Screenwriting Books You Need To Read – Top Ten List

1) Screenplay by Syd Field

Hollywood’s script guru teaches you how to write a screenplay in “the ‘bible’ of screenwriting” (The New York Times)—now celebrating forty years of screenwriting success!

Syd Field’s books on the essential structure of emotionally satisfying screenplays have ignited lucrative careers in film and television since 1979. In this revised edition of his premiere guide, the underpinnings of successful onscreen narratives are revealed in clear and encouraging language that will remain wise and practical as long as audiences watch stories unfold visually—from hand-held devices to IMAX to virtual reality . . . and whatever comes next.

As the first person to articulate common structural elements unique to successful movies, celebrated producer, lecturer, teacher and bestselling author Syd Field has gifted us a classic text. From concept to character, from opening scene to finished script, here are fundamental guidelines to help all screenwriters—novices and Oscar-winners—hone their craft and sell their work.

In Screenplay, Syd Field can help you discover:

  • Why the first ten pages of every script are crucial to keeping professional readers’ interest
  • How to visually “grab” these influential readers from page one, word one
  • Why structure and character are the basic components of all narrative screenplays
  • How to adapt a novel, a play, or an article into a saleable script
  • Tips on protecting your work—three ways to establish legal ownership of screenplays
  • Vital insights on writing authentic dialogue, crafting memorable characters, building strong yet flexible storylines (form, not formula), overcoming writer’s block, and much more

Syd Field is revered as the original master of screenplay story structure, and this guide continues to be the industry’s gold standard for learning the foundations of screenwriting.

(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

2) Story: by Robert McKee

Robert McKee’s screenwriting workshops have earned him an international reputation for inspiring novices, refining works in progress and putting major screenwriting careers back on track. Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese and David Bowie are just a few of his celebrity alumni. Writers, producers, development executives and agents all flock to his lecture series, praising it as a mesmerizing and intense learning experience.

In Story, McKee expands on the concepts he teaches in his $450 seminars (considered a must by industry insiders), providing readers with the most comprehensive, integrated explanation of the craft of writing for the screen. No one better understands how all the elements of a screenplay fit together, and no one is better qualified to explain the “magic” of story construction and the relationship between structure and character than Robert McKee.

(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

3) The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

Originally an influential memo Vogler wrote for Walt Disney Animation executives regarding The Lion King, The Writer’s Journey details a twelve-stage, myth-inspired method that has galvanized Hollywood’s treatment of cinematic storytelling. A format that once seldom deviated beyond a traditional three-act blueprint, Vogler’s comprehensive theory of story structure and character development has met with universal acclaim, and is detailed herein using examples from myths, fairy tales, and classic movies. This book has changed the face of screenwriting worldwide over the last 25 years, and continues to do so. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

4) Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

Making a good script great is more than just a matter of putting a good idea on paper. It requires the working and reworking of that idea. This book takes you through the whole screenwriting process – from initial concept through final rewrite – providing specific methods that will help you craft tighter, stronger, and more saleable scripts.

While retaining the invaluable insights that placed its first two editions among the all – time most popular screenwriting books, this expanded, revised, and updated third edition adds rich and important new material on dialogue, cinematic images, and point of view, as well as an interview with screenwriter Paul Haggis.

If you are writing your first script, this book will help develop your skills for telling a compelling and dramatic story. If you are a veteran screenwriter, it will help you articulate the skills you know intuitively. And if you are currently stuck on a rewrite, this book will help you analysis and solve your script’s problems and get it back on track.

Also, check out Linda’s amazing podcast interview here: Making a Good Script Great with Linda Seger (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

5) Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

Here’s what started the phenomenon: the best seller, for over 15 years, that’s been used by screenwriters around the world! Blake Snyder tells all in this fast, funny and candid look inside the movie business. “Save the Cat” is just one of many ironclad rules for making your ideas more marketable and your script more satisfying, including: The four elements of every winning logline The seven immutable laws of screenplay physics The 10 genres that every movie ever made can be categorized by ― and why they’re important to your script.

Why your Hero must serve your Idea Mastering the 15 Beats Creating the “Perfect Beast” by using The Board to map 40 scenes with conflict and emotional change How to get back on track with proven rules for script repair

This ultimate insider’s guide reveals the secrets that none dare admit, told by a showbiz veteran who’s proven that you can sell your script if you can save the cat. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

6) How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flynn

How Not to Write a Screenplay is an invaluable addition to any aspiring screenwriter’s shelf–and you’d best make the shelf within arm’s reach of the computer. Author Dean Martin Flinn, an experienced script reader, details the common rookie mistakes that drive script readers crazy. Flinn makes no pretense of being able to teach anyone how to write the next Great American Film–or for that matter the next Stupid Summer Blockbuster. Instead he offers information that will help keep the novice screenwriter’s opus from being immediately tossed on the trash pile (arguably a more valuable service).

As Flinn says in his introduction, if you follow the advice in this book, “you may not write a particularly good screenplay, but you won’t write a bad one.” Flinn offers practical advice on formatting, such as the proper form for a slugline and where to set your margins, and more general rules of thumb on giving the actors room to interpret their roles and avoiding dictating camera angles to the director (who will ignore them anyway). The second half of the book deals with content, also in a remarkably pragmatic way–structure, pacing, plot resolution, and dialogue that really stink are all handily dealt with.

Flinn illustrates almost all his points with excerpts from screenplays both good and bad (names have been changed to protect the guilty), giving the reader concrete examples of the difference between poorly and well-structured scenes. Not sucking is an unusual goal for a screenwriting manual, but any script reader will agree it is a noble one. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

7) The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats by Cole Haag

This book was a required textbook back when I was at film school. Some of the formatting suggestions may be a little outdated, especially if you have Final Draft or Movie Magic screenwriting software, but there’s still a ton of knowledge to be gained about proper formatting. The quickest way to spot a novice writer is by how unprofessional their script is formatted — this book shines a light on the Hollywood standard. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

8) The Screenwriter’s Bible by David Trottier

The 20th anniversary edition of one of the most popular, authoritative, and useful books on screenwriting. A standard by which other screenwriting books are measured, it has sold over 200,000 copies in its twenty-year life. Always up-to-date and reliable, it contains everything that both the budding and working screenwriter need under one cover five books in one!

A Screenwriting Primer that provides a concise course in screenwriting basics;
A Screenwriting Workbook that walks you through the complete writing process, from nascent ideas through final revisions;
A Formatting Guide that thoroughly covers today s correct formats for screenplays and TV scripts;
A Spec Writing Guide that demonstrates today s spec style through sample scenes and analysis, with an emphasis on grabbing the reader s interest in the first ten pages;

A Sales and Marketing Guide that presents proven strategies to help you create a laser-sharp marketing plan.

Among this book s wealth of practical information are sample query letters, useful worksheets and checklists, hundreds of examples, sample scenes, and straightforward explanations of screenwriting fundamentals. The sixth edition is chock-full of new examples, the latest practices, and new material on non-traditional screenplay outlets. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

9) The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

Learn the basic techniques every successful playwright knows Among the many “how-to” playwriting books that have appeared over the years, there have been few that attempt to analyze the mysteries of play construction. Lajos Egri’s classic, The Art of Dramatic Writing, does just that, with instruction that can be applied equally well to a short story, novel, or screenplay. Examining a play from the inside out, Egri starts with the heart of any drama: its characters.

All good dramatic writing hinges on people and their relationships, which serve to move the story forward and give it life, as well as an understanding of human motives — why people act the way that they do. Using examples from everything from William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet to Henrik Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, Egri shows how it is essential for the author to have a basic premise — a thesis, demonstrated in terms of human behavior — and to develop the dramatic conflict on the basis of that behavior.

Using Egri’s ABCs of premise, character, and conflict, The Art of Dramatic Writing is a direct, jargon-free approach to the problem of achieving truth in writing. (FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)

10) The 101 Habits Of Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias

You can struggle for years to get a foot in the door with Hollywood producers–or you can take a page from the book that offers proven advice from twenty-one of the industry’s best and brightest!

In this tenth anniversary edition, The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, 2nd Edition peers into the lives and workspaces of screenwriting greats–including Terry Rossio (the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise), Aline Brosh McKenna (Morning Glory), Bill Marsilii (Deja Vu), Derek Haas and Michael Brandt (Wanted), and Tony Gilroy (the Bourne franchise).

You will learn best practices to fire up your writing process and your career, such as:

  • Be Comfortable with Solitude
  • Commit to a Career, Not Just One Screenplay
  • Be Aware of Your Muse’s Favorite Activities
  • Write Terrible First Drafts
  • Don’t Work for Free
  • Write No Matter What

This indispensable handbook will help you hone your craft by living, breathing, and scripting the life you want!
(FREE AUDIOBOOK VERSIONS HERE)


BONUS: Pulp Fiction – The Screenplay by Quentin Tarantino

With his vibrant imagination and dedication to richly layered storytelling QUENTIN TARANTINO is one of the most celebrated filmmakers of his generation. He made his directorial debut in 1992 with RESERVOIR DOGS, and then co-wrote, directed and starred in one of his most beloved films, PULP FICTION, which won his first Oscar® for Best Screenplay.

Followed by the highly acclaimed films JACKIE BROWN, KILL BILL VOL. 1 and VOL. 2, and DEATH PROOF, Tarantino then released his World War II epic, INGLOURIOUS BASTERDS, DJANGO UNCHAINED (which won his second Oscar® for Best Screenplay), and the HATEFUL EIGHT. Tarantino’s most recent film, ONCE UPON A TIME…IN HOLLYWOOD, was nominated for five Golden Globes, ten BAFTAS, and ten Academy Award nominations.

A must-read for any screenwriter. Tarantino…nuff said! These are our Top Ten Screenwriting Books You Need to Read. We hope they help you on your journey as a screenwriter. Remember just keep writing!

Want To Learn From Oscar® Winning & Blockbuster Screenwriters

Want to take your script to the next level? Learn from some the best screenwriters working in Hollywood today in this FREE 3 day video series.

WEBINAR INSTRUCTOR - DIALOGUE1