I was recently asked what are my favourite screenwriting books. So here they are:
Save The Cat by Blake Snyder
It’s impossible to ignore this one, even if you disagree with the formulaic approach. There are tons of terrific lessons here. But best saved for the more advanced screenwriter.
Story by Robert McKee
The guru of screenwriting, McKee’s book contains pretty much everything you need to know about storytelling.
The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
Breaks down every mythic story and archetype. Very easy to read and full of great examples. It clarifies a lot of what other people say.
Screenplay by Syd Field
The beginner’s guide to writing a script. Contains all the basics on structure and format. Goes into character creation a little too much for my liking, but then he was also an actor.
Raindance Writer’s Lab by Elliott Grove
A great practical guide that touches upon the business as well. Essential reading.
Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
Goldman wrote Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and many, many more. This is a frank memoir about screenwriting in Hollywood.
Which Lie Did I Tell by William Goldman
More memories and advice from the veteran scriptwriter, with more attention to things like writing for budgets.
Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hague
The first book I ever read on screenwriting and one of the best. Hague gives you the basics in a way that’s simple to understand.
Save the Cat Strikes Back by Blake Snyder
The sequel offers more fixes for common problems as well as a very useful section on Act Three.
Save the Cat Goes to the Movies
Can’t recommend this highly enough. Some truly great insights into different movie genres and the rules they follow.
The Devil’s Guide to Screenwriting by Joe Eszterhas
The infamous scribe of Basic Instinct gives you a very funny look at the flipside of success in Hollywood. Read it to feel empowered as a writer. This is the stuff they didn’t want you to know.
How to Make a Good Script Great by Linda Seger
A very good fix-it guide when your screenplay lacks that little something.
Tales From the Script by Various
Frank and fascinating interviews with many major screenwriters. Learn from the people who are working in the trenches.
The Screenwriter’s Bible by Dave Trottier
Contains all the formatting instructions you need to avoid being seen as an amateur.
Breakfast With Sharks by Michael Lent
Be warned. The swimming pool of Hollywood is not for the faint-hearted. Learn to recognize and avoid the sharks with this great guide. Contains some terrific practical advice on writing and negotiating your career (or lack of one). Wish I’d read this years ago.
500 Ways to Beat The Hollywood Script Reader by Jennifer Lerch
Basically a list of common mistakes and how to avoid them.
Rewrite by Paul Chitlik
This is my go-to guide when I’m beginning, guess what, the rewrites! The best thing about this book is that it gives you a structure and a plan to approach your rewriting with. If, like me, you require structure to do anything, this is the book for you.
Bladerunners, Dear Hunters and Blowing the Bloody Doors Off by Michael Deeley
Veteran British producer Michael Deeley gives you his rather candid insight into the business.
Lots of them. Any you can find. Especially good ones. Especially produced ones. Notable ones for study are: The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Basic Instinct, Speed, The Fisher King, Jaws, The Terminator, Aliens, Chinatown, Casablanca, Die Hard, Network,The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Alien, Living In Oblivion, Near Dark, The Hitcher, Reanimator, Deliverance, The Godfather Part II, Superman the Movie, Taxi Driver, The Dear Hunter, The Thing, Altered States, Ordinary People, Annie Hall, Groundhog Day, Back To The Future, The Apartment, Sunset Boulevard, and many, many more.
Once you dipped into some of these you’ll never look at Transformers 4 in the same way again.
There you go. I’m adding to my on library all the time, so I may well update this post at some stage. If I missed any, let me know. Maybe you have your own favourites or stumble across some gem while browsing around. But these are the books that have helped me the most.