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