Last week, I wrote Balls of Steel: When to Stop Listening to Screenwriting Experts on knowing when to kick the screenwriting experts opinions aside and trust your own gut. The first step to tossing the experts is becoming one yourself by learning different styles and deciding which one clicks with you.
I don’t follow just one school of thought when it comes to structuring my scripts. Here are the resources I read that helped me create my own way of outlining and writing the first draft:
1. Selling Your Story in 60 Seconds by Michael Hauge – It may seem odd to say I use a pitching book to help me outline, but I do. Whenever I am creating a story, I always start off with a logline, then a brief synopsis/pitch. That way I can see how marketable I think it is before I dive into writing an entire pitch. Michael’s advice is stellar. Plus, then you’ll have it for when the script is done and you indeed are ready to pitch!
2. Robert McKee’s Story – I not only read the book, I went to McKee’s three-day seminar in NYC. Let’s just say, he is one prolific, profane speaker (he immediately charges anyone $10 if their cell phone rings during the lecture!). If you can’t afford the seminar, or don’t know how to turn your sell to silent, pick up his book for the majority of what he covers in those classes. It’s a great breakdown in the traditional storytelling techniques.
3. The Coffee Break Screenwriter: Writing Your Script Ten Minutes at a Time by Pilar Alessandra – For all of us who work day jobs and have issues with time management, Pilar kick’s your butt into gear by teaching you tricks to get that script on the page in 10-minute chunks of time. A must-have for busy writers!
4. Dr. Format Tells All by Dave Trottier – I have yet to write a script where I didn’t reference this book at least once. I have one of the worst memories in the world when it comes to formatting, so I’m in constant need of a refresher. When I have any question, Dave Trottier comes to the rescue! Keep this one within arm’s reach.
5. Inside Story: The Power of Transformational Arcs by Dara Marks – This is the one book I have read over the years that spoke to the more seasoned writer. Dara explains in great detail the importance of theme to your story and how relaying that theme is accomplished in both Plot A and in subplots. This was my ah-ha book years ago that struck me over the head with a, “Now I get it!”
Please check out my favorites and add your own favorites in the comments! I’d love to know what books helped you both when you were starting out and after you hit your stride!
Jeanne Veillette Bowerman is the Editor and Online Community Manager of Script Magazine and a webinar instructor for The Writers Store. She is Co-Founder and moderator of the weekly Twitter screenwriters’ chat, #Scriptchat, and wrote the narrative adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book, Slavery by Another Name, with its author, Douglas A. Blackmon, former senior national correspondent of The Wall Street Journal. Jeanne also is President of Implicit Productions and consults with writerson how to build and strengthen their online and offline networks as well as face their fears in order to succeed in writing and in personal peace – a screenwriter’s therapist. More information can be found on her blog, ramblings of a recovered insecureaholic. Follow@jeannevb on Twitter.