“In Hollywood, writers are considered only the first draft of human beings.”
The best resource for screenwriters seeking “official information” about Hollywood is the Writers’ Guild Of America website.
If you want inside information about how writers survive in the business, you are in luck. A dozen or so professional screenwriters maintain excellent websites and blogs featuring everything you need to know about how to write and sell screenplays. Even five or six years ago, this information was impossible to get unless you lived in Los Angeles and worked in the business.
Start with screenwriter John August (Go, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory), who runs a popular blog featuring “a ton of useful information about screenwriting” at John August.com. (For an exemplary post from John’s site, read How To Write A Scene.) Craig Mazin’s The Artful Writer is also first rate. When you visit these sites, leave a thank you note: They’re funny, useful, and well-maintained. Aspiring television writers belong at the always excellent Jane Espenson site.
Done Deal is a great resource for screenwriters, especially for those not living in Los Angeles. Done Deal tracks script, pitch and treatment sales being made in Hollywood. Done Deal also features a useful collection of exemplary documents for aspiring screenwriters who may wonder: “What does a step outline look like?” See document examples.
Many of the canonical books on screenwriting (Robert McKee’s Story, Syd Field’s various books) simply describe good movies, or worse, try to explain what makes a good story.
If you want to know what makes a good story, read Aristotle’s Poetics (bound paper from Amazon) or download the text file from Project Gutenberg: Aristotle’s Poetics. If you don’t have time to read the Poetics, then try The 3-Minute Aristotle.
If you want to know, step-by-step, how a writer makes a screenplay, read Lew Hunter’s Screenwriting 434. In 434, Lew executes a screenplay, from idea to final draft, right there on the pages of his book, with lots of witty advice along the way.
If you have questions about how to format a screenplay, read The Complete Guide to Standard Script Formats. At first blush, this excellent book appears to be a dry technical guide to script formatting, but the opening essays on how to read and write a screenplay are worth the price of the entire volume.
Or, for a more modern take, try The Hollywood Standard: The Complete and Authoritative Guide to Script Format and Style, by Christopher Riley, which screenwriter John August has selected as the most useful book on the craft (as opposed to the art) of screenwriting.
Books About The Screenwriting Life
- Adventures In The Screen Trade, By William Goldman;
- Monster, By John Gregory Dunne;
- My Movie Business, By John Irving;