.