33 Best Screenwriting Books For All Authors

If you want to learn the art of screenwriting, check out these 33 best screenwriting books.

Screenwriting, when done well, can be an excellent way to make money writing. You can follow screenwriters on Instagram and find that many do quite well for themselves. Yet, for every blockbuster that hits the silver screen, you have hundreds of scripts that hit the cutting room floor. How can you learn to write screenplays that sell? Going to film school is one option, but a costly one. Another is to read one of these 33 best screenwriting books.

This list is grouped into categories, including:

  • Books for beginning screenwriters
  • Screenplay formatting books
  • Books on selling screenplays
  • Story theory books
  • Books for students
  • Books on the writing process
  • Personal story books
  • Practical guide books

Contents

1. Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

First up in the top books for beginning screenwriters, Save the Cat explains how movie magic is made. It talks about the art of screenwriting and the business side of the trade. It’s an informative but also engaging and entertaining read.

“True originality can’t begin until you know what you’re breaking away from.”

Blake Snyder
Sale
Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need
  • Last Book on Screen writing
  • Started the phenomenon
  • It is made up of premium quality material.
  • Blake Snyder (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

2. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

This is the second book designed for beginning screenwriters. Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting looks at concepts most film students take for granted, but new film writers may need help understanding. He has detailed explanations of the structure and character creation in books, and the book has a companion practical guide called The Screenwriter’s Workbook.

“Action is character. What a person does is what he is, not what he says.”

Syd Field
Sale
Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting
  • This product will be an excellent pick for you.
  • It comes in a proper packaging.
  • It ensures you get the best usage for a longer period
  • Field, Syd (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

3. 150 Screenwriting Challenges by Eric Heisserer

With 150 Screenwriting Challenges, Heisserer adds another list to the books for beginning screenwriters. It provides a list of brainstorming activities that may help writers develop the next blockbuster to add to their portfolio. It also comes from a professional screenwriter, so his ideas are precious.

“I started writing for the chance at paying the rent with it about fifteen years ago (oh god, that’s a long time, I was such a derp), and during that long, slow crawl uphill to professional status I learned a ton of tricks and tests to help me improve my craft, including ways to find my own unique voice, and methods to break through writer’s block.”

Eric Heisserer

4. Your Screenplay Sucks! 100 Ways to Make It Great by William Akers

Beginning screenplay writers can benefit from this book as well. Your Screenplay Sucks! is Akers’s work, with three feature films to his name. It provides practical advice about making a weak screenplay better, and beginning writers can take those tips to heart.

Take inspiration from these top Hollywood writers.

“Scribble on napkins or beer coasters. Write down cool stuff for characters to do that may never find its way into the movie. Make notes and more notes and more notes, but do not trouble yourself with structure. Screw structure. Have fun.”

William Akers
Sale
Your Screenplay Sucks!: 100 Ways to Make It Great
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Akers, William M (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 287 Pages - 08/01/2008 (Publication Date) - Michael Wiese Productions (Publisher)

5. The Screenwriter’s Bible: A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting and Selling Your Script by David Trottier

The Screenwriter’s Bible makes a list as the first guide for screenplay formatting. It does contain writing advice, but it works more like a reference for formatting your work for Hollywood, so you can understand the written and unwritten rules you may not learn in film school. It also touches on how to sell a screenplay, which is an important part of being a successful filmmaker.

“denouement”

David Trottier
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The Screenwriter's Bible, 7th Edition, A Complete Guide to Writing, Formatting, and Selling Your Script
  • David Trottier (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 450 Pages - 08/30/2019 (Publication Date) - Silman-James Press (Publisher)

6. The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats by Cole Haag

Formatting can get tricky, and The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats helps take some of the mystery out of it. The guide will help you know the Hollywood formatting standard so you can craft professional-looking screenplays. The only problem is that it does not pair well with Final Draft or Movie Magic software programs, but if you use something else, it may give you the necessary insights.

The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats: The Screenplay
  • Haag, Judith H. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 170 Pages - 02/01/1989 (Publication Date) - Cmc Pub (Publisher)

7. The Hollywood Standard by Christopher Riley

Next on the list of screenplay formatting books is The Hollywood Standard. This book only touches on formatting but offers tips and tricks for using modern technology to format a screenplay well. It is an important work to have because every good screenplay must have good formatting.

“Standard format is about infinitely more than margins. It’s knowing when to add a shot heading and when to leave one out. It’s knowing how to get out of a POV shot and how to set up a montage. It’s knowing what to capitalize and how to control pacing and what belongs in parenthetical character direction and whether those automatic (cont’d)s beside dialogue should be turned on or off.”

Christopher Riley
The Hollywood Standard - Third Edition: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style
  • Riley, Christopher (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 220 Pages - 05/04/2021 (Publication Date) - Michael Wiese Productions (Publisher)

8. Writing Screenplays That Sell: The Complete Guide to Turning Story Concepts into Movie and Television Deals by Michael Hague

The primary focus of this book is on selling screenplays. Writing Screenplays That Sell discusses everything from brainstorming ideas to finalizing the structure of the completed screenplay to sell the work to Hollywood filmmakers. This book is unique because it does not just focus on movies but also on commercials and television writing.

“script as fast, easy, and enjoyable to read as possible.”

Michael Hague
Sale
Writing Screenplays That Sell, New Twentieth Anniversary Edition: The Complete Guide to Turning Story Concepts into Movie and Television Deals
  • Hauge, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 384 Pages - 03/15/2011 (Publication Date) - Collins Reference (Publisher)

9. Selling a Screenplay: The Screenwriter’s Guide to Hollywood by Syd Field

This book is another about selling screenplays. Selling a Screenplay focuses not on how to write a great screenplay but on what to do after you have written it. It touches on formatting, production, and pitching while also talking about the business side of screenwriting.

“Then I remembered something I’d read in a Kurt Vonnegut novel: when you’re trying to find the answer to a question, the answer is in the question.”

Syd Field
Selling a Screenplay: The Screenwriter's Guide to Hollywood
  • Field, Syd (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 11/01/1989 (Publication Date) - Delta (Publisher)

10. Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge

The final book on selling screenplays is Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds. This book focuses on how to make an Elevator Pitch for your screenplay or book. With the guide outlined here, you are sure to get a producer to take a second look, even with just 60 seconds to use to sell.

“convey the most powerful elements of your story clearly, succinctly and passionately”

Michael Hauge
Sale
Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds: The Guaranteed Way to Get Your Screenplay or Novel Read
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Hauge, Michael (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 186 Pages - 10/01/2006 (Publication Date) - Michael Wiese Productions (Publisher)

11. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

The Writer’s Journey opens the next category of screenwriting books: books on story theory. It can be a bit deep for beginning screenwriters, but it delves into the origins of storytelling. Since storytelling is at the heart of making screenplays, it can help people understand what makes a great tale and how to translate that tale from paper to the screen.

“The young, in their innocence, are often wise and capable of teaching the old.”

Christopher Vogler
The Writers Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers, 3rd Edition
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Vogler, Christopher (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 407 Pages - 11/01/2007 (Publication Date) - Michael Wiese Productions (Publisher)

12. Three Uses of the Knife by David Mamet

In Three Uses of the Knife, David Mamet explores story theory by discussing what makes a good drama. Since every good screenplay or play script needs a dramatic hook, this book is quite helpful. Even though the author is a playwright, the reality is that the theories of drama apply to screenplays as well.

“Tragedy is a celebration not of our eventual triumph but of the truth – it is not a victory but a resignation.”

David Mamet
Three Uses of the Knife: On the Nature and Purpose of Drama
  • Mamet, David (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 96 Pages - 06/13/2000 (Publication Date) - Vintage (Publisher)

13. The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell

The Hero with a Thousand Faces explores the theory of stories. It discusses where stories come from and how they have changed as the world has grown and developed. While it doesn’t have much practical insight into screenwriting, it is an interesting read that can help writers understand stories and their origins.

“Regrets are illuminations come too late.”

Joseph Campbell
The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces (The Collected Works of Joseph Campbell)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Campbell, Joseph (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 432 Pages - 07/28/2008 (Publication Date) - New World Library (Publisher)

14. Into the Woods by John Yorke

Into the Woods is another book on the theory of stories. It explores the five-act structure and builds on ancient Greek philosophers’ ideas to see how stories affect the writer’s psychological journey as they create a screenplay. This is a highly philosophical book, but it can positively impact your writing endeavors.

“A character’s want is a superficial conscious desire for the thing they think they need in order to present themselves to the world.”

John Yorke
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Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story
  • Yorke, John (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 10/20/2015 (Publication Date) - Harry N. Abrams (Publisher)

15. The Ultimate Hero’s Journey by Neal Soloponte

At the heart of the theory of stories is the hero’s journey. The Ultimate Hero’s Journey looks at 195 stages of a great movie or novel story. If you want to create a classic screenplay, this book is a must-read to help you do it.

The Ultimate Hero's Journey: 195 Essential Plot Stages Found in the Best Novels & Movies
  • Soloponte, Neal (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 228 Pages - 07/10/2017 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

16. The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction by Erik Bork

The final book on the theory of stories is The Idea. In this book, Bork explores the idea that the selection of the initial story idea is the most important part of the scriptwriting process. It discusses what elements make a good story and how a writer can find a story that will work.

“In a series idea, I look for that one central thing that each important character is most haunted and challenged by—that one way in which they don’t have the life they want, and never will.”

Erik Bork
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The Idea: The Seven Elements of a Viable Story for Screen, Stage or Fiction
  • Bork, Erik (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 226 Pages - 09/05/2018 (Publication Date) - Overfall Press (Publisher)

17. Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Story is a book designed for film students. It takes the lectures of USC professor Robert McKee and combines them into one book. With this book, every screenwriter can access the thoughts and ideas that some of the industry’s top film writers have listened to in his in-person lectures.

“A fine work of art – music, dance, painting, story – has the power to silence the chatter in the mind and lift us to another place.”

Robert McKee
Sale
Story: Substance, Structure, Style and the Principles of Screenwriting
  • Hardcover Book
  • McKee, Robert (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 480 Pages - 11/25/1997 (Publication Date) - ReganBooks (Publisher)

18. Screenwriting 434 by Lew Hunter

The next book for film students is Screenwriting 434. This work allows people to learn from one of the best screenwriting professors in book format rather than in an in-person class. In addition, it gives potential film students a taste of what it would be like to go to film school.

Lew Hunter's Screenwriting 434: The Industry's Premier Teacher Reveals the Secrets of the Successful Screenplay
  • Hunter, Lew (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 352 Pages - 05/04/2004 (Publication Date) - TarcherPerigee (Publisher)

19. Screenplay: Writing the Picture by Robin Russin and William Downs

Screenplay: Writing the Picture is another book for students. It takes a complete screenwriting course and puts it in book form, covering theme development, story research, script structures, character development, marketing, pitching, and more. It is so thorough it could easily be the most important book for a film student to pick up.

Sale
Screenplay: Writing the Picture, 2nd Edition
  • Robin U. Russin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 424 Pages - 07/01/2012 (Publication Date) - Silman-James Press (Publisher)

20. Scriptshadow Secrets: 500 Screenwriting Secrets Hidden Inside 50 Great Movies by Carson Reeves

Scriptshadow Secrets is a book on the actual writing process. It takes 50 of the author’s favorite movies and studies the intricate parts of the story structure or character development that makes them effective. Even though the suggestions in the book are specific to the films they come from, the reality is that each one applies to any screenplay you may be writing.

Scriptshadow Secrets (500 Screenwriting Secrets Hidden Inside 50 Great Movies)
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Reeves, Carson (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 222 Pages - 11/26/2012 (Publication Date)

21. The 101 Habits of Successful Screenwriters by Karl Iglesias

This book looks at the writing process of a screenplay. The 101 Habits of Successful Screenwriters is a little different because it looks at well-known writers and then explores the regimens they follow to crank out great screenplays. By following some of these tips and tricks, you can learn what you can do as you build your own stories.

The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters, 10th Anniversary Edition: Insider Secrets from Hollywood's Top Writers
  • Iglesias, Karl (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 10/15/2011 (Publication Date) - Adams Media (Publisher)

22. Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect by Claudia Hunter-Johnson

Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect is another book with tips on the writing process. It includes practical writing exercises to help you develop characters and stories people want to read. If you’re suffering from writer’s block as a screenwriter, these exercises will help you overcome it.

Sale
Crafting Short Screenplays That Connect
  • Hunter Johnson, Claudia (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 390 Pages - 03/26/2020 (Publication Date) - Routledge (Publisher)

23. The Nutshell Technique by Jill Chamberlain

The Nutshell Technique also explores the writing process. It teaches how to write a story starting with the smallest point, then building outward from that. The author is a script consultant, so she has many insights into the world of writing scripts.

“The CRISIS typically puts the protagonist in between two bad options, a rock and a hard place, and the audience should feel that there is no other way out of this dilemma.”

Jill Chamberlain
The Nutshell Technique: Crack the Secret of Successful Screenwriting
  • Chamberlain, Jill (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 224 Pages - 03/01/2016 (Publication Date) - University of Texas Press (Publisher)

24. Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger

Making a Good Script Great is another book about the writing process. It explores how writers can take good screenplays and make them exceptional. She focuses particularly on how to add to the story’s conflict to make it Oscar-worthy.

“A myth is a story that is “more than true.” Many stories are true because one person, somewhere, at some time, lived it.”

Linda Seger
Making a Good Script Great, 3rd Ed.
  • Linda Seger (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 242 Pages - 02/15/2010 (Publication Date) - Silman-James Press (Publisher)

25. How Not to Write a Screenplay by Denny Martin Flynn

How Not to Write a Screenplay takes a different approach to the writing process. Rather than focusing on what you should do, it focuses on common mistakes that writers make or myths about writing that they believe when crafting screenplays. By reading this book, you can come away with practical ideas about how you can make your screenplays better.

How Not to Write a Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make
  • 101 Common Mistakes most screenwriters make
  • Flinn, Denny Martin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 240 Pages - 05/01/1999 (Publication Date) - Lone Eagle (Publisher)

26. The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time by Pilar Alessandra

The Coffee Break Screenwriter is full of practical advice about making writing easier. It teaches the writer to spend just ten minutes in focused writing, then step away from the screenplay for a bit. This can help the writing process feel less intimidating and give the writer the freedom to create a great screenplay.

“A villain doesn’t know he’s the villain — he thinks he’s the hero. He believes some good-looking guy with more screen time is simply getting in his way. A romantic interest doesn’t know she’s just “the girl” — she thinks she’s running the show.”

Pilar Alessandra
Sale
The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time - 2nd Edition
  • Alessandra, Pilar (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 270 Pages - 05/01/2016 (Publication Date) - Michael Wiese Productions (Publisher)

27. The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri

Another book on the writing process, The Art of Dramatic Writing, is technically a book on writing plays, but the principles apply to screenwriting as well. It shows examples of scenes written poorly, then explores why they don’t work before comparing them to great scenes. After finishing the books, you will be equipped to create screenplays that work.

Sale
The Art Of Dramatic Writing: Its Basis in the Creative Interpretation of Human Motives
  • 1960 Edition.
  • Egri, Lajos (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 02/15/1972 (Publication Date) - Touchstone (Publisher)

28. The Creative Screenwriter: 12 Rules to Follow – and Break – to Unlock Your Screenwriting Potential by Julian Hoxter

This book covers both how to write and how to write creatively. The Creative Screenwriter covers terminology in the industry while also looking more deeply at classic films and h how they use screenwriting structure to work well. Finally, it covers 12 rules that make a successful screenplay.

Sale
The Creative Screenwriter: 12 Rules to Follow―and Break―to Unlock Your Screenwriting Potential
  • Hoxter, Julian (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 200 Pages - 08/18/2020 (Publication Date) - Rockridge Press (Publisher)

29. Writing Movies for Fun and Profit by Robert Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon

Writing Movies for Fun and Profit introduces the next category of filmmaking book: personal stories. It is a memoir of the experiences of Garant and Lennon, who wrote several blockbusters, including “Night at the Museum” and “the Pacifier.” It explores how this successful pair broke into the filmmaking industry and how they worked with the stars that made their books famous.

“There are many self-proclaimed “screenwriting gurus”—though how you get to be a “guru” of something you’ve never actually done is beyond us.”

Robert Ben Garant
Writing Movies for Fun and Profit: How We Made a Billion Dollars at the Box Office and You Can, Too!
  • Lennon, Thomas (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 336 Pages - 07/03/2012 (Publication Date) - Touchstone (Publisher)

30. Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting by William Goldman

Adventures in the Screen Trade is the second book that fits into the personal stories category. While it does have some practical tips for writing a good script, the book mostly focuses on personal stories from Goldman, the man behind the rewrites of “Good Will Hunting,” as well as classics like “The Princess Bride” and “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.” This book will give you insight into how the screenwriting industry started from one of the best in the business.

“Nobody knows anything…… Not one person in the entire motion picture field knows for a certainty what’s going to work.”

William Goldman
Sale
Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting
  • Goldman, William (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 608 Pages - 03/10/1989 (Publication Date) - Grand Central Publishing (Publisher)

31. On Writing by Stephen King

If you want to learn screenwriting, you want to learn from the best, and On Writing is the third book about personal stories. In this autobiography, King walks the reader through his career and life. While it is written to be enjoyed by the reader, dedicated filmmakers will find many tidbits to learn from this book.

“The road to hell is paved with adverbs.”

Stephen King
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (A Memoir of the Craft (Reissue))
  • King, Stephen (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 06/02/2020 (Publication Date) - Scribner (Publisher)

32. How to Manage Your Agent by Chad Gervich

The final category of screenwriting books is practical guide books. How to Manage Your Agent is one of these, discussing what you need to do to handle an agent once you get signed by one. It discusses how to handle the complicated egos in filmmaking and includes insights from agents and writers.

How to Manage Your Agent: A Screenwriter's Guide to Understanding (and Getting the Most From) Your Hollywood Representation
  • Chad, Gervich (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 300 Pages - 05/25/2013 (Publication Date) - Focal Press (Publisher)

33. The Guide for Every Screenwriter by Geoffrey Calhoun

The Guide for Every Screenwriter is another practical guidebook for scriptwriting. It covers everything from templates to selling. Use it from start to finish to create a winning, easy-to-sell script.

Find it on Amazon: 1733989633

FAQs ABout the Best Screenwriting Books

Is it better to write a book or screenplay?

Screenplays take fewer words and can be written more quickly than novels and books, but they require more revisions. The best thing to write is what appeals to you as an author.

What is the best way to learn screenwriting?

The best way to learn to screenwrite is to study techniques from successful screenwriters. Reading books written by them will help you do this.

If you liked this article and want to put these ideas into practice, check out our round-up of storytelling exercises.

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