Business of Screenwriting: If You Want to Write, You Must Read

By Michele Wallerstein

This is my 12th article for Script Magazine and I wanted to make it a bit personal, from me to you.  I’d like to share a few bits of my life that have helped me in my life and work.
read

When I was four years old, I started to read.  It was the most long-reaching event of my life.  Now that I’m old as dirt, I still love a good book, some quiet time and a cup of coffee.  It’s the best.  I’ve always had a book at my side.  Reading gave me a better education than anything else I’ve done or experienced.  It helped me have two great careers as well as endless hours of entertainment.

I firmly believe that if you are not a reader, you will never be a good writer.  No ifs, ands, or buts about it.  Not only should you be reading wonderful literature, but you have a plethora of great books to read to learn about the craft of writing.

When I became an agent, all of those previous years of reading came into play in my career.  I was able to compare novels with films and understand why some books worked beautifully as films (GONE WITH THE WIND) and why some books were made into terrible films (EXODUS).  I am a very fast reader, so all of the screenplays and TV scripts that came my way were taken care of quickly and with an eagle eye for errors and/or character and plot problems.  I also admired great writing and great writers which helped me to be supportive and caring about my clients.  It was an amazing feeling to be able to make a living and work in a field that had always been my hobby.  What could be better than that?

When I left agenting, I became a script consultant (doctor).  It was the easiest segue in the world.  It was another natural fit for me.  I knew what worked and what didn’t work.  I knew how writers feel about their projects.  It’s another job that I love.

As writers, you need to be able to see the differences in types of writing as well as comparative findings in literature.  You are able to be the judge of the novels you read.  You will be able to define the variables that attend each story and character to see if they ring true.

After I became a consultant, I was asked to write some articles for online sites.  I also began to present seminars to various writers groups, universities, pitchfests and film festivals.  At these events I learned from my audiences.  I discovered that they had many, many questions about getting into the writing business, and after doing some research, I discovered that no one had written a book about this subject.  Because of this I wrote; MIND YOUR BUSINESS:  A Hollywood Literary Agent’s Guide to Your Writing Career.  I called one publisher and had a deal within 48 hours.  To write and have my first book published was such a great high that I felt like I was floating for a long time.  What I mean to say about this is that I could never have written this book without having been a big reader.

Here are my suggestions of books you should read if you are interested in becoming a screenwriter:

      1. MIND YOUR BUSINESS by Michele Wallerstein (of course you should read my book!)
      2. Anything written by Michael Hauge
      3. Rewrite by Paul Chitlik
      4. Anything by Dara Marks
      5. Anything by David Trottier
      6. Anything by Chris Soth
      7. Making a Good Script Great by Linda Seger
      8.  I LIKED IT, DIDN’T LOVE IT:  Screenplay Development from the Inside Out by Rona Edwards and Monika Skerbelis
      9. The Script Selling Game (2nd edition) by Kathie Fong Yoneda
      10. Anything by Blake Snyder

These are my top 10 picks but there are many more wonderful books on the craft of writing.  So run to The Writers Store, or jump onto Amazon.com, or walk down your street to the nearest book store to find these helpful and important books.

When people tell me how difficult it is to become a professional screenwriter, I laugh a little bit inside.  DIFFICULT was becoming a female agent in Los Angeles in the 1970’s.  Men ignored me, insulted me, and tried to scare me off.  It didn’t matter, I loved the job.  Once I had the clients, those people had to listen to me.  It was fun and thrilling.

Keep writing and keep learning about your chosen profession.  It will be wonderful for you.  Sometimes it will be frustrating, but it will also bring you great joy.

Related Articles:

Be Sociable, Share!

2 thoughts on “Business of Screenwriting: If You Want to Write, You Must Read

  1. gwek

    Although I haven’t read Ms. Wallerstein’s book (I’m heading to Amazon next…), I will agree that most of the others are fantastic — in some cases, tranformative — reads. Snyder and Soth are probably my favorites. To this list, I would probably only add “My Story Can Beat Up Your Story,” by Jeff Schechter.

COMMENT