I’ve been on the lookout for the best and up to date knowledge and resources for years now to help me craft screenplays.
These books will help you with screenwriting from start to finish. From understanding what a story is to selling your script to the highest bidder, as they have helped me.
I own every single one of these books and more. What I’ve come to realize is some books are just fluff, and I recommend no fluff. Let’s get straight to it.
The best screenwriting books every writer should have are:
- Aristotle: Poetics / for screenwriters
- The Hollywood Standard
- Invisible Ink
- Save the Cat!
- Your Screenplay Sucks!
- Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds
- Good in a Room
What is a story? What are the essentials of one? Everything you need to know about story people overlook is in this one pamphlet written in 335 BC.
Have you ever looked at a film and thought “this is boring” or “I’m lost, what is this about.” Chances are they broke Aristotle’s rules for a story.
If your someone who thinks that there are no rules like I did when I first started then your wrong. Knowing these will save you the hardships of constant bad feedback and rewrites. In my opinion, to have, every other book is an option this one is a must-have.
This book has been recommended to me by every popular screenwriter I look up to including Aaron Sworkin and David Mamet.
But if the old timy lanagauge is a bit of a bother check out this adapted one for sceenwriters below.
The Hollywood Standard
The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style is the full book title. The best script format structure book on the planet.
This book was one of the first books I’ve bought as a new screenwriter and one I recommend everyone should have to this day. This book is a script structure book that focuses on how a script needs to be formatted for Hollywood.
As I’ve said in the past on a previous post, most producers will stop reading if you don’t know how to structure your script. If you’re unsure on how to word and format montages, scene headings, flashbacks, group dialogue, or any other weird thing you’re looking through forums to find this is your book.
Get the truth on how to format something, not speculation.
So now that you know what a complete story is from “Aristotle: Poetics” and have the perfect structure from “The Hollywood Standard” its time to get down to the intangibles. The parts of the story you can’t see.
Brian Emanuel breaks down what makes good movies good. The ideas that are put into a script but are never outright said. This subject may come across as simple to you; I know it did for me. But I didnt concuoily do it untill reading this book.
For example, the 1994 film Pulp Fiction may seem like a themeless classic movie, but if you look close enough, the overarching theme is “There is honor among thieves” This book will teach you how to find the heart of your story in your rewriting process.
Save The Cat
Talking about story structure I’m a simple guy I think Aristotle Poetics is all you need as building blocks to a good story. But this is another book that will guide you in a similar direction as Invisible ink does. This book is more for a practical person. It gives you tools tips and tricks to structure a story in 15 beats or less.
Some people even say this is the only script book they ever needed. I think there’s a book out there for everyone that will get the story to click. After reading this book, I can see how this helps a lot of people. Blake Snyder explains things like loglines all the way to characters and is virtually unbelievable.
Your Screenplay Sucks
Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great is the full title. And yes it does what you think it does. It’s a fixer.
If you have ever written a script that feels like its missing something, but you don’t know what it is. Your problem has a solution in this book.
This saves your screenplay from embarrassing you. Do what’s in this book before you get a professional script reader. It will save you money and time.
Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds
Good job, you did it. You put together a story; you made it makes sense, you’ve made a great character fixed the dialogue now its time to sell it.
As a screenwriter, you are not only an artist you’re a salesman too. Sometimes it’s not enough to be the artist if you don’t have a literary agent you have to sell yourself to one. Your spec script is the gold that can land you that great agent or that great first option and eventually that first writer’s credit. Learn how to pitch your screenplay, and that’s the last piece to the puzzle.
Good in a Room
Probably the best book on selling your screenplay I’ve ever read.
Written by a former creative director at MGM Stephanie Palmer reveals all the secret techniques used by Hollywood writers to get financing and sell their projects.