10 Best Screenwriting Books that are Essential in Your Screenwriting Career

Do you love movies? Are you passionate about writing? Do you have stories in your mind that you would like to share with everyone? Then you might be looking for a way to translate your idea and vision onto paper. And, a screenplay will help you do so as it is the art of storytelling for film. For those of you about to begin their screenwriting career or to those who are already on their way to becoming a successful one, this article may prove helpful as it arms you with best screenwriting books, which I deem absolutely essential in your screenwriting career.

Film is my love and literature is my passion. And, the beauty of a screenplay is such that it encompasses both. But, writing a screenplay is not as easy as one thinks. I write screenplays more as a hobby and for my own future films. Hailing from a different educational background and culture, I had no idea about screenplays until one of my customers (a professional screenwriter) handed me a book written by Syd Field, a few years ago. Since then I have fallen in love with the art of screenwriting.

I have read many books in this subject and have also read hundreds of screenplays ranging from the best known like Chinatown and Pulp Fiction to the ones written by budding screenwriters. I have spent countless hours finding the best books to hone my screenwriting skills, and here I am. I have come up with the following list and I am hopeful these books on screenwriting will help you begin your journey if you haven’t started yet. And, if you have already started the journey, these books will guide you along your path.

Screenwriting can be a daunting task but it is a craft that can be learned. Besides working on creating a compelling story line and characters, you also need to follow guidelines and several formatting rules to have your screenplay accepted by production companies. Having worked in different production companies, I am sharing with you my own experience, and trust me screenwriting is a highly competitive career. Everybody in Hollywood is writing screenplays these days. Everyone has been knitting a golden dream of becoming an overnight sensation with the mass success of their screenplays. Every year more than 70,000 screenplays are being registered in the Writers Guild of America (WGA).

Hence, screenwriting is not for everyone. Not all the screenplays being written get sold, but again if you have talent and if you have a great story and the skills to properly execute your story in your screenplay, then this can be a highly rewarding career for you. The recent success of Juno’s Diablo Cody is a great example. Once a stripper, Diablo Cody is now the most sought- after screenwriter in Hollywood.

So keep on working hard. Put your efforts and devotion towards learning the techniques that can help you hone your screenwriting craft while you are writing a screenplay.

Still Wondering How to Write a Screenplay

Following is a compilation of my Top Screenwriting Books written by well-known authors and top screenwriting gurus out there in the Show Business:

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting

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This is the first screenwriting book that I have read. Written by Syd Field, when the book first came out in 1979, it became an instant sensation. Before this book, there wasn’t anything written particularly about the aspects of screenwriting. I highly recommend this book. Many readers have complained about Syd Field’s repetedeness and redundancy throughout the book, and about his inability to create a successful screenplay himself. Syd Field is a great teacher in this field and he knows how to impart his knowledge to his students. The redundancy didn’t actually bother me much as I was much more immersed in finding the gems hidden in this book rather than being critical about the author.

Story by Robert Mckee

Story: Substance, Structure, Style and The Principles of Screenwriting

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Written by Robert McKee, this is an indispensable book for everyone. I sincerely love this book, and it is undoubtedly my favorite. It is absorbing, inspiring, and beautifully written. This book should not be just read but studied again and again. It provides rich insight into several aspects of the story, the process, the psychology, and the principles behind the craft of screenwriting, characterization, plots etc. Not only will it help you write a better screenplay but also improve your writing skills. Overall this book is a masterpiece, and the most illuminating book on screenwriting I have ever read. No other screenwriting books can come close to it, that’s all I can say.

The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script

The Screenwriter's Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script

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Written by David Trottier, this book justifies its title. It is an invaluable reference book for beginners as well as the experienced screenwriters. The Screenwriter Bible is an easy read and feels more like a workbook that provides step by step guidelines on writing a screenplay. Not only does it delve into every aspect of screenwriting but also addresses formatting guidelines as well as tactics to adopt in the process of selling your scripts. This book is well rounded and I would highly recommend it to anyone.

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller

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Written by John Truby, this book on screenwriting is a bit more complex than the above three, but again if you are up to challenge, then it might be for you. The Anatomy of Story may be confusing and difficult to follow for the beginners, thus I would recommend this book only if you have already grasped some knowledge in the fundamentals of screenwriting. Truby focuses on the organic aspects of story and addresses the techniques needed to create an effective story in all forms.

Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

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Adventures in the Screen Trade is a fun and inspiring book written by a successful Hollywood screenwriter William Goldman, who has already won two academy awards for screenwriting. This is a must book for anyone who is interested in learning the secrets of Hollywood Show Biz from a pro and established writer. William Goldman has written screenplays such as Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, Marathon Man, The Princess Bride, and a huge number of other screenplays and books. Goldman provides rich insights about his own screenwriting adventures and the various aspects of the Hollywood film industry, in an entertaining way. Highly recommended.

Poetics by Aristotle

Poetics

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I love Poetics for two aspects, one for its poeticism and another for its impact in the field of storytelling today. It’s a tiny little book that renders tremendous insights in every aspects of human life. It is an absolutely great read for everyone. This book is extremely popular not only among students of literature, but also with screenwriters, dramatists, and story analysts. Hence, Aristotle is considered to be “the world’s first film story analyst.” I highly recommend reading this book.

Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets From the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization

Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters: Storytelling Secrets From the Greatest Mind in Western Civilization

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If you enjoyed Aristotle’s poetics then you might want to check out Aristotle's Poetics for Screenwriters written by Michael Tierno. It’s a concise and simple book that ties together the ideas and concepts of Aristotle, but in a much more accessible and simplified manner, providing lots of practical examples. I really like this book and recommend Aristotle’s Poetics for Screenwriters to anyone.

Writing Screenplays That Sell: The Complete, Step-By-Step Guide for Writing and Selling to

Writing Screenplays That Sell: The Complete, Step-By-Step Guide for Writing and Selling to

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Writing Screenplays That Sell is written by Michael Hauge, and what a book it is. Hauge presents his ideas and concepts in a very straight-forward, manner and succeeds in articulating the basic fundamentals of screenwriting clearly and concisely. This is one of the best books I have read in screenwriting and would be the best choice for the beginners. Highly recommended for all.

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

The Hero with a Thousand Faces

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The Hero with a Thousand Faces was written by Joseph Campbell in the 1940’s, and has not only inspired the making of George Lucas’s “Star Wars” but also many other writers and storytellers. Its impacts on screenwriting are tremendous, and a majority of screenwriting books borrow Campbell’s idea of hero’s journey, and the insurmountable which the hero faces on his journey to reach to his goal. A must read for anyone.

The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis In The Creative Interpretation Of Human Motives

The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis In The Creative Interpretation Of Human Motives

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The Art Of Dramatic Writing, first published in 1940’s and written by Lajos Egri, is more about playwriting and not about screenwriting, but still has managed to fetch a respectable place among screenwriters, writers and playwrights. Simply a great book, highly motivating and inspiring, and it will go well with the two other favorites of mine, Robert McKee’s Story and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces. You should not miss these books, if you are aspiring to take your script writing career to the next level.

Updates: Even though, the above list is my top 10, there have been many new books, which have emerged on the scene lately, and are also extremely good. I would highly recommend checking them out.

Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories

Tales from the Script: 50 Hollywood Screenwriters Share Their Stories

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Tales from the Script by Peter Hanson and Paul Robert Herman is not only for aspiring or established screenwriters, but also for anyone who loves movies, or appreciates the art of filmmaking and writing. It is thoroughly enjoyable book as well as extremely insightful and inspiring. Jam-packed with interviews of some of well-known and established writers including William Goldman and Paul Schrader; this book captures the thrill, pain, frustration, excitement, joy, and the reality of showbiz. Overall, a great read, and an invaluable scriptwriting resource.

Well, this concludes the list of my best screenwriting books that may prove helpful to you in your screenwriting career. There are many other books written on the topic of screenwriting which I didn’t mention as it’s not possible to include all of them. I hope the above books can get you started on your journey and along the way, you may discover the one that might works best for you. Since, no one can teach you how to write a script, I do not claim the enlisted books will do the same, but they can motivate, inspire, and lead you towards your goal. These screenwriting books can equip you with all the necessary tools that you might need to write better and compelling screenplays. Good luck on your screenwriting journey...

Screenwriting Software

Writing compelling scripts is essential; however, if you want to be successful in this field then you need to be able to write your scripts in a format that adheres to the industry's standards and rules. Of course, you can write your screenplay on any word processor but implementation of the screenwriting software will make your task much easier and efficient, while also maintaining the format that is absolutely required in the televison and movie industry. Here are two screenwriting software that are highly recommended:

Final Draft Version 8

Final Draft Version 8

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Final Draft is the most popular and number-one selling software program designed just for writing film scripts, television and stage plays. By combining powerful word processing with professional script formatting in one self-contained, easy-to-use package, it will save your valuable time trying to figure out learning about formatting rules. Since it automatically paginates and formats your script as you type, your scripts will be professional and industry-standard. This screenwriting software is available for both Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows. Used by most professionals in the showbiz to the likes of Darren Aronofsky, James Cameron, Oliver Stone, J.J. Abrams, Sofia Coppola, Wes Craven, and many more... If you are really serious about screenwriting, then Final Draft is strongly recommended.

Learn more of its features and get the newest version from Amazon or Writer's Store.

Movie Magic Screenwriter Version 6

Movie Magic Screenwriter Version 6

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Movie Magic Screenwriter is another popular screenwriting software that is designed specifically for writing television and feature film scrripts as well as for writing stage play, comic book scripts, and even novels, making it suitable for all creative writing purposes. It is a professional application that formats and paginates your script to industry-standard as you type, and is available for both Windows and Mac. You can learn more about its features at Amazon or Writer's Store.

I hope the above screenwriting software and books will be helpful to you in your career.

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