Screenwriting Books – The Screenwriter’s Bible


Amazon UK (Other book shops are available)

ISBN-10: 1935247107   ISBN-13: 978-1935247104

Following on from Save the Cat, in the first episode of this series looking at some of the screenwriting books I have read, David Trottier’s Screenwriter’s Bible is another well-known and well-renowned guide to screenwriting. Unlike Save the Cat though, I am not sure I have ever heard anyone criticise the book. While I am sure it does have its critics, but that is not what this post is about.

The Screenwriter’s Bible is again aimed at those starting out. Not that it might not be useful to the more seasoned writer, but it takes the reader from the very first steps of having an idea through to planning, writing and, ultimately, marketing your work. It makes this all the more easy for us to understand by splitting itself into five distinct “books”, each looking at a different part of this process. Indeed, this is one of its main selling points, 5 books in 1!

The books include:

  1. BOOKI –  How to Write a Screenplay: A Primer – this takes us through some of the considerations of what makes a story work, plot, character, dialogue and scenes; the building blocks of any story.
  2. BOOKII – 7 Steps to a Stunning Script: A Workbook – the workbook offers templates and outlines for coming up with ideas, planning your story, developing characters and producing treatments.
  3. BOOKIII – Proper Formatting Technique: A Style Guide – this book runs through pretty much every formatting “rule” that a new writer may need to know to finish their first script.
  4. BOOKIV – Writing and Revising your Breakthrough Script: A Script Consultant’s View – this book explores how to rewrite your script and make it stand out from the crowd.
  5. BOOKV – How to Sell your Script: A Marketing Plan – Five steps to help you develop a plan for marketing yourself and your script.

Personally I have not yet used the information in Book V and I think Books I, II and IV are dealt with in many other texts; everyone has a different take on developing concepts and rewriting a script. However, for me, the Bible was incredibly important as a writer starting out because of Book III and because it deals with the main stumbling block for all us newbies; format. How the hell do I correctly format a script?

While there are many software packages out there that will help you with the main formatting issues like borders, tabs and spacing etc, what they can’t necessarily help you with is how to format a montage or a scene that happens over the telephone.What David does in Book III is provide some pages of a sample script that includes lots of examples of classic screenwriting format. I think David would be the first to admit that his way is not necessarily the ONLY way you can format a script, but if you start with these basics, you can’t go too far wrong. Once you develop your skills as a writer, you can learn other ways to format the same things and experiment with your own format but, for now, it will make life a lot easier if you start by following the “rules”. Learn how to walk before you can run.

A lot of writers may balk at this and proclaim that “so-and-so” writer does this in “such-and-such” a script. They often do, but they are also often well-established and respected writers who can get away with it. I am sure that many writers, more experienced than I, would agree that getting your format right for your breakthrough script is vitally important.

In short, I really like the Screenwriter’s Bible and have bought reissues and updates in the past. It doesn’t come off the shelf as often as it used to as I am getting to grips with a lot of the basics. However, if there is something I am not sure about, or haven’t used for a while, I know I will more than likely be able to find an answer within it’s pages.

And if you can’t, then you might be able to through David’s website – Keep Writing and sell what you write

Do you use The Screenwriter’s Bible?

How has it helped you?


Other reading:


Posted on November 4, 2015, in Learning, Prep, Reading, rewriting, Structure, theme, Writing, Writing Rules and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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