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How Not to Write a Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make Paperback – May 1, 1999


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Lone Eagle; 7.2.1999 edition (May 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1580650155
  • ISBN-13: 978-1580650151
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (97 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #97,066 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

How Not to Write a Screenplay is an invaluable addition to any aspiring screenwriter's shelf--and you'd best make the shelf within arm's reach of the computer. Author Dean Martin Flinn, an experienced script reader, details the common rookie mistakes that drive script readers crazy. Flinn makes no pretense of being able to teach anyone how to write the next Great American Film--or for that matter the next Stupid Summer Blockbuster. Instead he offers information that will help keep the novice screenwriter's opus from being immediately tossed on the trash pile (arguably a more valuable service). As Flinn says in his introduction, if you follow the advice in this book, "you may not write a particularly good screenplay, but you won't write a bad one." Flinn offers practical advice on formatting, such as the proper form for a slugline and where to set your margins, and more general rules of thumb on giving the actors room to interpret their roles and avoiding dictating camera angles to the director (who will ignore them anyway). The second half of the book deals with content, also in a remarkably pragmatic way--structure, pacing, plot resolution, and dialogue that really stink are all handily dealt with. Flinn illustrates almost all his points with excerpts from screenplays both good and bad (names have been changed to protect the guilty), giving the reader concrete examples of the difference between poorly and well-structured scenes. Not sucking is an unusual goal for a screenwriting manual, but any script reader will agree it is a noble one. --Ali Davis

About the Author

Denny Martin Flinn is a produced screenwriter and the author of the successful book "How NOT to Write a Screenplay" (1580650155, GBP14.99).

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Customer Reviews

This one of the best books I've read on screenwriting.
S. Shimozawa
I have since skimmed two other books on the topic, but I would recommend reading this one first.
Ann McElroy
HOW NOT TO WRITE A SCREENPLAY has the best format advice of any screenwriting book out there.
Dr. Ervin Nieves

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

105 of 110 people found the following review helpful By FADE-IN MAGAZINE REVIEW on October 11, 1999
Format: Paperback
Anyone who reads screenplays for a living knows that ninety-nine out of every 100 are absolutely horrible. And not just because the stories are weak, the characters are bland and the dialogue is inane. No, most scripts are painful to read because they're painful to read. Description is confusing, overwritten, or just plain obtuse. UPPERCASE words POP up OFTEN enough to cause MOTION SICKNESS, or the script is rydled with mispellings and grammaticle errs. Author, screenwriter and story analyst Denny Martin Flinn has written a masterful, must-read book for anyone hoping to get a spec screenplay past production company readers and into the Hollywood pipeline. Since no one can teach talent or originality, he instead tells readers the traps to avoid when assembling their cinematic opuses, ranging from formatting eroors to descriptive gaffs to thematic omissions. Illustrating his points with both horrid and well-written screen passages--all genuine-- Flinn has created a book that is smart, insightful and often painfully funny. Allen B. Ury, Fade In Magazine
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71 of 74 people found the following review helpful By Thor Vader on October 23, 2001
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
... and I've read almost all of them. Flinn starts his book with the admission that he has never written any great movies... and then states blatently that he didn't write this book because he can write screenplays, but rather because he has had to read a ton of them.
Well thank god he did, because he distills horribly written screenplays into crystal clear examples of why they are poorly written. This information is wonderful, and I found myself delighting in his revealing why I too am unsatisfied with the screenplays I have written.
The book is broken into two primary sections with a third "final thought section." The first is devoted to form, and he cuts to the chase providing examples of "good writing" and, even more importantly, examples of "bad writing". He examples are very accessible, and will illustrate to any writer, producer, or director why it is that they want to cut their wrists when reading some screenplays, and can't put others down.
The second half of the book is devoted to content. This is not as strong as the first half, but is certainly on par or slightly better than most books on how to write your story. He even quotes from all of the guru's of screenwriting, and shows that they are all ultimately trying to say the same thing.
I am absolutely serious when I say it is the best book on screenwriting I have ever read. I think it should be manditory reading for anyone that ever thinks of giving their screenplay to another individual to read. Happy writing!!!
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142 of 162 people found the following review helpful By Griswel VINE VOICE on November 20, 2003
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Compared to other screenwriting books I have read, this is decent, but falls short in two important respects.
First, the cynical attitude is no doubt honestly acquired, but the book makes for a very bad read for someone who is still struggling with their screenplay. The best how-to books both explain and inspire, this does not.
Second, the liberal use of actual (or slightly altered) bad screenplays (sometimes multiple pages of unbroken screenplay examples) make for (often) difficult (if not confusing) reading of the (sometimes) useful prose. The book feels like 1/3 advice, 2/3 filler. Some of the examples are needed to display the problem being discussed, most are either a trivia contest (how quickly can you spot which movie the example is from?) or dreck which adds nothing to the explanation given.
I recommend that you read the book, or something like it, before you send your screenplay out into the world. There is good advice here for rewriting, format and polishing. However, I recommend that you read THIS book only after you've written your screenplay, unless you're looking for an excuse to quit.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Ann McElroy on March 5, 2001
Format: Paperback
I inhaled this book in one reading. The next day I read it again. The third day, I started taking notes. How can you resist a book that opens with: "The first thing you really want to know when you're buying a book about screenwriting is...who is this guy? Has he won an Oscar?" (I'm not going to tell you the answer.) I know nothing about screenwriting, but by dumb luck and reading the reviews, I selected this as my first book on the subject. I learn faster from my mistakes and Mr. Flinn kindly offered up a platter full of them for me to consume and learn from. Very, very comfortable, practical reading from a man who is a professional reader of screenplays. He tells you the most basic information like what margins and tab settings to use, the preferred length of movie scripts, all the way through to character development, structure, conflict and story pacing. I have since skimmed two other books on the topic, but I would recommend reading this one first. I'm glad it's getting 5 star reviews. It is an excellent book for beginners! But to get the most out of it, read it several times so his overall message will REALLY sink in: pacing, pacing, pacing...make your story move like greased lightening and keep the reader interested!!
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32 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Scott Benton on November 29, 1999
Format: Paperback
Flinn knows his stuff. This is an exhaustive catalogue, if you will, of all danger signs and bear traps posted along the path of writing in the illusive art of screenplay. Presented in a slight tongue-in-cheek tone, Flinn is a able to reduce this complicated world into a fun-to-read and easy to understand format. By referencing well known works which have already made it to the big screen, this book makes those, sometimes vague, concepts all the more relevant and meaningful--a problem I find with many of these "how to write screenplay" books. Besides, Flinn has a writing credit on a movie already (Star Trek 6), something I find many of the authors to these books are lacking. It makes this read all the more authoritative.
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