What are the best screenwriting books about? A question that’s been asked by screenwriters alike. There are so many screenwriting books out there, you’d never finish them, and some, unfortunately, are not too relevant.
To help you decide what screenwriting book is suitable for you, we have gone out there and broken down the best screenwriting books, so you don’t have to.
Film schools are pretty expensive, and if you’re looking to teach yourself, these screenwriting books will go a long way.
Let’s take a look at the best screenwriting books out there.
1. Save the Cat by Blake Snyder
Save the Cat by Blake Snyder is the screenwriting book most screenwriters who are just starting out are recommended. There’s a reason for that, Save the cat breaks down the key plot points so you can visualise the simple story formats.
Save the Cat will help you master the simple story format and build out your characters so they appeal to the audience. There is a strong Ethos on building “likable” characters – some disagree with this, however, there is a weighty argument behind having “likable” characters. Likable doesn’t mean nice, so you can still have a badass character, just make them a little relatable.
2. Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet
This one is a little out there, as it’s not exactly a screenwriting book, it’s focused on playwriting. But, a big but! This book contains some actual writing gold. Writing knowledge that can be applied across all writing mediums, David Mamet is a genius.
It’s all about creating a magical experience for your audience, something that will leave a mark on them. It shows you that your story matters.
3. Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect by Claudia Hunter-Johnson
Writing short scripts is not as easy as it sounds, but it’s a great place for writers to start. This screenwriting is perfect for this, it allows you to understand and figure out stories that mean something.
Claudia uses a method called: “Le Menu”. This is a writing exercise that allows you to figure out the story and also eliminates the dreaded “Writers Block”.
Here is Le Menu:
- What I love
- What I hate
- What I fear
- What I believe
- What I value
- What I want
- What I know about
- People who made a difference in my life
- Discoveries that made a difference in my life
- Decisions that made a difference in my life
4. Story by Robert McKee
Robert Mckee’s book is an interesting one, he, himself is a professor and his book certainly portrays it. He pulls through the story and the origins surrounding it.
He teaches that the characters are structure and the story events impact the characters, and story is what elevates film. He’s not wrong.
Robert McKee is a world-renowned film tutor and his seminars are the most sort after in the land. Don’t miss out and grab a copy of his book, it’s worth it!
5. Adventures in the Screen Trade by William Goldman
This book by William Goldman gives you an insiders view of what it is like to be a screenwriter. It’s an interesting combination of how to master your screenwriting but also how to navigate the filmmaking world.
There are many talented writers and screenwriters out there, but some fall by the wayside and this is simply to do with exposure. You need to pair your screenwriting talent with a business strategy to ensure your work prevails.
William Goldman’s book explores this and will help you enormously when navigating the inside world of filmmaking.
6. On Writing by Stephen King
Stephen King is one of the icons of writing, the man has written absolute classics. The book is around his life and takes you through his life story as well as allowing you to understand his way of writing.
Taking bits and pieces here and there from Stephen King will improve your writing skills ten-fold, and the books an enjoyable read. Navigating his life story that was nearly ended early, the world would’ve missed some absolute classics, so sit back, get the kettle on and enjoy!
7. 150 Screenwriting Challenges by Eric Heisserer
150 screenwriting challenges written by Eric Heisserer is far more practical than a lot on the list. Eric was a prolific screenwriter and a highly-skilled writer, and he’s written this book to help you, and I become better screenwriters. It certainly does deliver.
Also, you must check out some of his films, Bird Box and Lights Out are just to name a couple, there are plenty more.
This book is highly recommended as it will help you come up with new, innovative ideas for your next screenplay and will wash away any thoughts of that dreaded writers’ block.
READ MORE: Our top tips to finish your screenplay
8. Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too! by Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant
I’m a massive fan of this book, it’s interesting, it’s exciting and it certainly does spur you on to better yourself as a screenwriter, and a filmmaker as a whole.
It’s written by Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant who have been wildly successful in their careers as writers and as actors. Just look at Reno 911!
Probably the best piece of advice they give you is around pitching, it’s incredibly important to have a great logline, a treatment that sells and a pitch that a production team can’t say no too. These guys really nail it on the head, informative and incredibly addictive.
9. The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby
The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller by John Truby is an excellent read. He outlines the key 22 steps in which you need to undertake to become a master in storytelling. John Truby’s known for his successful films, including Scream and Shrek.
John pulls from his philosophy to bring you a refreshing outlook on storytelling which gives you an open and insightful view on how to develop your storytelling techniques.
His approach to storytelling is very much unique. He looks to create surprising plots with twists and turns, whilst growing his characters in a meaningful manner.
This book is ideal for writers, novelists and screenwriters.
10. Into The Woods: How Stories Work and Why We Tell Them by John Yorke
We delve straight into storytelling with this book, he explains why we tell stories and the narrative within. Straight to the point and we love it. He uses various examples of storytelling from a multitude of mediums, including fairytales, Shakespeare and television.
The book really does speak to all, and with his philosophy, you will certainly be able to tell a better story and understand the need for telling it.
A great analysis of storytelling in film, tv and theatre, one you must pick up!
11. The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction by Erik Bork
I am a massive fan of Erik Bork and his seven elements of a viable story ethos.
He states that the most important part of screenwriting is the initial idea. His whole ethos is that you must build an idea that’s interesting, clever, and well thought out. In his mind, it’s the idea that attracts Hollywood’s biggest filmmakers and producers in wanting to pick up and buy your script.
He really believes it’s the part before creating the structure and script. It’s the idea that sells – an interesting read by Erik Bork that will make you think when coming up with your next film idea.
READ MORE: The Best Screenwriting Software
12. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field
This book is pretty much what it says in the title. Syd lays out how a screenplay should read and what is should look like. Syd Field is one of the most respected screenwriting teachers out there.
This book quickly perched itself in history and throughout the 80’s and 90’s it was seen as the ultimate guide to screenwriting, the bible.
If you are looking to get a core foundation in screenwriting this book is certainly for you.
You may also like: The Dan Harmon Story Circle – How it WILL make you a better storyteller
13. Screenwriting 434 by Lew Hunter
Lew Hunter is one of the best screenwriting teachers out there and some of his students have written award-winning films.
Screenwriting 434 is like a screenwriting course. It takes you through the screenwriting process in a class-like fashion, meaning you build out your own story as the book goes on.
A great read, and will save you thousands on film school!
14. The Coffee Break Screenwriter by Pilar Alessandra
This is a satisfying read for sure, it has the understanding that some people have full time jobs and need to manage their time to get scripts written in shot spurts and bursts.
We have all been there, rushing through a draft before we begin the 9 to 5, struggling to rewrite the ending of your latest short film before you have to get to work.
Pilar Alessandra’s book has an air of understanding and really helps you to organise your writing schedule to help you write and rewrite your scripts to your full ability.
A fantastic read and one for everyone who’s trying to make it as a screenwriter.
15. The Nutshell Technique by Jill Chamberlain
Jill’s approach to screenwriting is a fairly simple concept. The Nutshell Technique is all about growing your story from a small idea to a large concept.
Starting small and slowly growing your story until it grows to the size you are happy with. It’s all about organic growth so you can write the stories that you love.
The Nutshell Technique is a method where you have to identify eight dynamic, interconnected elements that are integral to successfully telling a story.
16. The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers by Christopher Vogler
Christopher Vogler makes our best screenwriting books list with this classic. Vogler’s book is about the origin of storytelling. He takes the Hero’s journey and spins it for the world of screenwriting.
This is a great read for any writers looking to foray into the world of action and adventure.
17. Screenplay: Writing the Picture by Russin and Downs
We’ve included this book in our list of the best screenwriting books out there, mainly because it’s always be rewritten and updated. It covers a large portion of screenwriting and keeps up to date with Hollywood’s latest trends and methods.
The book is always being improved and moving with the times – this is helpful as screenwriting grows and method change and alter for the best, books can become outdated.
It’s ideal for anyone wanting to improve their style of writing and nail the screenplay format.
18. Screenwriters on Screenwriting: The Best in the Business Discuss Their Craft by Joel Engel
Joel Engel brings together multiple opinions and styles together in this book. We see multiple standpoints on screenwriting from Ernest Lehman (North by Northwest, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?), Ted Tally (The Silence of the Lambs), and Richard LaGravenese (The Fisher King), just to name a few.
Some of these styles will work well for you, other styles will be irrelevant – you can pick and choose to help you create your own unique screenwriting style.
19. Your Screenplay Sucks! by William M. Akers.
Your Screenplay Sucks, is a different approach to a book title, but we love it! This book is helpful and as insightful as you can imagine. This book helps you as a writer nail the basics and get to grips with the fundamentals of screenwriting, a surefire way to hone your screenwriting craft.
The no-nonsense approach that William M. Akers takes is one of the biggest selling points. It’s succinct and straight to the point. You’ll learn a lot from this book. A must-read.
READ MORE: The Best Screenwriting Software
20. The 21st Century Screenplay by Linda Aronson
This guide takes you from the initial idea to scoping out the treatment, to writing the script, then re-writing the script. Linda’s approach is methodical, and she offers a lot of interesting and helpful tips.
Linda teaches you how to write successfully under pressure and develop creative and exciting plots. Well worth the read and an insightful book on screenwriting.
21. The Guide For Every Screenwriter: From Synopsis to Subplots: The Secrets of Screenwriting Revealed by Geoffrey Calhoun
Geoffrey Calhoun’s book is an incredibly efficient guide to screenwriting, offering up templates anyone can get started with. The breakdown of screenwriting and essential step by step tasks means this book is an ideal match for anyone looking to write their first screenplay; this is the book for them!
22. The War of Art by Steven Pressfield
The War of Art helps you to overcome the feeling that you are not good enough when it comes to your creative output. We all have it, and at times this can be incredibly harmful to you and your project.
This book helps you manage those fears, you internally saying I’m not good enough, and helps you alleviate this and become a confident and exciting creator.