During our nearly a decade of writing about screenwriting, we’ve interviewed everyone from best-selling novelists to Academy Award-winning screenwriters. We’ve compiled a list of the greatest resources for aspiring screenwriters. It takes time and practice to learn how to write a great screenplay. Reading outstanding scripts is a terrific approach to improve your screenwriting abilities. Ahead of the award season each year, all of the nominated screenplays are made available for free download. Before the nominees are announced, always make a fast search online or visit our partnerThe Script Lab’s Free Screenplay Library and search for the scripts you are interested in reading.
You can also learn screenwriting by reading books intended for the sole aim of educating novice writers. Having said that, don’t get discouraged if the first book you pick up doesn’t resonate with you. Some methods may be excessively strict, while others may be too lax. Before deciding which screenwriting “rules” to adopt and which ones to dismiss, you should read a few different ones, perhaps even this entire list. Here are the top screenwriting books, listed in no particular order because different methods work for different people.
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
Not so much about screenwriting as being a truly great writer is the subject of this acclaimed book. The Writer’s Journey adapts Joseph Campbell’s famous Hero’s Journey for writers, whether you use the complete mythological structure or just adapt it to what you’ve got. Vogler’s research and teaching expertise have yielded new findings in this book’s 25th anniversary edition, which is now available. This is a must-read for anyone who wants to write a story about a hero. Here’s where you can get the book.
Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need – by Blake Snyder
Save the Cat is one of the best-known books on screenwriting. There are certain sequences in movies where the hero does something that makes him stand out, like saving a cat, and this is the basis of the ‘Save the Cat’ philosophy: scenes like this. If you’re a screenwriter, this book will provide you an excellent overview of the various beats that could be used in your script. It’s a topic that divides writers, with some praising it and others deeming it a waste of time. The book is essential, regardless of whether or not you agree with the author’s views. Here’s where you can get the book.
Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee
With all due respect, Robert McKee is more than just an expert in screenplay. He is a god. It’s his workshops that have made him famous around the world, as he knows just how to arouse new talent, sharpen existing projects, and revitalize faded screenwriting careers. Quincy Jones, Diane Keaton, Gloria Steinem, Julia Roberts, John Cleese, and David Bowie are all former students. You’ll learn a lot more than just a few tricks from this book, which is filled with insightful advice from the author. Here’s where you can get the book.
The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction by Erik Bork
Erik Bork (HBO’s Band of Brothers) is a multi-award-winning writer/producer who takes a fresh perspective to the craft of screenwriting in his new book. The most significant component of this procedure is not the structure, scenes or the business, but rather the pre-production stage. For him, it all comes down to picking the right first idea, which is something he learned from his work as a screenplay instructor and in the industry. Hollywood “gatekeepers” will read your script if it has a brilliant, well-thought-out starting idea. The book must be well-written, of course, if you want your readers to stick with it through page 10, but you must first have an excellent idea. Here’s where you can get the book.
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field
“The most sought-after screenwriting teacher in the world,” according to the Hollywood Reporter, was Syd Field, whose best-selling book swiftly became the industry bible in the 1980s and 1990s. There are now forty printings of his works, including Screenplay and The Screenwriter’s Workbook, which have been used by more than 400 institutions of higher learning in the US and published in 29 different languages. To be considered an accomplished screenwriter, you need have this one under your belt. Here’s where you can get the book.
The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script by David Trottier
Over the course of its twenty years on the market, this book has amassed over 200,000 copies sold. This book is a valuable resource for all writers, whether they are just starting out or already have a following. Included in this book are a wide range of helpful resources like sample queries and worksheets as well as scenario examples. The book gets bigger and better with each new edition, while remaining as current as possible. One of the most widely read books on screenwriting, it covers the entire process, from idea to promotion. Here’s where you can get the book.
The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting by Jill Chamberlain
“The Nutshell Technique solves the code behind why we love the movies that we love. It guides you to organically write the tale you want to convey,” says producer Callum Greene of Star Wars Episode 9, Crimson Peak, and The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug. It’s not, however. Since Jill Chamberlain has been in the business for so long, she’s come to learn that most new writers have no idea how to create a story. There are eight dynamic and interrelated aspects that writers must identify in order to successfully present a tale using the Nutshell Technique. Take heart: we’ve got you covered with illustrations and examples from a variety of films spanning the 20th and 21st centuries. Several universities have it on their curricula. Here’s where you can get the book.
Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
This is a quote by William Goldman, one of Hollywood’s most renowned screenwriters: “The single most significant reality, arguably, in the entire movie industry: NOBODY KNOWS ANYTHING. No one knows for a certainty what is going to work.” Goldman’s films include Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Princess Bride, and All the President’s Men. Using real-world examples, he explains the process of making a movie and how to write a brilliant screenplay. The anecdotes in this book may be a little outdated, but it’s a fascinating read that will give you a new perspective on screenwriting and Hollywood. Here’s where you can get the book.
The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby
In this book, John Truby explains how to become a great storyteller through the use of 22 steps. Some of Hollywood’s greatest successful films have featured his captivating screenplays, such as Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek. Philosophical and mythological inspirations are woven throughout the text, as are new methods and anecdotes that are highly instructive. He employs a novel way to conveying a good story. This is the book for you if you’re looking for strategies to make your characters grow and develop in meaningful ways while still creating new tales. Screenwriters, authors, and journalists alike must have it. Here’s where you can get the book.