The Complete Book of Scriptwriting by Joe Michael Straczynski Joe originally came out with this book almost 12 years ago. Since then, much of the business has changed, and he wanted to update it for the writers of today.

I only got to hear about the original volume, but what I heard made it sound like a true Bible for screenwriters. Now that I have the latest edition in my hands, I can say that the hype was right.

In this book, he talks about every possible area to make a career in screenwriting: television [sit-coms, dramas, cartoons], movies, the interactive CD-ROM market, theatre... not only does he give potential writers the history of each field, but also gives tips on the most succesful methods to break in, and the formats needed for any script. He also includes something that I find useful on many fronts: a complete script from an episode of Babylon 5, "The Coming of Shadows". As a fan of the series, it's fascinating to read how a script for the show stared out. As a writer, it gives me a better chance to compare and contrast the script with the episode itself, to get a better idea of how things change.

If you are at all serious about breaking into the script area of writing, you NEED this book.

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Screenwriting 434 by Lew Hunter I originally bought this book before I got JMS' book listed above.

Screenwriting 434 is basically a course on paper. Lew Hunter teaches the graduate workshop by the same name at UCLA. Here, he put the lessons he gives his students into print.

This book is targetted specifically at screenwriting. Because of that, it's more focused than JMS' Complete book in one area.

One of the things that I really like about this book is the way Mr. Hunter presents his lessons. He wrote a complete film script to show the process taken in the lessons. I see this as a great way to solidify the concepts presented in my mind.

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Writing Treatments that Sell by Kenneth Atchity and Chi-Ling WongWhile Joe's Complete Book of Scriptwriting and Lew's Screenwriting 434 deal with the specifics of the entire scriptwriting process, this book focuses on a more narrow - but important facet of selling a screenplay: the treatment.

I found this to be a very informative and entertaining book. Kenneth and Chi-Li cover most of the bases here. Not only do they give advice on preparing treatments for film screenplays, but for television as well. Each of these mediums have different needs and styles; this book will help on both. It also deals with how to create treatments for stories adapted from real life and from existing literature.

Several examples are given to help cement the concepts the authors explain. They all have basis in Louisiana and New Orleans for the settings; I wonder if the authors' home base is there?

The book is rounded out by a glossary of terms used in the business. That, to me, is a very useful addition.

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Last updated: Sunday, July 19, 1998