Screenwriting how-to books are many and the choice is painful, but here at Film Rave we’ve reduced your pain. We’ve listed the books we think you must read in order to get a firm understanding of the format and write great screenplays.

The list is in no particular order of preference, so make sure you read each description to get an understanding of how each book can help you. Here goes…

1The Foundations of Screenwriting by Syd Field

This is the starter book for any wannabe screenwriter and is arguably the foundation of all current screenwriting practices throughout Western film industries. This is a firm fave of Film Rave and a must-have on your writing shelf.

2Story by Robert McKee

The book that launched McKee’s globally domineering screenwriting workshops and made him a god among screenwriting gurus. A tough read for newcomers, but here at Film Rave we believe that if you haven’t read it and slipped it on your shelf, you can never be a true player in the mainstream screenwriting industry.

3The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler

A more accessible update of Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand FacesVogler’s book taps into the structures and character types of the mythic storytelling found in Russian folk and fairy tales. This subject was the main sustenance of a certain young George Lucas when he was at film school, and look how he turned out.

4Save the Cat by Blake Snyder

Highly popular throughout the mid-noughties, Save the Cat is indispensable if you need to learn and understand mainstream screenplay structure, and you should! Be warned that although many industry pros do love this book, many still view it as a way of stifling creativity by forcing screenwriters to effectively ‘paint by numbers’. Here at Film Rave, we see many films produced using the structure taught in this book, so we believe it’s an essential addition to your shelf.

5Making a Good Script Great by Linda Segar

An oldie but a Goldie. Seger’s book takes you from the moment you finish your first draft through the rewriting process, showing you how to improve every story element, from character to structure to theme. Along the way, Segar pays particular attention to demonstrating how to inject your work with the most important element of storytelling, no matter the medium – conflict. Another of Film Rave’s firm faves.

6Teach Yourself Screenwriting by Ray Frensham

This book is a brilliant all-round how-to guide that’s particularly good for the beginner. It goes into depth about all aspects of writing a screenplay, supplying detailed explanations of characterisation, structure, plotting, theme and much more.

7Scriptshadow Secrets by Carson Reeves

Carson Reeves has transformed himself from a basic screenwriting and movie blogger to one of the go-to authorities on the principles of screen storytelling with no other qualification than to have read thousands of screenplays. Nevertheless, his blog and his ebook provides brilliant examples of screenwriting techniques by demonstrating how successful movies have used them. Regardless of the foundations of his knowledge and skills, the Film Rave still regards this book as must-have.

8Screenwriting: The Sequence Approach by Paul Joseph Gulino

Nothing terrifies a screenwriter more than sitting down with that first blank page knowing they have to fill at least one hundred of them. That’s where the Sequence Approach comes in. This book shows you how to break your story down into smaller connected sections. No, we’re not talking about three act structure here, we’re talking about sequences. We at Film Rave think that dividing your story into at least eight 10-15 page sequences is inspired, and you can test its validity by applying the structure to any film ever made. A brilliant, must-have book.

9The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screen Writers by Karl Iglesias

Not so much a how-to, this book is a collection of interviews of successful screenwriters that contains brilliant and useful insights into their writing practices and techniques.

10On Writing by Stephen King

Not a screenwriting book per se, but no-one can dispute the might of King’s authorship, meaning that what he has to say about the craft of writing can be nothing less than brilliant, regardless of the medium in which you work. A solid must-have.

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Mark Randall
Founder of the Film Rave, Mark Randall is a teacher of English Language, Literature and Film Studies, who also works as a writer and editor. He loves watching movies and reading novels, particularly horror, science fiction, and that sublime space between them known as speculative fiction. He is currently working on a collection of short horror stories, a horror novel, and several horror and SF screenplays. He lives with his partner, and two cats.

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