Have you ever wondered what made a great screenwriter great? The dialogues are great, there’s laser focus throughout the screenplay, and the story maintains a perfect pace. If you go through the screenplays that got an Academy Award, you’ll be amazed by the talent of their writers.
How did these screenwriters get there? How did they overcome the “amateur” stage? – They got educated.
Does that mean you should start looking at academic programs? You can do that, but it’s not necessary. There’s an easier way: you can read the best books on screenwriting. They cover technique, style, and all other elements of a great screenplay. That caught your attention? How about a list of the best screenplay writing books to read in 2019?
Top 10 Books on Screenwriting
1. The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra
“Writing your script ten minutes at a time” – that’s the best description the author could think of. The book teaches you how to take small steps towards developing a script. It trains you how to overcome one of the greatest mistakes among amateur screenwriters. They tend to binge on the script, but they soon burn out and hit a dead end. Then, the dreaded writer’s block comes on stage.
Pilar Alessandra teaches a simple, but effective technique for making progress.
2. The Nutshell Technique by Jill Chamberlain
This is another book that focuses on writing techniques. Jill Chamberlain is a script consultant. She realized that 99% of beginner screenwriters had troubles with storytelling. Then, she wrote this book that reveals the secrets of storytelling.
The nutshell technique is all about finding an unexpected spin to a situation and turning it into a story.
3. On Writing by Stephen King
This one is a classic. It’s so popular that university professors often assign it for reading, so the students could improve their writing skills. Many students overcome the difficulties, so they no longer wonder where to buy essay in the UK.
It’s just as effective for screenwriters. If you were thinking about hiring a writer to help you with the script, give this book a chance first. It reveals the basics of the writer’s craft. It tells you how to get inspired from memories and situations, so you can turn them into mesmerizing stories.
4. My Story Can Beat Up Your Story by Jeffrey Alan Schechter
The book’s title sounds like it was written by a bully, right? The cover looks like that, too. But it corresponds with the vibe of the book. The competition in the screenwriting industry is tougher than you think. Certain stories beat others. Not because their writers are bullies, but because specific techniques make them successful.
This book includes writing lessons. But it goes beyond that point. It also teaches you how to develop a business plan for your career as a writer.
5. Into the Woods by John Yorke
This is one of the most serious screenwriting books on our list. It takes you on a journey through the history, science, philosophy, and psychology of storytelling. The examples are versatile. From Macbeth to True Detective, you’ll notice that the best scripts have common features.
The book is also interesting because of its structure. The author uses a Shakespeare-inspired structure of five acts.
6. The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri
Have you ever watched a TV movie that looked… cheap? The screenwriter tried to achieve a dramatic effect, but they went too tacky. Too much drama is never a good thing. But a screenplay still needs drama.
This book teaches you how to hit the balance! It gives precise lessons on how to develop dramatic conflict that seems realistic, since it’s based on human psychology and behavior.
7. Writing Screenplays that Sell by Michael Hauge
Writing is a creative craft. You carry stories inside, and you want to share them with the world. As long as you do that, things should work out for you in this profession. Wrong!
If your screenplays lack the “selling” factor, no one will take them seriously. You’re in a business driven by finances. If producers don’t see money-making potential in your scripts, they won’t bother with them.
So you have to write stories that sell, and this book teaches you to do that.
8. Story by Robert McKee
Robert McKee is one of the most successful educators in the niche of screenplay writing. Story is a textbook on how to write a script. It tackles the style, structure, substance, and all principles of screenwriting.
You get practical insider tips. You’ll easily implement them in your daily practice as a writer.
9. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
The cover of this book depicts the real writer’s journey. It’s a labyrinth.
Vogler was a pioneer in the concept of the “hero’s journey” as a universal storytelling template. You’ll find tips that work for all types of fiction writing. Most of all, you’ll learn how to develop characters that make the audience fall in love with them.
10. Down and Dirty Pictures by Peter Biskind
Harvey Weinstein and Robert Redford reinvented Hollywood as independent filmmakers. Weinstein is not a good name to mention anywhere nowadays, but we can’t deny the fact that he made massive impact on the industry’s development. Peter Biskind analyzes the success behind that movement.
Down and Dirty Pictures is a mandatory read for anyone interested to enter the film industry. When you understand how it works, you’ll be more capable to write for it.
Did You Create Your Reading List?
Every career needs an investment. You don’t have to go back to school if you want to become a better screenwriter. But you still need to educate yourself. With the best screenplay writing books, you’ll make a step forward.
Create a reading list and start making progress through it. These are not books that you read and forget. They will inspire you to shift your writing routine. Practice the techniques they suggest and see what happens. In the worst-case scenario, you’ll see no progress. But that’s not likely to happen. The books we suggested hold immense potential to turn you into a better writer.
Which one will you read first?
Jeremy Raynolds is a blogger and theatre screenwriter. He is always intrigued by new techniques. He doesn’t believe in maintaining one writer’s voice throughout all projects. There are so many things to experiment with. Raynolds works hard on inspiring other writers to experiment with style, too.