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5.0 out of 5 stars A Nitty Gritty Compendium
Jennifer Lerch knows a screen reader's mindset in that she has performed in the field, giving her book meaningful on the scene insight from a professional. She writes in the same kind of snappy, economical style that she recommends. To veer from this course, she warns, is to risk an attention distraction or, fatally, turning off the reader altogether.
Jennifer's...
Published on Dec 28 2001 by William Hare

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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, could be better.
I think I might have thought more highly of this book if I hadn't tackled it right after I read "How Not to Write a Screenplay" by Denny Martin Flinn. Flinn's guide to the most common pitfalls in screenwriting is a wonderfully funny and instructive text that every writer should own. This book, while containing some helpful nuggets, offers a lot of advice that...
Published on Feb. 3 2004 by K. Munch


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3.0 out of 5 stars Good, could be better., Feb. 3 2004
By 
K. Munch "Wordman" (New York, NY) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
I think I might have thought more highly of this book if I hadn't tackled it right after I read "How Not to Write a Screenplay" by Denny Martin Flinn. Flinn's guide to the most common pitfalls in screenwriting is a wonderfully funny and instructive text that every writer should own. This book, while containing some helpful nuggets, offers a lot of advice that directly contradicts Flinn's. While Ms. Lerch obviously has no obligation to align herself with Flinn's advice, her comments often seemed counter-intuitive to me. Whereas Flinn instructs us to be as clear and succinct as possible, shaving away all unnecessary and confusing descriptions (i.e., don't write what the audience can't see), Lerch would have us add all sorts of superfluous character and location description, in the hopes of catching the eye of an already-exhausted Hollywood script reader.
I just have a hard time believing that this approach would really work. I've studied screenwriting with some of the best teachers in the business, and I've got to say that their tips generally fall into the "less is more" camp.
Having said that, the book is a quick, easy read, and there are many tidbits which do make sense, especially about ratcheting up the conflict in your script. By no means, however, should this be the only book on screenwriting you buy, but it can serve as a light after-dinner mint following a hearty meal of "How Not to Write A Screenplay."
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5.0 out of 5 stars A Nitty Gritty Compendium, Dec 28 2001
By 
William Hare (Seattle, Washington) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
Jennifer Lerch knows a screen reader's mindset in that she has performed in the field, giving her book meaningful on the scene insight from a professional. She writes in the same kind of snappy, economical style that she recommends. To veer from this course, she warns, is to risk an attention distraction or, fatally, turning off the reader altogether.
Jennifer's "500 ways" are the various tips from the trade about what interests script readers as well as what turns them off. She cautions about long lead-ins or narrative description that makes readers think you are trying to direct as well as write a scenario. She lets you know immediately that there is an oceanic expanse separating the long narrative descriptions of characters in novels as opposed to the exigencies of the screen craft, where pictures are worth so many words. In this field the dialogue and scenes containing them must be brief, while the story must follow a dramatic forward thrust from Fade In to Fade Out that keeps readers interested and involved. Lerch explains that readers have short attention spans due to the pressures of handling long and steady volumes of work. It is therefore essential to keep your writing staccato, your characters spelled out briefly, and your scenes following an intriguing progression that keeps your readers interested and on board until Fade Out.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Long Title, But Even Better Book -- It Keeps Its Promises!, Oct. 21 2001
By 
Nate Chancey (Iowa City, IA, USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
The only thing I would change about the book is the title. Then again, the title caught my eye. An alternate title could have been, "Getting Past the Hollywood Reader" or "500 Ways Past the Hollywood Reader" or something short. But Jennifer Lerch's book, called by any title, delivers more than it promises. It is an essential guide to writing scripts. Frankly, I carry it with me everywhere, and recommend it to all aspiring screenwriters I meet -- which is about one out of three people who enters a bookstore (or so it seems). I simply loved Jennifer Lerch's book; and come to think of it, I think her title is perfect. Guess I'm one of those screenwriters with a kind of dyslexia for titles. But DO get past the title of 500 WAYS TO BEAT THE HOLLYWOOD SCRIPT READER and Jennifer Lerch will open the doors to wonderful techniques in storytelling, screenplay structure, keeping your characters interesting and meaningful, and more. One of the best books around! Buy it and keep it nearby.
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3.0 out of 5 stars A useful resource, Aug. 18 2001
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This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
As much as I enjoyed this book, I have to take a couple points off. It's a good read and I highly recommend it. It has some real flaws.
One, it assumes you are using the three act paradigm. If you are using it, this is bound to really help you bring your story out. If you are not using it, it can still be helpful, but not nearly as much so.
Two, it repeats itself too much. It's more like 200 ways restated several times.
Three, this book is written for people who are trying to sell. It should give more credit to its readers. It should assume that they know how to format and have the basics of story structure. But, it doesn't. There are enough books written already that deal with the basics of screenwriting. This book would have been better if it focused on the more minute details that a writer is likely to overlook. It's really an elementry screenwriting book masked as a how-to sell book.
All these things aside, there are things to be learned here. It's written from the perspective of actual readers. It's good to know what you are dealing with when you are sending your material out.
It's a bit frightening when you realize that this book written by a reader based on input from other readers is so strongly pushing the three-act/hero's journey formulas.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The Rosetta Stone On Hollywood Storymaking and Structure!, April 17 2001
This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
Jennifer Lerch's 500 WAYS TO BEAT THE HOLLYWOOD SCRIPT READER is an amazing down-to-earth, clearly worded "Rosetta Stone" for writing a three-act script that avoids hackneyed characters, boring plots, predictable endings, and slipshod story structure. After reading practically every book on screenwriting still in print (and a few out-of-print), I must say my recent return to Jennifer Lerch's wonderful book -- my fifth reading! -- proved as edifying as my first. After reading eighty or so books on screenwriting, I can only continue to enjoy and admire the practical, nuts and bolts advice from a seasoned Hollywood reader who's not afraid to let common readers know what the industry looks for and demands in feature film scripts. Jennifer Lerch is a wonderful messenger in this respect, and I'm grateful for her book. Now who else places her email at the back of her book and actually continues to provide you helpful advice on screenwriting even after you've already purchased her book? Only an author who cares! Thanks Jennifer. My script cries out to be finished, but when it is, I feel confident I'll be "ready to sell" and make my contribution to our wonderful American tradition in film. Your 500 WAYS TO BEAT THE HOLLYWOOD SCRIPT READER is irreplaceable advice on screenwriting. A bona-fide MUST BUY for every serious writer!
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4.0 out of 5 stars hmmm...i wonder, March 28 2001
By 
Ann Boullie (Austin, TX United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
if all of the negative reviewers of this book wrote in with the intent to appear more intellectual and superior simply because it makes them feel better when they can scoff at someone else's advice? Here's the deal folk's: perhaps some of these ideas may seem obvious, but here's a thought-if you had thought of them, maybe you wouldn't be an "aspiring" screenwriter and actually have sold one. Until then, why don't you take what you can from this book without attempting to win the "out of work writer's snob of the year award". If you really feel as though you cannot possibly work within the margins of the Hollywood mainstream, which many of the reviewers seem to imply, then stay away from books that aim at those writers and seek consultation from more obscure auteur's. As for the reviewer who borrowed the book because-horror of horror's-his friends might think that he was interested in writing a screenplay, if you care so much about what other people think of you that you're afraid to put a book on your shelf, then perhaps your opinon isn't worth anyone's time or interest, muchless mine.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly realistic, admits an script/play reader, Dec 21 2000
By A Customer
This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
This shouldn't be the first, or even the third, book you buy on screenwriting--there are better ones on the storytelling craft--but, as someone who's read scripts, I have to admit some of the author's points on packaging, for want of a better word, are on-target--particularly when she stresses how crucial the first pages and the length of the script are. Most scripts are much too long, far too similar, and don't move fast and with a momentum that grabs that reader's attention. A script the author may have slaved for months over often just becomes the one on the top of the pile to a beleagured and bored script reader, so a writer confident enough to just get to the point and get to the story has a huge advantage. Screenwriting is far from as cut-and-dried or formulaic as this book's author makes it sound, and there's a couple of 100 of the 500 points that are just common sense, but her snappy advice is a refreshing change, or addition, to the host of more studious tomes on the topic.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The challenge of creativity, Dec 9 2000
By 
Joseph C. Long (Tallahassee, FL United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
All freedom requires responsibility and all creativity must occur within certain limitations. One time a jazz trumpet player explained it to me like this. He looked around at the new venue in which he was about to play, and he said, "Joe, when the people who own this building decided to build it, they approached an architect with two things: everything the owners needed in the building and the budget for the building. The architect then faced the challenge of producing a creative and satisfying structure while staying within the limits created by the needs and the budget. But architects are into that kind of challenge, that's why they do what they do. Music is the same way...." And so is writing a screenplay.
All writers face the challenge of making their work creatively satisfying while staying within the limits imposed by budgets and time, vast numbers of submissions, the criteria established by those who choose which projects get the nod, and so on. The purpose behind Jennifer Lerch's book is to explain in 500 clear and concise points what those limits for the screenwriter are and to provide advice on how to work within them. Understanding her goal as such, I think that she did a wonderful job.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Immensely Helpful Book But Only For Certain Screenwriters, July 3 2000
This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
Lerch has written an enormously useful book worth far more than its cost, but only to a certain set of apprentice screenwriters.
In contrast to a reviewer who said this book would be most helpful for beginners, I think the book is most helpful for non-beginners. Indeed, I think the negative reviews on the book owe to the fact that the book takes for granted the reader is knowledgable about the nature of "story." Not just the story of screenplays, but the nature of general story, whether in the form of short stories, novels, plays, or even song.
For someone not terribly familiar with the nature of story, this book will seem like a waste of their time, or, worse, a theft of their money. For it is not written in narrative. It is an enumeration of 500 "ways" that Lerch offers on the craft of screenwriting. A beginner will definitely be disappointed.
However, for someone knowledgable about story who is interested in learning about screenwriting (or even more fitting, someone, such as myself, who is a fiction writer aiming to convert to screenwriter), I haven't seen a better book on the shelves, and I have been looking.
When I read it, I used a third of a notebook taking notes. Some points she makes could quite literally save someone's entire dreams of screenwriting. For instance, did you know when a Hollywood reader receives a script with an address outside L.A. the script is essentially dismissed as the work of an amateur? (Out-of-staters have to rent an L.A. P.O. Box.) Cruel? Perhaps. But important to know for the apprentice screenwriter? Without doubt. Just that point alone for someone outside L.A. would be worth the $12.
The book abounds in points of equally great importance, whether they be on character, on formatting, or on the nature of "The Biz."
One final comment. Perhaps the most impressive part of the book is Lerch's authority. As the book states, she's been a reader in Hollywood for more than ten years, eight of them at William Morris. For those who don't know, in Hollywood, William Morris is just about the Holy Grail. Stories are legion of movie moguls beginning their careers in the William Morris mail room. (David Geffin began his career there.)
Thus, if you're an apprentice screenwriter knowledgable about story and want to learn the ins and outs of the craft of screenwriting, I doubt you'll find a more useful or authoritative book. If you're a beginner, this isn't the book for you.
Because I've found this book singularly helpful, if anyone has anyone questions about the book, I'd be happy to offer my thoughts. Or you can e-mail the author herself, as she gives out her e-mail address in the book. I wrote her with a question and she promptly responded with an answer.
Good luck and good writing all.
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4.0 out of 5 stars All it takes is one good idea..........., March 14 2000
This review is from: 500 Ways to Beat the Hollywood Script Reader: Writing the Screenplay the Reader Will Recommend (Paperback)
The trouble with a book like this, as some of the negative posts unintentionally illustrate, is that experienced writers will have already been exposed to many of these ideas and may erroneously conclude that the book therefore has no value. To the contrary, all it takes is one or two useful ideas and a book like this pays for itself. Because Lerch breaks her topics down into easily-digested bits, the tips are basic but practical. The strength of the book is that Lerch covers every aspect of a screenplay in terms of character development, plot points, etc. Also I found useful her description of how to handle rejection and what changes to make in a screenplay before re-submitting it. News flash to the negative reviewers: many of her points are almost identical to those in Robert McKee's oft-touted "Story."
I'm struck by the juvenile condescension expressed by many of this book's reviewers. I wonder what Lerch has done that makes the reviewers think she deserves this treatment.
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