I recently conducted a survey of screenwriters to learn more about what makes them tick: when do they write? Where do they write? What type of content do they find most useful? And where did they LEARN to write a screenplay? The last question was revealing: So many screenwriters never went to film school. They learned the craft by reading a ton of screenplays and the top screenwriting books. And you can, too. We asked the screenwriting community to name what they believe are the best screenwriting books for screenplay how-to’s, and here’s what they said, in no particular order.
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Best Screenwriting Books for Scribes:
- The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structures for Writers, by Christopher Vogler
“The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structures for Writers” is one the best screenwriting books to teach you how to use mythic stories and character archetypes to strengthen the relatability and universality of your screenplay.
- Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder
“Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need” is a candid look at the business of making movies, structure, genres, beats, and loglines, plus rules for making your script more marketable. I’d argue it’s one of the best screenwriting books for beginners, and it’s one of the first books on screenwriting that I ever read!
- The Screenwriter’s Bible, by David Trottier
“The Screenwriter’s Bible” is called “the bible” for a reason! This book covers just about everything you’d need to know as an aspiring or professional screenwriter. My favorite thing about the screenwriter’s bible is the screenwriting glossary in the back. You can find an answer to just about any screenwriting question by combing through these final pages.
- Creating Character Arcs, by K.M. Weiland (plus associated workbooks)
“Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author’s Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development” offers a deep dive into how to create story beats that build realistic and compelling character arcs within a three-act structure.
- The Pocket Screenwriting Guide: 120 Tips for Getting to FADE OUT, by Mario O. Moreno and Anthony Grieco
“The Pocket Screenwriting Guide: 120 Tips for Getting to FADE OUT” is a screenwriting guide that leads you through storytelling with 120 tips, which also happens to be the standard page length for a two-hour feature film.
- Anatomy of Story, by John Truby
“Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller” is written by a Hollywood story consultant. This is a good screenwriting book that draws on philosophy and mythology, offering up secrets and new techniques to build an effective narrative.
- On Writing, by Stephen King
“On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft” is a writing memoir that delves into the experiences, writing habits, and convictions from King’s storied career and work, detailing the tools that he thinks every writer should have. This is another inspiring read for anyone looking for writing books for beginners. It’s a great place to start.
- Story, by Robert McKee
“Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting” makes for an “intense learning experience,” according to McKee’s students. McKee has helped launched the writing careers of many celebrity screenwriters, so this is a good starting place for writers looking for the best screenwriting books for beginners.
- The Hollywood Standard, by Christopher Riley
Are you looking to brush up on your formatting skills? “The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style” uses hundreds of real examples and walks you through formatting scripts for TV and movies.
- Into the Woods, by John Yorke
“Into the Woods: A Five-Act Journey Into Story” investigates the heart of storytelling, showing there’s a unifying shape to the best narratives.
- The Hidden Tools of Comedy, by Steve Kaplan
“The Hidden Tools of Comedy: The Serious Business of Being Funny” will help writers understand the mechanics of comedy and how to work comedic situations into their script in a way that translates to humor.
Are you looking for free screenwriting books or screenwriting book PDFs? Some of our favorites can be found below:
Best Free Screenwriting Books and Screenwriting Book PDFs:
“Go Into The Story” E-Books for screenwriting from screenwriter Scott Myers
E-Books on screenwriting and writing crash courses from writer Brian Scott
Do you have any other good screenwriting books that helped your screenwriting career? Send us a tweet at @SoCreate and help us build out this list!
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