If you’re an aspiring screenwriter, the very first book you should pick up is Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field. It’s one of the first screenwriting books I ever read and let me tell you, it’s the greatest tool. It’s the most important 309 pages you will probably ever read in your screenwriting career. The book is filled with rich information on how to write a screenplay, from the very concept, all the way to completion and what to do after it’s written. He covers the basics, starting with what actually is a screenplay then delves deeper into theme and subplot. I honestly learned so much from the man, Syd.
Syd Field makes you believe in yourself as a screenwriter. After reading his book, you actually feel like you have a chance in the industry. Most people and books will tell you that you have a better chance of starring in an NBA playoff game, like Michael Hauge said in Writing Screenplays That Sell.
Syd came up with the Syd Field Paradigm which is prominent to every movie ever made.
The paradigm is a good guide to follow when writing a screenplay. It helped me immensely and will do the same for you.
It would also be beneficial to read Syd Field’s Selling A Screenplay: The Screenwriter’s Guide To Hollywood, The Screenwriter’s Workbook, and The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver. Pretty much anything by Syd Field, read it and retain all the information…well, as much as you can anyway. Selling A Screenplay covers how to sell your script to the big guns and how their minds work. It’s pretty much everything you will do after you’ve written your screenplay and you’re ready to send it off and pitch it.
The Screenwriter’s Workbook gives you great exercises you can do to better your script. Confession, I actually haven’t finished reading this book but I will soon, I promise, okay? Don’t hold that against me.
The Screenwriter’s Problem Solver by Syd is also a great book to read and I highly recommend it. It provides exercises and strategies to get past writer’s block and helps you actually identify the problem of your screenplay. He covers common problems people have when writing and in general covers problems, problems, and more problems. This book was a lifesaver. Go buy it!
Other great books you can read to better yourself as a Screenwriter:
- Save the Cat! by Blake Snyder
Blake comes with a batch of fresh new concepts and ideas for screenwriting, including his own Beat Sheet, called the Blake Snyder Beat Sheet. Ironic, right?
At the end of each chapter he provides helpful exercises to try.
- How NOT To Write A Screenplay by Denny Martin Flinn
This is an easy book to follow with a lot of great insight on what not to put in your screenplay. Such as, don’t add song titles or music in your script unless it pertains to the movie (Across the Universe), don’t list a cast of characters, and don’t include camera instructions, you are NOT the director…unless you are. Denny is also so kind as to tell you what you SHOULD include in your screenplay, cover letter, etc.
- Writing Screenplays That Sell by Michael Hauge
I’m about a third into this book and it’s a great tool for screenwriter’s. It’s full of plenty of information the other books will tell you but in a different method with a different point of view. Pretty much all these books are the same concept, just explained and conceptualized differently, but you get the same outcome. 2+2=4. 1+1+1+1=4. 2+1=3 +1=4. Something like that. I do enjoy how I attempted to use math (in the real world) to explain something about writing. Good for me. Maybe math did pay off, Mrs. Hartwig. (My 12th grade math teacher).
- Writing Movies by Gotham Writer’s Workshop expert instructors, edited by Dean of faculty Alexander Steele
I’ve taken a few classes through Gotham Writer’s Workshop online. It’s a great platform for those interested in learning about screenwriting, also simply writing. They offer a myriad of writing classes online and in NYC. I’ve had some great teachers teach me a lot about the craft of screenwriting. The instructors have published a rather thick book on the art of writing movies. It goes over the fundamentals and covers plot, dialogue, tone and theme, etc. Pretty much everything you need to know about writing a script, this book has. Linked below is the website to sign up for classes at Gotham Writer’s Workshop.
There are a ton more screenwriting books I’d like to read. If you know of any, please let me know which ones I should read.