Where can I find excellent books on screenwriting?

This is not another “Top 10 Screenwriting Books On Screenwriting” spam list. There are no affiliate links on this page.

Did you already read some screenplays? Do you want books on screenwriting now?

Books on Screenwriting

Read this shit first.

Four books every screenwriter should read first:

  • Bob’s Book – So many people come to the entertainment business with huge misconceptions. Many things movies and TV have told us about how things work turn out to be convenient lies. But in That’s Not The Way It Works, veteran screenwriter Bob Saenz breaks down the mechanics and processes of screenwriting as a job. If you want to know how to write a script that can actually be sold in the current market, definitely start here.
  • Joe’s Book – J. Michael Straczynski wrote this as the book he wished he had when he started in the business.
  • Art and Fear – Frank Herbert wrote, “fear is the mind-killer.” Art and Fear is probably the best book on how to deal with the mental obstacles all artists must cope with when creating. Creating things can be a joy, but it can also be incredibly stressful. This book helps.
  • The Screenwriter’s Bible – Even the most seasoned professionals keep this around. It’s like a complete DIY home repair book for all things screenplay.

Check out the Blogs page for free online reading material.

Read those? Now go write some shit.

Wrote some shit? Messed around with it? Now go read more screenplays.

Eventually, later, read this shit:

  • Adventures in the Screen Trade – William Goldman was basically a creative genius, both at writing screenplays and explaining how they work. Check out a film he wrote called The Princess Bride.
Image showing the cover of “Save The Cat” with a warning about not reading it first. Many Recommend this as one of the great books on screenwriting, but it’s very problematic for beginners.
The best books on screenwriting for beginners tend to be more practical than theoretical. Blake Snyder’s “Save The Cat” series is best classified as theoretical material and should be taken with a grain of salt. A working screenwriter should have an awareness of what this book contains, but following it too closely or as gospel tends to result in thoroughly unoriginal and uninteresting work from beginning screenwriters.
  • Save The Cat – Be careful about this paint-by-numbers shit, this is a guide, not a template.
  • Story by Robert McKee – Seriously, do not read this shit first, read screenplays. McKee give you interesting things to think about, but really not a lot of the practical information you need to get started. If you read this first you may be very confused.
  • How Not to Write a Screenplay, AKA “101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make,” which is by the guy who co-wrote Star Trek VI. Anybody who can keep up with Nicholas Meyer is probably worth listening to.

Books screenwriters should read that aren’t strictly about screenwriting:

  • Who The Devil Made It – It’s hard to imagine that anyone ever had a better awareness of film history and the actual personalities and temperaments involved than Peter Bogdanovich. His efforts in documenting Hollywood history were second to none.
  • Sculpting In Time – Fucking Tarkovsky, man. Watch his shit. Poetry and technical mastery from an absolute genius filmmaker working during the worst years of the Soviet Union. He had none of the advantages American and European commercial filmmakers had to work with. What he actually accomplished with what he had available is mind-blowing. Learn anything and everything you can from him.
  • Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual – This actually explains how comedy works. That’s not a joke. It’s an actual technical manual for making things funnier.
  • The Playboy Interview: The Directors – A really good collection of in-depth interviews with fantastic storytellers. The one with comedians is also quite interesting.
  • Hit and Run – You won’t believe this shit. Hollywood at its worst. Read this to be prepared.
  • Harpo Speaks! – Technically, not shit. Read up and gain mad respect for this artist. Anyone who gets to the end of this book and isn’t crying has no soul.
  • Space Odyssey: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke, and the Making of a Masterpiece – Don’t let this shit happen to you. Clarke basically got mugged by Kubrick. Learn the warning signs and make sure your contracts don’t let anyone do this to you.

More than any single book, if you want to be writing movies and television, you should be reading screenplays (good and bad).

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