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Best of 3: Great Books To Help The Beginner Screenwriter Get Started

Want to Get Started With Screenwriting?

This one is for all the beginner screenwriters out there! Screenwriting is a challenging process, especially if you’re new to it.

Even if you’ve already outlined your screenplay, it can be difficult to translate your ideas into words. These hurdles can extend to writing specific types of screenplays, too, such as adaptation.

For beginners, the best way to solve these challenges is to establish a firm knowledge of the basics. There’s no better way to do that than reading books written by experts who know what they’re doing AND how to explain it.

Why books?

In B2W’s view, books are the best place to get authoritative information. Unlike random YouTube videos, tweet threads or even blog posts, books are more likely to be written by professionals who can translate their knowledge into words the beginner writer can easily understand.

My favourite format is eBook, but lots of non-fiction about writing is now available as audiobooks as well as paperbacks now.

What I love about ebooks is you can also read them anytime, anywhere. Take the dozens of screenwriting titles available on Everand’s digital library, which you can access for a flat monthly fee.

That means you can get works like John Gilford’s Why Does the Screenwriter Cross the Road? and Eric Jeitner’s Notes on a Screenplan for the same price—and even download them to your phone for offline listening.

If you’re in the US or UK, you can also try the Libby app to borrow and return ebooks and audiobooks from institutions like The London Library.

But since there are a ton of accessible screenwriting books available, which ones should you start with? Here’s a quick, beginner-friendly list to get you going.

The Best Screenwriting Books For The Beginner

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

Looking for screenplay ideas? Turn to Emmy and Golden Globe-winning screenwriter Erik Bork. He believes your primary job should be to convince viewers your story is worth caring about.

That’s exactly what he covers in The Idea—how to create a compelling idea that will get your screenplay going. Bork notes that when you pitch a screenplay, 60% of your success lies in the idea you present.

For your idea to be viable, Bork explains it must be Punishing, Relatable, Original, Believable, Entertaining, and Meaningful.

Pick this book up and you’ll learn how to make the best ‘PROBLEM’ ideas for your first few screenplays. MORE: How To Write Killer Ideas Like Netflix’s Stranger Things

2) Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field 

The classic and the one B2W started with! Syd Field was most famous for introducing the three-act structure via his renowned paradigm.

This involves setting the scene and establishing a plot point that gives the protagonist a goal, placing a confrontation in the middle of the story, and exploring its resolution and aftermath through the remainder of your work.

This paradigm is only the first thing Field covers in his book, Screenplay. You’ll also learn the basics of the screenwriting process, character development, and plot creation.

More importantly, you’ll learn how to grab your writer’s attention from page one, book one—and ensure every line of dialogue moves the story forward. It’s a great resource if you’re struggling to flesh out your very first screenplay outline.

3) The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri 

Once you’ve got the basics of screenwriting and storytelling down, you can learn how to write for specific genres. Drama is a versatile choice, but it’s frequently the type of screenplay writers really struggle with.

You can learn more about it with The Art of Dramatic Writing by the late Hungarian-American writer Lajos Egri. The book explores the essential elements of creating compelling stories, focusing on character development, premise, and conflict. It emphasises the importance of understanding human nature to craft engaging stories with depth and impact.

BONUS!

How NOT to Write Female Characters by Lucy V. Hay

Oh how embarassing it’s me … NOT! If you need tips on troubleshooting the most common screenwriting pitfalls, you can start by checking out the free ebook, How NOT to Write Female Characters.

One of the most popular B2W free resources, this ebook has been downloaded a staggering 15,000 times. You’ll learn how to write female characters in a realistic way – that is, three-dimensional people who are complex, varied, and flawed.

Since at least half of your target audience will be women, this book will help you avoid killer mistakes you definitely don’t want to make!

Last Points

Screenwriting is a LOT harder than it looks.  Books can help you with this by ensuring you have a solid grasp of the basics. For more posts like this, check out B2W’s Top 25 Articles.

Good Luck!

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