Screenwriting is not like any other writing discipline.
In most instances, a writer has a rough idea, at the outset, of how to set
down the words on the page: margin all round, double-spaced, pages
numbered (please, it’s kinder to the manuscript reader), title, etc. Even
a would-be playwright has a rough idea of how to set out a playscript from
studying drama at school. If you want to write a screenplay, however,
you need to throw out everything you think you know about writing, and
then start again from the beginning. And I’m just talking about
putting the words on the page in the right way, never mind the content.
After that, it’s a roller-coaster ride, as the writer struggles with
the eight basic plots, the whys and wherefores of the Hollywood three-act
linear structure and how to produce immediately accessible,
genre-satisfying characters that can be summed up in ten words.
It takes a special kind of person to want to be a
screenwriter, let alone to persevere at it and become successful. I
cannot think of any written artefact that is analysed more rigorously than
a screenplay, nor that is so susceptible to being torn apart, rewritten
(often several times) or more likely to end up in a form entirely
unrecognisable to that in which it started out. Screenwriting is a
highly collaborative business, and not for anyone with an easily dented
ego or who’s possessive about their work. However, if you think you’d
like to try your hand at screenwriting and are not sure what’s involved,
this is probably the best book to start with. There are other books
which go into the actual business of writing in more exhaustive,
line-by-line, detail but this guide gives a broad overview of what’s
likely to be involved in trying to write successful scripts, and it really
doesn’t pull its punches. Ray Frensham is honest about the pitfalls of
trying to be a screenwriter, and he’s honest about the slog involved.
There’s also plenty of useful advice for the hesitant writer, getting to
grips with the business of telling a story on film.
Most vitally, Frensham provides plenty of up-to-date
information about the film industry itself. Success as a screenwriter
comes from knowing the business and knowing it well. Ignorance means
failure. He provides a mass of useful addresses and websites for the
aspiring screenwriter, but it's up to you, the screenwriter, to take
advantage of them.