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Screenwriting Books - Why They Won't Help You Sell Your Screenplay

By Author: John Williams
Total Articles: 37

There are many famous and influential books on screenplay writing. Some of these works have become almost biblical in the screenplay writing world. One of the most famous is "Save the Cat" by Blake Snyder. Many screenplay writers believe that "Save the Cat" is the most useful and effective screenplay writing guide available.
Some screenplay books are known for particular elements. "The Writer's Journey" by Christopher Vogler is one of the most popular. He basically takes the works of Joseph Campbell and the myth of hero and turns them into practical screenwriting terms. Robert McKee's "Story" condenses the author's screenwriting seminars and philosophy and turns them into book form. "Syd Field's Screenwriting" is probably the most important work in terms of the three act structure of screenplay writing.
Despite their proclaimed importance and effectiveness, many of these books don't contain purely practical advice. Even the most helpful books may be filled with busywork, filler, and clutter, all of which is a waste of your time. Nonsense such as this simply distracts you from your goals which are to write a screenplay, get it sold, and have it turned into a movie.
Busywork may be useful in a classroom setting, but it is much less so when it is time to get to work on a screenplay. For example, watching movies and writing taglines for them is a common bit of advice in screenwriting books. While this may be useful at some stage of the screenplay writing process, using as a first step is probably not advisable. But if you start writing your screenplay by watching dozens of movies, you probably won't get very far.
Research and preparation can be useful and important, but they may also be used as a form of procrastination. Procrastination is a writer's worst enemy. It must be battled at every step of the writing process. Procrastination is time that you could be using to write your screenplay and get it sold. Reading screenwriting books and doing exercise after exercise may be one form of procrastination.
The work and advice of others can be helpful, but if you are serious about writing your screenplay and taking it all the way to film adaptation, you have to take the time to do your own work, your own pitch, and develop your own characters and plot.
There are other things that you will have to do. One is getting used to rejection. Everyone comes up with bad ideas, lots of them. That is just the nature of the creative process. You will also need to have the tenacity to find the ideas that are good and nurture them. You must always be looking for ways to make your ideas more compelling.
Screenwriting books can help with some or all of it, but they will not actually sell your work or put in the time. You can only do it by not getting distracted and by just plugging away and repeatedly polishing your work until someone wants to produce it.

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