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How Not to Write a Screenplay: 101 Common Mistakes Most Screenwriters Make Paperback – May 1, 1999
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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 was an American screenwriter. He was born in 1947 and grew up in California. After moving to New York he worked as an actor, dancer, and choreographer. In 1979 he wrote and directed the off-Broadway musical Groucho. Flinn wrote a number of novels and also did choreography for television. He also cowrote the script of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country. Flinn died in 2007.
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learn something. I did.
-Really insightful. This book is great for beginners. I bought two other books, but I have not opened them because this one tells me everything I need to know.
-Contains information on formatting. I don't know how many books tell you about formatting a screenplay, but "How Not" is probably the most detailed.
-Funny as sin. It takes a good writer to impart information onto the audience. It takes a great writer to make it entertaining.
-The format of the book is weird. It is divided into two chapters: Form and Content. I wish the Form section was divided into chapters like description, formatting, action, etc. I had trouble trying to find specific information a few days after reading good advice. That is why I deducted one star.
The book is more helpful than I can explain here. If you really need some information about how to write, buy this first.
It's great for tips on formatting. It's got some theory about good story writing in general too. The theory stuff is nothing new. I've read pretty much the same guidance in every other writing book. But what makes this book stand out is how fun and easy to read it is, all the many tips about formatting, and the confidence it gives you on how professional you're screenplay will be after applying these tips and rules.
It's written by a script READER, though, not a producer or professional screenwriter. Reader's filter the good scripts from the bad ones, and pass the good ones onto a producer or agent. So yes, this is a good book to read and apply to your writing. But no matter how clean and professional-looking your script is, if you don't have a good pitch or strong story, it still won't go anywhere. Fortunately, there's other books that specialize in that. Use this book in combination with those.
So while the "Don'ts" of the boom aren't exactly revelatory to the intermediate screenwriter, the second half of the book, the "do's" of screenwriting, are actually very insightful. Dennis gives you a unique perspective of how to not only write a good screenplay but how to write a sellable screenplay. For those in screenwriting only for the craft I wouldn't recommend this book but if your like me and hope to make a living off of writing one day, this is not a bad buy.
You can learn a lot from bad examples. This book is great in that respect. Where he provides several great examples of what not to do, he is never a jerk about it.
Even as a first time screenwriter having read no books I had avoided almost every mistake mentioned. I only learned 3 or 4 things I didn't already think about. It's good as a reference and might help you catch a couple things you didn't think of. If you know nothing of screenwriting and need the basics this will be helpful. If you know the basics there are better books you could choose that will help more with structure and story.
I liked the book, it had a fun format. It just wasn't as useful as I'd have liked it to have been.
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If it's not the first book you've read about screenwriting, then it doesn't...Read more