The best books for writers who want to write scripts

John Gaspard Author Of The Ambitious Card
By John Gaspard

Who am I?

I started making movies at age 13; to make a movie, you need a script, so I became a screenwriter by default. A dozen low-budget movies (and a couple of TV scripts) later, I started writing fiction: Two mystery series, (The Eli Marks mysteries and The Como Lake Players mysteries), four stand-alone novels, plus a couple of filmmaking “How To” books followed. Over the years, I’ve always searched out the best ideas on how to write, and how to write well. If I were to teach a course on writing, the five books I’ve listed would comprise the reading list.


I wrote...

The Ambitious Card

By John Gaspard,

Book cover of The Ambitious Card

What is my book about?

Magician Eli Marks is the top suspect in a series of murders. His greatest trick? Not becoming the next victim. Psychics are being murdered and all the clues point to magician Eli Marks. What begins as a simple Halloween magic show turns into a deadly cat-and-mouse encounter as the body count rises while Eli frantically attempts to clear his name.

“This is a hugely entertaining crime novel, packed full of comedy. Do read it!”—FictionFan’s Book Reviews

The books I picked & why

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Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

By William Goldman,

Book cover of Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

Why this book?

If you don’t know William Goldman, trust me, you know his work on screen: The Princess Bride, Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid, All the President’s Men, Misery, and Marathon Man, to name just a few.

William Goldman knows about writing, and although much of this book focuses on his Hollywood (mis)-adventures, there’s plenty of gold nuggets for writers of all stripes. In particular, the critique his Hollywood pals give him on a short screen story is a master class in dramaturgy and criticism. Come for the Robert Redford stories, stay for the lessons in writing.

Adventures in the Screen Trade: A Personal View of Hollywood and Screenwriting

By William Goldman,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Adventures in the Screen Trade as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Now available as an ebook for the first time!

No one knows the writer's Hollywood more intimately than William Goldman. Two-time Academy Award-winning screenwriter and the bestselling author of Marathon Man, Tinsel, Boys and Girls Together, and other novels, Goldman now takes you into Hollywood's inner sanctums...on and behind the scenes for Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, All the President's Men, and other films...into the plush offices of Hollywood producers...into the working lives of acting greats such as Redford, Olivier, Newman, and Hoffman...and into his own professional experiences and creative thought processes in the crafting of screenplays. You get…


On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

By Stephen King,

Book cover of On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

Why this book?

This may seem like an obvious choice and it is: It’s obvious King knows a thing or two about writing. But doing it and explaining the process are two completely different beasts. King excels at both.

Part autobiography, part instruction manual, On Writing is not only a personal journey but also a handy guide for how to get things right. While there are countless lessons to be found in the book, the section where King demonstrates the editorial process (here’s what I wrote, here’s what the editor cut or changed) may be an eye-opener for many. If you’re going to read only one book before you start your first (or next) novel, make it On Writing.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

By Stephen King,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked On Writing as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Twentieth Anniversary Edition with Contributions from Joe Hill and Owen King

ONE OF TIME MAGAZINE’S TOP 100 NONFICTION BOOKS OF ALL TIME

Immensely helpful and illuminating to any aspiring writer, this special edition of Stephen King’s critically lauded, million-copy bestseller shares the experiences, habits, and convictions that have shaped him and his work.

“Long live the King” hailed Entertainment Weekly upon publication of Stephen King’s On Writing. Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer’s craft, comprising the basic tools of the…


It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here: My Journey Through Show Business

By Charles Grodin,

Book cover of It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here: My Journey Through Show Business

Why this book?

Rejection is a big part of the writer’s life (less so now that self-publishing has taken off, but it still rears its ugly head more times than you might expect).

Actors know all about rejection and the late Charles Grodin had more than his share. While this is technically a memoir, it’s also a handbook on how to deal with and process all the forms of rejection you might encounter on your journey. As an additional incentive to read it, please know that Charles Grodin is a terrific writer and a funny, funny man. You’ll learn while you laugh.

It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here: My Journey Through Show Business

By Charles Grodin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked It Would Be So Nice If You Weren't Here as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Here is an actor's autobiography that transcends genre. Grodin writes about his share of catastrophic setbacks with candor and liberating humor. He dispenses invaluable advice about the art of surviving in the celluloid jungle. Photos.


Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel

By Lawrence Block,

Book cover of Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel

Why this book?

To be honest, I sort of threw a dart at Lawrence Block’s books on writing and hit this one. You’d benefit from the others just as much (Write for YourLif Life, Telling Lies for Fun & Profit, The Liar’s Bible). 

Or read any of his fiction. I started down the Block path with his Matthew Scudder series, but it’s his “Burglar” books that had the greatest influence on my Eli Marks mystery series. But don’t overlook his darkly funny Keller series, about a hitman with a heart (and a love of stamp collecting). And, if you’re into audiobooks, grab any of his books that Block narrates himself. He’s pretty good at it!

Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel

By Lawrence Block,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Writing the Novel from Plot to Print to Pixel as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

"WRITING THE NOVEL FROM PLOT TO PRINT TO PIXEL is like having a pocket-sized mentor you can consult any time. Do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.”—Alex Kourvo, Writing Slices

Lawrence Block is almost as well known for his instructional books for writers and his 14 years as a monthly contributor to "Writers Digest," as he is as a bestselling author and MWA Grand Master. WRITING THE NOVEL, his first book for writers, has remained continuously in print since its original appearance in 1978. Recently revised and expanded, each chapter has been updated, and Block has included essential…


The West Wing Script Book

By Aaron Sorkin,

Book cover of The West Wing Script Book

Why this book?

Why this book? Two words: Aaron Sorkin. This book collects six of his teleplays, but I think you could get just as much by watching the first four seasons of “The West Wing.” Osmosis, do your thing!

Dialogue, character development, how to get into a scene, how to get out of a scene, juxtaposition … it’s all there, and more in Sorkin’s writing. This book contains some of my favorite episodes (although it doesn’t have my favorite, “Noel”), and some of his best speeches. In particular, Bartlett’s rant in “Two Cathedrals” and Toby’s frustration in “17 People” (“I will bet you all the money in my pockets against all the money in your pockets…”) Sorkin’s mantra (intention and obstacle) is probably the shortest and best advice you can get about how to keep characters alive in a scene. Read this book (and watch the show) to see that mantra in action.

One last Sorkin fun fact: All these scripts (with the exception of The Pilot) were written on a deadline. And not a “we need it in a month” deadline. No, this was a “we’re shooting this in two days” deadline. And during the first two seasons, he was also writing “Sports Night” on weekends. This might be the greatest collection of first drafts ever assembled.

The West Wing Script Book

By Aaron Sorkin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The West Wing Script Book as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

First-time publication of 8 full scripts from the hit NBC showwinner of 9 Emmy Awards, including Best Drama writingselected and introduced by the acclaimed show creator and screenwriter of The American President and A Few Good Men. Here is the first collection of scripts from the show's first two seasons, including the Emmy Award-winning episode "In Excelsis Deo." The NBC show, named "TV Show of the Year" by Entertainment Weekly, stars Rob Lowe, Dule Hill, Allison Janney, Janel Moloney, John Spencer, Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, and Martin Sheen. Reviewers and fans of The West Wing agree that one of the…


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