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Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting Simplicity is the key.

Walk into any large bookstore and you'll be quickly overwhelmed with dozens upon dozens of "must read" screenwriting books. While many may provide tidbits of wisdom, its difficult to find the all inclusive book: chock-full of useful information, easy to digest, and doesn't cause ones eyelids to grow heavy.

Enter The Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting by Skip Press. Now, donít judge a book by its cover. This is a "how-to" screenwriting book that reads, well, just like a screenplay. A screenplay you say? Absolutely.

Many will tell you a good screenplay is one that makes the reader continue to turn the page. Not a lot of exposition. Clever, terse dialogue. Good pacing.

The Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting is quite similar. Its written in a crisp, clear fashion that gets right to the basics. "Less is more" they say when it comes to a good script and Press does just that. But, considering all the "how-to" books already written on the subject, do we really need another one? Press comments:

"I didn't really want to write the Guide because I didn't want to build another 'cottage' in the screenwriter advice tract development... Then I realized Lew Hunter was retiring from UCLA and not teaching his class any more. I took a new look at the screenwriting how-to books out there and found them not focused enough or not covering up-to-date things like writing for multimedia."

Comprised of five main parts (Shakespeare anyone?), Press further divides these parts into chapters and then divides these into even smaller sections. Each section is a self-contained "scene" - only a few pages in length. This keeps the reader from becoming bogged down in long-winded exposition. While some screenwriting books read more like novels (yawn), the Guide's "quick scenes" will make you want to keep turning the page.

Beginning with Part I, there's a historical look at how storytelling developed from the Greco-Roman era to present day. Part II examines the differences between TV and film scripts, how to find movie ideas, and how to set up a screenwriting schedule. Part III provides info on outlines, rewrites, first 10 pages, and structure. Part IV covers screenplay readings, writing for TV, and digital films. Part V focuses on the biz of Hollywood, amateur mistakes, selling scripts, and screenwriting careers. Click here for a complete listing of the table of contents.

My favorite aspect of this book, other than its easy-to-read layout, is the insightful sidebars sprinkled throughout. "Skip's Tips" is one such sidebar that enlightens the reader on Hollywood jargon, anecdotes about people in the biz and warnings of possible pitfalls.

"...Now, I'm glad I wrote the Guide. The Writers Guild of Canada says its the best of its kind for beginners and I get comments all the time about the book's clarity as opposed to other books."

Indeed, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Screenwriting is not just for the novice scribe but for any writer who wants an instructive, concise book that doesn't read nor feel like the generic "how-to" screenwriting book. You can find a copy of the Guide in any large bookstore or pick up a copy at Amazon. For further info about the author, visit his website or go to EducationToGo.com where you'll find his course: "Your Screenwriting Career."

© 2002 Terrence J. Brady

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